Spanish LA GUERRA DE LOS MIL DÍAS (1899-1903), Colombian civil war between Liberals and Conservatives that resulted in between 60,000 and 130,000 deaths, extensive property damage, and national economic ruin.
The Liberal Party represented coffee plantation owners and import-export merchants who favoured a laissez-faire economic policy. Largely excluded from participation in government after the Conservative victory of 1885, they were further distressed by the drastic downturn in the international price of coffee; by 1899 many coffee growers were operating at a loss.
The Conservative government, suffering from reduced customs revenues, responded by issuing unbacked paper currency, causing the value of the peso to drop precipitously. War broke out in the coffee-growing regions in 1899; and the first phase, lasting about seven months, ended with the defeat of Liberal forces at Palonegro on May 25, 1900. During the next two and a half years disorganized but highly disruptive guerrilla-style warfare raged in the rural areas, with great destruction of property and loss of life both in combat and from disease. Unable to pacify the countryside through military tactics, imprisonment, fines, and expropriation of property, the Conservatives offered amnesty and political reform on June 12, 1902. By November the two most important Liberal leaders, Rafael Uribe Uribe and Benjamín Herrera, surrendered after negotiating peace treaties promising amnesty, free elections, and political and monetary reform. Panama seceded soon after the war.
In 1898 Nationalist candidate Manuel Antonio Sanclemente was elected president. In ill health, Sanclemente left much of the governing to his vice president, José Manuel Marroquín. The Sanclemente/Marroquín presidency faced increasing problems as the world price of coffee fell, which, because of reduced customs revenues, left the government bankrupt. The fiscal policy of issuing nonredeemable paper money, which had replaced the gold standard under Núñez, added to the increasing lack of confidence in the government.
In July 1899, in Santander, Liberals again attempted a revolution, known as the War of a Thousand Days. Historical Conservatives eventually cast their allegiance with the Nationalists, whereas the Peace and War factions of the PL remained split, thereby weakening the rebellion. Despite an initial victory in December 1899, the Liberal forces were outnumbered at Palonegro five months later. The defeat left the Liberal army decimated and demoralized and with little chance to succeed. The Liberal army changed its strategy from conventional tactics to guerrilla warfare, thus transforming the war into a desperate struggle that lasted for two more years.
In July 1900, Historical Conservatives, seeking a political solution to the war, supported Marroquín in a coup against Sanclemente. Contrary to what his supporters had expected, Marroquín adopted a hard line against the rebels and refused to negotiate a settlement. In November 1902, the defeated Liberal army negotiated a peace agreement with the government. The war took more than 100,000 lives and left the country devastated.
The War of a Thousand Days left the country too weak to prevent Panama's secession from the republic in 1903.