La Violencia

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La Violencia
Bogotazo.jpg
Prelude
Murder of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán
El Bogotazo
Political Parties
Liberal Party
Conservative Party
Colombian Communist Party
Presidents of Colombia
Mariano Ospina Pérez
Laureano Gómez
Gustavo Rojas Pinilla

La Violencia (Spanish pronunciation: [la βjoˈlensja], The Violence) was the ten-year (1948–58) period of civil war in Colombia, between the Colombian Conservative Party and the Colombian Liberal Party whose respective supporters fought most battles in the rural countryside. [1][2]

"La Violencia" is considered to have begun with the 9 April 1948 assassination of the politician Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, a Liberal Party presidential candidate who was very popular; his political murder provoked the Bogotazo rioting that lasted for ten hours and killed some 5,000 people.[3] An alternative historical perspective of La Violencia proposed 1946 as the start of the violence, the year when the Conservatives returned to government power; when rural town police and political leaders encouraged Conservative-supporting peasants to seize the agricultural lands of Liberal-supporting peasants, which provoked peasant-to-peasant violence throughout Colombia; a civil war for control of the country’s agricultural land.[3]

"La Violencia" is estimated to have cost the lives of at least 200,000 people.[4][5][6]

Development[edit]

La Violencia occurred among the paramilitary forces of the Colombian Liberal Party and the Colombian Communist Party, who organized as armed self-defense groups and as guerrilla military units. Each combatant party to the civil warfare fought against the paramilitary forces of the Colombian Conservative Party, and, occasionally, against each other.[citation needed]

In September 1949, Senator Gustavo Jiménez was assassinated mid-session, in Congress.[7]

The reigning chaos and the lack of security in rural areas during the years of La Violencia caused an estimated millions of people to abandon their homes and properties. Media and news services failed to cover events accurately for fear of revenge attacks. The lack of public order and civil authority prevented victims from laying charges against perpetrators. Documented evidence from these years is rare and fragmented.[citation needed]

The vast majority of the Colombian population at time was Catholic. Much of the press released during the conflict reported that Church authorities supported the Conservative Party. Although unproven, several priests were accused of openly encouraging murder of the political opposition during Mass, including the Santa Rosa de Osos Bishop Miguel Ángel Builes. No formal charges were ever presented and no official statements were made by the Vatican or the Board of Bishops. These events were recounted in the 1950 book Lo que el cielo no perdona ("What heaven can't forgive"), written by the secretary to Builes, Father Fidel Blandon. Eduardo Caballero Calderón also recounted these events in his 1952 book El Cristo de Espaldas (Backwards Christ). After releasing the book, Blandon resigned from his position and assumed a fake identity as Antonio Gutiérrez. However, he was eventually identified and legally charged and prosecuted.[citation needed]

As a result of "La Violencia", there were no liberal candidates for the presidency, congress, or any public corporations in the 1950 elections. The press accused the government of pogroms against the opposition. Censorship and reprisals were common against journalists, writers, and directors of news services, causing many members of the media to flee the country. These included the director of Crítica magazine Jorge Zalamea fleeing to Buenos Aires, Luis Vidales to Chile, Antonio Garcia to La Paz, and Gerardo Molina to Paris.[citation needed]

Conclusion[edit]

Most of the armed groups (called bandoleros, a pejorative term) were demobilized during the amnesty declared by General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla after he took power in 1953. The most prominent bandolero leaders, Guadalupe Salcedo and Juan de la Cruz Varela signed the 1953 agreement (Salcedo was killed in Bogotá years later, in 1957).

In 1954 the students of National University of Colombia confronted the public forces in several riots on July 8 and 9, ending with 14 students dead.

Some of the bandoleros did not surrender to the government, which caused intense military operations against them in 1954. One of them, the bandolero leader Tirofijo, had changed his political and ideological inclinations from being a Liberal to supporting the Communist Party (PCC) during this period.

When Rojas was removed from power on May 10, 1957, civilian rule was restored after moderate Conservatives and Liberals, with the support of dissident sectors of the military, agreed to unite under a bipartisan coalition known as the National Front, and the government of Alberto Lleras Camargo which included a system of presidential alternation and power-sharing both in cabinets and public offices.

In 1958, Lleras Camargo ordered the creation of the Commission for the Investigation of the Causes of "La Violencia". The commission was directed by the Bishop Germán Guzmán Campos.

The last bandolero leaders were killed in combat against the Army. Jacinto Cruz Usma, A.K.A. Sangrenegra (Blackblood), died in April 1964 and Efraín Gonzáles in June 1965.

Humanitarian consequences[edit]

Because of incomplete or non-existing statistical records, exact measurement of La Violencia’s humanitarian consequences is impossible. Scholars, however, estimate that between 200,000 and 300,000 lives were lost, 600,000 and 800,000 injured, and almost one million displaced. La Violencia affected 20% of the population, directly or indirectly.[8]

Yet, La Violencia, did not come to be known as La Violencia simply because of the number of people it affected; it was the manner in which most of the killings, maimings, and dismemberings were done. Certain death and torture techniques became so commonplace that they were given names. For example, “picar para tamal,” which involved slowly cutting up a living person’s body, or “bocachiquiar,” where hundreds of small punctures were made until the victim slowly bled to death. Former Senior Director of International Economic Affairs for the United States National Security Council and current President of the Institute for Global Economic Growth, Norman A. Bailey describes the atrocities succinctly: “Ingenious forms of quartering and beheading were invented and given such names as the "corte de mica", "corte de corbata”, and so on. Crucifixions and hangings were commonplace, political "prisoners" were thrown from airplanes in flight, infants were bayoneted, schoolchildren, some as young as eight years old, were raped en masse, unborn infants were removed by crude Caesarian section and replaced by roosters, ears were cut off, scalps removed, and so on”.[8] While scholars, historians, and analysts have all debated the source of this era of unrest, they have yet to formulate a widely accepted explanation for why it escalated to the notable level it did.

Historical interpretations[edit]

The death of the bandoleros and the end of the mobs was not the end of all the violence in Colombia. One communist guerrilla movement, the MOEC, started its operations in 1959.[9] Later other organizations such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) emerged, marking the beginning of a guerrilla insurgency.

From the point of view of members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian Communist Party, the Liberal and Conservative elites, though they had instigated the original violence they soon grew to fear the consequences of it, and thus formed a loose alliance to preserve their shared desire for political hegemony from possible revolutionary challenges.

Credence in conspiracy theories as causes of violence[edit]

As was common of 20th century, eliminationist political violence, the rationales for action immediately before La Violencia were founded on conspiracy theories that blamed scapegoats as traitors beholden to international cabals. The left were painted as participants in a global Judeo-Masonic conspiracy against Christianity and the right were painted as agents of a Nazi-Falangist plot against democracy and progress.

Anticlerical conspiracy theory[edit]

After the death of Gaitán, a conspiracy theory circulating among the left that leading conservatives and militant priests were involved in a plot with Nazis and Falangists to take control of the country and undo the country’s moves toward progress spurred the violence.[10] This conspiracy theory supplied the rationale for Liberal Party radicals to engage in violence, notably the anticlerical attacks and killings, particularly in the early years of La Violencia. Some propaganda leaflets circulated in Medellín blamed a favorite of anti-Catholic conspiracy theorists, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), for the murder of Gaitán.[11]

Across the country, militants attacked churches, convents, and monasteries, killing priests and looking for arms, since the conspiracy theory maintained that the religious had guns, and this despite the fact that not a single serviceable weapon was located in the raids.[10] One priest, Pedro María Ramírez, was slaughtered with machetes and hauled through the street behind a truck, despite the fact that the militants had previously searched the church grounds and found no weapons.[11]

Despite the conspiracy theories and propaganda after Gaitán’s killing, most on the left learned from their errors in the rioting on April 9, and typically quit believing that priests had harbored weapons.[12]

Judeo-Masonic conspiracy theory[edit]

(See also Catholicism and Freemasonry)

Conservatives likewise had been motivated to fight against a supposed international Judeo-Masonic conspiracy by eliminating the Liberals in their midst.[13] In the two decades prior to La Violencia, Conservative politicians and churchmen adopted from Europe the Judeo-Masonic conspiracy theory to portray the Liberal Party as involved in an international anti-Christian plot, many prominent Liberal politicians actually being freemasons.[14]

Although the rhetoric of conspiracy was in large part introduced and circulated by some of the clergy, as well as by Conservative politicians, by 1942 many clerics were critical of the Judeo-Masonic conspiracy theory (by this time Jesuits outside of Colombia had already questioned and published disputes of the authenticity of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the concept of global Judeo-Masonic conspiracy; Colombian clergy were also increasingly influenced in this matter by U.S. clergy; and Pius XI had asked U.S. Jesuit John LaFarge to draft an encyclical against anti-Semitism and racism).[15] Allegations of a Judeo-Masonic conspiracy played most prominently in the politics of Laureano Gómez, who directed the Colombian Conservative Party from 1932 to 1953.[16] More provincial politicians followed suit, and the fact that prominent national and local politicians were voicing this conspiracy theory, rather than just a portion of the clergy, gave the idea greater credibility while it gathered momentum among the party members.

News of atrocities at the outset of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, causing both sides in Colombia to fear it could happen in their country, also spurred the credibility of the conspiracies and the rationale for violence.[17] Catholics everywhere were shocked by the wave of anticlerical violence in the Republican zones in Spain in the first months of that war where anarchists, socialists and communists burned churches and murdered nearly 7,000 priests, monks, and nuns.[17]

Since both camps claimed the existence of some sort of conspiracy, they managed to make the political environment toxic, increasing the animosity and suspicion of the other party.[17]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Stokes, Doug (2005). America's Other War : Terrorizing Colombia. Zed Books. ISBN 1-84277-547-2.  p. 68, Both Livingstone and Stokes quote a figure of 200,000 dead between 1948–1953 (Livingstone) and "a decade war" (Stokes)
    *Azcarate, Camilo A. (March 1999). "Psychosocial Dynamics of the Armed Conflict in Colombia". Online Journal of Peace and Conflict Resolution. [dead link] Azcarate quotes a figure of 300,000 dead between 1948–1959
    *Gutiérrez, Pedro Ruz (October 31, 1999). "Bullets, Bloodshed And Ballots;For Generations, Violence Has Defined Colombia's Turbulent Political History". Orlando Sentinel (Florida): G1. “Political violence is not new to that South American nation of 38 million people. In the past 100 years, more than 500,000 Colombians have died in it. From the ‘War of the Thousand Days’, a civil war at the turn of the 20th century that left 100,000 dead, to a partisan clash between 1948 and 1966 that claimed nearly 300,000. . . .”
  2. ^ Bergquist, Charles; David J.Robinson (1997–2005). "Colombia". Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2005. Microsoft Corporation. Archived from the original on 2009-10-31. Retrieved April 16, 2006.  “On April 9, 1948, Gaitán was assassinated outside his law offices, in downtown Bogotá. The assassination marked the start of a decade of bloodshed, called La Violencia (The Violence), which took the lives of an estimated 180,000 Colombians before it subsided in 1958.”
  3. ^ a b Livingstone, Grace; (Forward by Pearce, Jenny) (2004). Inside Colombia: Drugs, Democracy, and War. Rutgers University Press. p. 42. ISBN 0-8135-3443-7. 
  4. ^ Britannica, 15th edition, 1992 printing[page needed]
  5. ^ Dictionary of Twentieth Century World History, by Jan Palmowski (Oxford, 1997)[page needed]
  6. ^ Grenville, J. A. S., A History of the World in the Twentieth Century (1994)[page needed]
  7. ^ http://www.eltiempo.com/archivo/documento/MAM-863597
  8. ^ a b Bailey, Norman A. "La Violencia in Colombia." Journal of Interamerican Studies 9.4 (1967): 561–75. Print.
  9. ^ [1][dead link]
  10. ^ a b Williford 2005, p. 218.
  11. ^ a b Williford 2005, p. 277.
  12. ^ Williford 2005, p. 278.
  13. ^ Williford 2005, p. 217.
  14. ^ Williford 2005, p. 142.
  15. ^ Williford 2005, p. 197.
  16. ^ Williford 2005, p. 178.
  17. ^ a b c Williford 2005, p. 185.

References[edit]

  • Williford, Thomas J. (2005), Armando los espiritus: Political Rhetoric in Colombia on the Eve of La Violencia, 1930–1945, Vanderbilt University 

Further reading[edit]