The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Colombian Politicians of all time. This list of famous Colombian Politicians is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Colombian Politicians.
With an HPI of 64.18, Juan Manuel Santos is the most famous Colombian Politician. His biography has been translated into 88 different languages on wikipedia.
Juan Manuel Santos Calderón (Spanish: [ˈxwan maˈnwel ˈsantos kaldeˈɾon]; born 10 August 1951) is a Colombian politician who was the President of Colombia from 2010 to 2018. He was the sole recipient of the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize. An economist by profession and a journalist by trade, Santos is a member of the wealthy and influential Santos family, who from 1913 to 2007 were the majority shareholders of El Tiempo until its sale to Planeta DeAgostini in 2007. He was a cadet at the Navy Academy in Cartagena. Shortly after graduating from the University of Kansas, he joined the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia as an economic advisor and delegate to the International Coffee Organization in London, where he also attended the London School of Economics. In 1981, he was appointed deputy director of El Tiempo newspaper, becoming its director two years later. Santos earned a mid-career/master's in public administration in 1981 from Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), and was a 1988 Nieman Fellow for his award-winning work as a columnist and reporter. Santos was a Fulbright visiting fellow at Fletcher at Tufts University in 1981. Santos has been a member of the Washington-based think tank the Inter-American Dialogue since 1990, and he previously served as co-chair of the Board of Directors. Santos was president of the Freedom of Expression Commission for the Inter American Press Association. In 1991, he was appointed by President César Gaviria Trujillo as Colombia's first Minister of Foreign Trade. Santos worked in expanding international trade with Colombia, and worked in creating various agencies for this purpose including: Proexport, Bancoldex and Fiducoldex. In 2000, he was appointed by President Andrés Pastrana Arango as the 64th Minister of Finance and Public Credit.Santos rose to prominence during the administration of President Álvaro Uribe Vélez. In 2005, he co-founded and led the Social Party of National Unity (Party of the U), a liberal-conservative party coalition that backed the policies of President Uribe, successfully supporting his attempt to seek a constitutional reform to be able to run for a second term. In 2006, after Uribe's re-election, when the Party of the U won a majority of seats in the two chambers of Congress, Santos was appointed as Minister of National Defence, and continued defending the security policies of President Uribe, taking a strong and forceful stance against FARC and the other guerrilla groups operating in Colombia. Santos also created the Good Government Foundation. His time at the Ministry of Defense was tarnished by the ""False positives" scandal", the executions of thousands of civilians that the army passed off as guerrillas killed in combat. The scandal broke in 2008 with the identification of 19 young people whose disappearances had been reported by their families in Soacha (a suburb of Bogotá), whom the army presented as slain guerrillas. The sudden media coverage of this secret policy of the Colombian army led to an increase in the number of testimonies and judicial investigations that led to the identification of more than 6,000 executed civilians. Likely covered up by the military hierarchy and political leaders, these practices have remained generally unpunished; the impunity rate for soldiers who are war criminals is 98.5% according to the United Nations.In 2010, Santos won the presidential election as the protégé of Uribe. Some months after Santos' possession, Uribe became his strongest opponent, and also founded three years later the opposition party Democratic Center. This rivalry determined both Santos' unpopularity and his near-missed defeat during the 2014 Colombian presidential election against Uribe's protégé Óscar Iván Zuluaga.On 7 October 2016, Santos was announced as recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts negotiating a peace treaty with the FARC-guerrilla in the country, despite his defeat in the referendum held over the deal, where the "No" campaign led by Uribe's Democratic Center won. The Colombian government and the FARC signed a revised peace deal on 24 November and sent it to Congress for ratification instead of conducting a second referendum. Both houses of Congress ratified the revised peace accord on 29–30 November 2016, marking an end to the conflict. The treaty brought deep divisions and polarization in the country, which questions its legitimacy. Santos has been named as one of Time's 100 most influential people. Santos left office with one of the lowest levels of popular approval ever, and his successor was Uribe's new protégé, Iván Duque, a moderate critic of Santos' peace treaty with the FARC guerilla.
With an HPI of 63.35, César Gaviria is the 2nd most famous Colombian Politician. His biography has been translated into 36 different languages.
César Augusto Gaviria Trujillo (Spanish: [ˈsesaɾ awˈɣusto ɣaˈβiɾja tɾuˈxiʝo] ; born 31 March 1947) is a Colombian economist and politician who served as the President of Colombia from 1990 to 1994, Secretary General of the Organization of American States from 1994 to 2004 and National Director of the Colombian Liberal Party from 2005 to 2009. During his tenure as president, he summoned the Constituent Assembly of Colombia that enacted the Constitution of 1991.
With an HPI of 61.90, Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela is the 3rd most famous Colombian Politician. His biography has been translated into 15 different languages.
Gilberto José Rodríguez Orejuela (30 January 1939 – 31 May 2022) was a Colombian drug lord and one of the leaders of the Cali Cartel.
With an HPI of 58.83, Luis Carlos Galán is the 4th most famous Colombian Politician. His biography has been translated into 18 different languages.
Luis Carlos Galán Sarmiento (29 September 1943 – 18 August 1989) was a Colombian liberal politician and journalist who ran for the Presidency of Colombia on two occasions, the first time for the political movement New Liberalism that he founded in 1979. The movement was an offspring of the mainstream Colombian Liberal Party, and with mediation of former Liberal president Julio César Turbay Ayala, Galán returned to the Liberal party in 1989 and sought the nomination for the 1990 presidential election, but was assassinated before the vote took place. Galán declared himself an enemy of the drug cartels and the influence of the mafia in Colombian politics, in this case the main drug cartel being the Medellin Cartel led by Pablo Escobar and who unsuccessfully tried to become a member of the New Liberalism Movement in his bid to become a member of the Colombian House of Representatives. Galán denounced Pablo Escobar in a public rally, and supported the extradition treaty with the U.S, contrary to the wishes of the Colombian cartels that feared extradition to the U.S. After receiving several death threats, on 18 August 1989, Galán was shot to death by hitmen hired by the drug cartels during a campaign rally in the town of Soacha, Cundinamarca. At the time, Galán was comfortably leading the polls with 60 percent favourable ratings for the forthcoming 1990 presidential election. The investigation into his assassination remains unsolved.
With an HPI of 57.76, Rodrigo Lara is the 5th most famous Colombian Politician. His biography has been translated into 18 different languages.
Rodrigo Lara Bonilla (Spanish: Rodrigo Lara Bonilla; August 11, 1946 – April 30, 1984) was a Colombian lawyer and politician, who served as Minister of Justice under President Belisario Betancur, and was assassinated by orders of Pablo Escobar because of his work as Minister in prosecuting cocaine traffickers mainly belonging to the Medellín Cartel.Lara's death led to Escobar's indictment for murder and a long-running controversy over extradition in Colombia that would ultimately cost thousands of lives.
With an HPI of 57.64, Francisco de Paula Santander is the 6th most famous Colombian Politician. His biography has been translated into 28 different languages.
Francisco José de Paula Santander y Omaña (Villa del Rosario, Norte de Santander, Colombia, April 2, 1792 – Santafé de Bogotá, Colombia, May 6, 1840), was a Colombian military and political leader during the 1810–1819 independence war of the United Provinces of New Granada (present-day Colombia). He was the acting President of Gran Colombia between 1819 and 1826, and later elected by Congress as the President of the Republic of New Granada between 1832 and 1837. Santander came to be known as "The Man of the Laws" ("El Hombre de las Leyes").
With an HPI of 57.48, Álvaro Uribe is the 7th most famous Colombian Politician. His biography has been translated into 52 different languages.
Álvaro Uribe Vélez (born 4 July 1952) is a Colombian politician who served as the 31st President of Colombia from 7 August 2002 to 7 August 2010.Uribe started his political career in his home department of Antioquia. He held offices in the Public Enterprises of Medellín and in the Ministry of Labor and was the director of the Special Administrative Unit of Civil Aeronautics (1980–1982). He became the Mayor of Medellín in October 1982. He was a senator between 1986 and 1994 and finally the Governor of Antioquia between 1995 and 1997 before being elected President of Colombia in 2002. Following his 2002 election, Uribe led an all-out military offensive against leftist guerrilla groups such as the FARC and the ELN with funding and backing from the Clinton and Bush administrations in the form of a 2.8 billion dollars direct foreign aid package called "Plan Colombia". He also led a controversial effort to demobilize the right-wing paramilitary group known as the AUC. All of these groups were part of the Colombian Armed Conflict. His role in the conflict was accompanied by large-scale alleged exactions: thousands of civilians were killed by the Colombian army, as part of the "False positives" scandal, with almost total impunity. Their deaths are being investigated by the United Nations. Millions of people were the victims of forced displacement.In August 2010, Uribe was appointed vice-chairman of the UN panel investigating the Gaza flotilla raid. In 2012 Uribe and a group of political allies founded the right-wing Democratic Center movement to contest the 2014 national elections. He was elected senator in the 2014 parliamentary election and took office in July 2014. Uribe was critical of his successor Juan Manuel Santos's peace talks with the FARC guerrillas.In August 2020, the Supreme Court of Justice of Colombia ordered his arrest as part of an investigation into bribery and witness tampering. He was released from house arrest on 10 October. The case went to the Fiscalía General de la Nación, after which Uribe resigned from his Senate seat. A number of his political opponents have claimed for years that Uribe should be prosecuted, alleging he has ties with paramilitarism.
With an HPI of 56.27, Íngrid Betancourt is the 8th most famous Colombian Politician. Her biography has been translated into 38 different languages.
Íngrid Betancourt Pulecio (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈiŋɡɾið βetaŋˈkuɾ]; born 25 December 1961) is a Colombian politician, former senator and anti-corruption activist, especially opposing political corruption. Betancourt was kidnapped by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) on 23 February 2002 while campaigning for the Colombian presidency as a Green candidate, and was rescued by Colombian security forces six and a half years later on 2 July 2008. The rescue operation, dubbed Operation Jaque, rescued Betancourt along with 14 other hostages (three United States citizens, and 11 Colombian policemen and soldiers). She had decided to campaign in the former "zone of dissention", after the military operation "Tanatos" was launched, and after the zone was declared free of guerrillas by the government. Her kidnapping received worldwide coverage, particularly in France, where she also held citizenship due to her prior marriage to a French diplomat.Betancourt has received multiple international awards in 2008 at her liberation, such as the Légion d'honneur or the Concord Prince of Asturias Award. After her release, she was portrayed by some of her fellow captives as "controlling and manipulative"; others described her as "caring" and "courageous". One of them (Luis Eladio Pérez) claims Betancourt saved his life.On 18 January 2022, she announced her candidacy for the 2022 Colombian presidential election on which she finished seventh.
With an HPI of 56.18, Belisario Betancur is the 9th most famous Colombian Politician. His biography has been translated into 34 different languages.
Belisario Betancur Cuartas (4 February 1923 – 7 December 2018) was a Colombian politician who served as the 26th President of Colombia from 1982 to 1986. He was a member of the Colombian Conservative Party. His presidency was noted for its attempted peace talks with several Colombian guerilla groups. He was also one of the few presidents to abstain from participating in politics after leaving office.
With an HPI of 56.17, Virgilio Barco Vargas is the 10th most famous Colombian Politician. His biography has been translated into 29 different languages.
Virgilio Barco Vargas (17 September 1921 – 20 May 1997) was a Colombian politician and civil engineer who served as the 27th President of Colombia serving from 7 August 1986 to 7 August 1990.
Pantheon has 45 people classified as politicians born between 1765 and 1994. Of these 45, 15 (33.33%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living politicians include Juan Manuel Santos, César Gaviria, and Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela. The most famous deceased politicians include Luis Carlos Galán, Rodrigo Lara, and Francisco de Paula Santander. As of April 2022, 9 new politicians have been added to Pantheon including Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela, José María Obando, and Gustavo Petro.
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Which Politicians were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Politicians since 1700.