Main ideas Since declaring its independence from Spain in 1810, Colombia has had ten constitutions. These constitutions addressed three important issues: the division of powers, the strength of the chief executive, and the role of the Roman Catholic Church. The issue of a strong central government versus a decentralized federal system was especially important in the nation's constitutional development.
In settling the federal-unitary debate, the 1886 Constitution specifies that sovereignty resides in the nation, which provides guarantees of civil liberties. These include freedoms of religion, speech, assembly, press, and education, as well as the rights to strike, petition the government, and own property within limits imposed by the common welfare. (The 1853 constitution already had abolished slavery, instituted trial by jury, and enlarged the franchise to include all male citizens over the age of twenty-one.) The Constitution, by noting that labor is a social obligation-- protected by the state--guarantees the right to strike, except in the public service. The Constitution, as amended, also gives all citizens a legal right to vote if they are at least eighteen years old, have a citizenship card, and are registered to vote. The Constitution prohibits members of the armed forces on active duty, members of the National Police, and individuals legally deprived of their political rights from participating in any political activities, including voting.
A second constitutional issue has been the strength of the chief executive's office, especially the presidential use of emergency powers to deal with civil disorders. The 1830 constitution further strengthened executive powers by creating the Public Ministry, which enabled the president to supervise judicial affairs. The 1886 Constitution establishes three branches of government--the executive, legislature, and judiciary--with separation of powers and checks and balances.
The relationship of the Roman Catholic Church to the state was a third constitutional issue. The 1832 and 1840 constitutions had affirmed the extraordinary position of the Roman Catholic Church. In contrast, the 1853 and 1863 constitutions, which guaranteed religious freedom and prohibited religious bodies from owning real estate, abolished the church's privileged status. The 1886 Constitution, as amended, guarantees freedom of religion and conscience but affords the Catholic faith preferential treatment.
The Constitution has undergone extensive and frequent amendments, the most significant of which included legislative acts in 1910, 1936, 1945, 1959, and 1968; a national plebiscite and legislative decrees in 1957; and economic reform in 1979
Amendments adopted in December 1968 reaffirm a president's ability to declare a state of emergency and allow the executive to intervene selectively in specific areas of the economy to prevent crises or facilitate development plans.
National Front coalition, which was envisioned as a bipartisan way to end la violencia and dictatorial rule.
keeping the peace between the parties and in committing the country to far-reaching social and economic reforms. By the mid-1960s, la violencia had been reduced largely to banditry and an incipient guerrilla movement.
First, it alternated the presidency between the two parties in regular elections held every four years (alternación). Second, it provided for parity (paridad) in elective and appointive positions at all levels of government. The 1957 amendments also give women the same political rights as men, including the right to vote.
The 1968 constitutional reforms provided for a carefully measured transition from the National Front to traditional two- party competition.
The constitutional changes, particularly the abolition of the two-thirds majority requirement in both houses of Congress for the passage of major legislation. The 1968 reforms also ended, beginning in 1970, the parity requirement for legislative seats at the municipal and departmental levels.