Long the counterpart to Simon Bolívar, Francisco de Paula Santander was both an ally and an enemy to the Liberator, and remains one of the greatest Colombian heroes to this day. He served as one of the two lead commanders in the pivotal Battle of Boyaca, an assault on the heart of Spanish power in Colombia, after leading (with Bolívar) troops across a grueling hike through rain-swollen rivers and icy mountain passes in order to catch the Spanish off-guard. The battle secured Colombian victory, and its success prompted Bolívar to declare the liberation of Gran Colombia complete.
But their partnership was to see hard times. While Bolívar favored a lifetime rule for leaders and cultivated a cult of personality for himself, Santander, the “Man of Laws,” as he was later known, favored constitutional rule. His opposition grew even stronger when Bolívar declared himself dictator, something that Santander could not in any way support. His opposition won him the enmity of many of Bolívar’s supporters, including many of his fellow generals. But in addition to Bolívar’s supporters, Santander also faced those who wanted to see Gran Colombia divided into smaller, independent units.
Implicated in a plot against Bolívar, Santander was exiled. Bolívar relented, however, and years later, after Gran Colombia fragmented into smaller states, Santander was permitted to return. He became the president of New Granada, and remains a central figure in Colombia today, especially for those who support the rule of law and a check on military power.