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War of a thousand days

There are conflicts raging in many parts of the world today - Syria, Israel, Ukraine etc. Some of these date back by years, perhaps even longer than 1000 days, which is roughly two and a half years.

But the war which was given this name is a much older battle — one which began between two political factions in the South American country of Colombia in 1899. A conflict which caused tremendous damage and destruction in the country, it started due to economic and political reasons.

The Liberal party consisted of coffee plantation owners and traders, who were in favour of a government policy which had fewer regulations and lower tariffs. But as a result of a Conservative government which was in power, this faction was largely excluded from the decision-making process.

The Conservative Party won the elections held in 1885, allegedly by fraudulent means and this was another factor that triggered off the war. When the revenue from customs diminished, the government issued currency notes, without sufficient backing and the value of the peso crashed, causing an economic crisis.

The fighting began in October in the coffee growing region, despite hesitation on the part of some Liberal leaders, who thought they did not have the necessary troops. The battle slowly spread to all the regions of the country, and guerrilla style warfare was used in the rural areas.

The first phase ended with the defeat of the Liberals at Palonegro, after seven months of fighting. But the war raged on, and the Colombian people were forced to take the side of either party. As the battle continued for two and a half years, there was infighting even within the parties.

The ruling government used military tactics, imprisonment and many other means to try and control the situation, but with little result. In June 1902, they promised reforms and amnesty. Negotiations were undertaken between the two sides, and by October an understanding was reached, and a treaty was signed on the Neerlandia coffee plantation. The fighting continued till November, and the Liberal forces under the leaders like Rafael Uribe Uribe and Benjamin Herrera surrendered, and the war officially drew to a close.

A Nobel Prize winning novelist was from Colombia, and some of his books are based during the Thousand Days’ War. Can you name him? Send in your answers to kavya.rm@thehindu.co.in (Subject: Colombia), with your name and details.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2022 10:21:07 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/in-school/signpost/war-of-a-thousand-days/article6242066.ece

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