316. National Intelligence Estimate1

NIE 88–65


The Problem

To estimate Colombia’s prospects over the next year, with particular reference to the viability of the National Front system of government.


The National Front system of government has not functioned effectively, particularly under the presidency of Valencia (since 1962). The recurrent crises of the past year have aggravated the country’s basic economic problems and political tensions. (Paras. 4–17)
The Valencia administration is under strong pressure from organized labor, business interests, and military leaders to cope more effectively with the deteriorating situation, but so far has proved incapable of developing and carrying out a sustained program of remedial action. The National Front system contains so many built-in checks and balances that it allows the multiplicity of political factions embraced within it to prevent decisive political action. Moreover, the measures which we believe to be most urgent—e.g., a further devaluation, more effective price and wage controls, and increased taxes—would be unpopular and difficult for any government to carry out. (Paras. 10–17, 28, 30)
Despite widespread and rising dissatisfaction with its performance, the Valencia government may be able to continue in office, at least until the close approach of the congressional election scheduled for March 1966. But even if it should be able to bring itself to adopt and carry out a program likely to prove beneficial over the longer term, it is unlikely that such a program could produce sufficient improvements before the election to reverse the growing popular dissatisfaction. The Opposition will probably gain enough seats in Congress to deprive the Front of the two-thirds majority required to do business under the present system. (Paras. 28, 30–31)
There is likely to be rising demand for a basic change in the system. This would be extremely difficult to accomplish by constitutional means and may therefore lead to a military coup with respectable civilian support. Such a move would entail considerable risk of precipitating various sorts of violence; it is unlikely that the military would undertake it unless they were convinced that a national crisis was inevitable in any case. But if there were to be a coup during the period of this estimate, the military would probably be able to control the situtation. (Paras. 19–27, 29, 32–33)
A military coup would not in itself solve any of Colombia’s basic problems. It might open the way to the establishment of a new system of civil government more capable of dealing with them, or it might lead to a period of unpopular authoritarian rule. On the other hand, the prolongation of the present ineffectual system of government tends to increase the severity of Colombia’s problems and to enchance the appeal of those who favor radical social revolution, including the present relatively ineffective groups who advocate violence. (Para. 34)
The residual rural banditry is criminal rather than political in character. The Communists and other extremist groups are not now capable of overthrowing the government or even of sustaining insurgency in any considerable area. (Para. 21–26)

[Omitted here is the Discussion section of the estimate.]

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Job 79–R01012A, O/DDI Registry. Secret; Controlled Dissem. According to a note on the cover sheet this estimate was prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency with the participation of the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State and Defense and the National Security Agency. The United States Intelligence Board concurred in this estimate on July 9.