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A Timeline of US-Colombia Relations Shows Influence of Cold War, War on Drugs

Over the two centuries since Colombia’s independence, the relationship between Washington and Bogota has evolved into a close economic and security partnership. But it has at times been strained by U.S. intervention, Cold War geopolitics, and the war on drugs.


U.S. Backs Panama’s Secession From Colombia

Residents of Panama, then a state of Colombia, launch a revolt against the central government after it refuses to grant the United States permission to build a canal over a six-mile-wide zone on the Panama Isthmus. The decision angers Panamanians, who would benefit from the revenue generated by a canal. U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt dispatches the gunboat USS Nashville to prevent Colombian troops from responding to the Panamanian rebellion. Washington soon recognizes Panama’s independence, and in 1904, the two countries ratify the Hay–Bunau-Varilla Treaty, which gives the United States exclusive rights to the canal. In 1922, Colombia formally recognizes Panama after the U.S. government pays $25 million in compensation.


December 1928

Hundreds Killed in Banana Massacre

Colombian employees of the United Fruit Company—a U.S. corporation with a local monopoly on tropical fruit—announce a strike to demand better working conditions on banana plantations. Fearing what it considers communist subversion, the U.S. government threatens to send in the Marine Corps should the Colombian government fail to protect United Fruit. The Colombian army opens fire on a crowd of workers, killing up to two thousand people. (The final death toll remains unknown.) The incident damages the reputation of Colombia’s ruling Conservative Party and sparks renewed outrage from the opposition Liberal Party over the role of the United States in Latin America, where commercial and military interests have been driving U.S. intervention, predominantly in Central America, during the Banana Wars period.

Read entire article at Council on Foreign Relations