La Violencia

Last updated
La Violencia
Date9 April 1948 – 1959
Location
Result

Stalemate

Belligerents

Flag of Colombia.svg Government of Colombia

Single Color Flag - BF0000.svg Colombian Liberal Party and allied militias

Commanders and leaders




Casualties and losses

2,900 soldiers and 1,800 police officers dead (1948–57)

3,000–5,000 conservative paramilitaries dead

Contents

15,000 rebels dead (1948–58)
170,000 civilians killed (1947–60)

La Violencia (Spanish pronunciation:  [la βjoˈlensja] , The Violence) was a ten-year civil war in Colombia from 1948 to 1958, between the Colombian Conservative Party and the Colombian Liberal Party, fought mainly in the countryside. [1] [2] [3]

Civil war war between organized groups within the same sovereign state or republic

A civil war, also known as an intrastate war in polemology, is a war between organized groups within the same state or country. The aim of one side may be to take control of the country or a region, to achieve independence for a region or to change government policies. The term is a calque of the Latin bellum civile which was used to refer to the various civil wars of the Roman Republic in the 1st century BC.

Colombia Country in South America

Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia, is a sovereign state largely situated in the northwest of South America, with territories in Central America. Colombia shares a border to the northwest with Panama, to the east with Venezuela and Brazil and to the south with Ecuador and Peru. It shares its maritime limits with Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Jamaica, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. Colombia is a unitary, constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments, with the capital in Bogotá.

Colombian Conservative Party traditional political party in Colombia

The Colombian Conservative Party is a conservative political party in Colombia. The party was formally established in 1849 by Mariano Ospina Rodríguez and José Eusebio Caro.

La Violencia is considered[ by whom? ] to have begun with the 9 April 1948 assassination of the popular politician Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, a Liberal Party presidential candidate for the election in November 1949. His murder provoked the Bogotazo rioting that lasted for ten hours and killed some 5,000 people. [4] An alternative historiography[ by whom? ] proposes as the start the Conservatives' return to power following the election of 1946. 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. [4]

Assassination murder of a prominent person, often a political leader or ruler

Assassination is the act of killing a prominent person for either political, religious or monetary reasons.

Jorge Eliécer Gaitán Colombian politician

Jorge Eliécer Gaitán Ayala was a politician, a leader of a socialist movement in Colombia, a former Education Minister (1940) and Labor Minister (1943–1944), mayor of Bogotá (1936) and one of the most charismatic leaders of the Liberal Party. He was assassinated during his second presidential campaign in 1948, setting off the Bogotazo and leading to a violent period of political unrest in Colombian history known as La Violencia.

Bogotazo massive riots that followed the assassination in Bogotá, Colombia,Jorge Eliécer Gaitán

El Bogotazo refers to the massive riots that followed the assassination in Bogotá, Colombia of Liberal leader and presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán on 9 April 1948 during the government of President Mariano Ospina Pérez. The 10-hour riot left much of downtown Bogotá destroyed. The aftershock of Gaitan's murder continued extending through the countryside and escalated a period of violence which had begun eighteen years before, in 1930, and was triggered by the fall of the conservative party from government and the rise of the liberals. The 1946 presidential elections brought the downfall of the liberals allowing conservative Mariano Ospina Pérez to win the presidency. The struggle for power between both again triggered a period in the history of Colombia known as La Violencia that lasted until approximately 1958, from which the civil conflict that continues to this day grew.

La Violencia is estimated to have cost the lives of at least 200,000 people. [5] [6] [7]

Development

In September 1949, Senator Gustavo Jimenez was assassinated mid-session, in Congress. CapitolioNacionalDeColombia2004-7.jpg
In September 1949, Senator Gustavo Jiménez was assassinated mid-session, in Congress.

La Violencia took place between the paramilitary forces of the Colombian Liberal Party and the Colombian Conservative Party, which organized as armed self-defense groups and as guerrilla military units. Both also fought against the paramilitary forces of the Colombian Communist Party (PCC).

Paramilitary Militarised force or other organization

A paramilitary is a semi-militarized force whose organizational structure, tactics, training, subculture, and (often) function are similar to those of a professional military, but which is formally not part of a government's armed forces.

Colombian Liberal Party political party

The Colombian Liberal Party is a centrist and social liberal political party in Colombia. It was founded as a classical liberal party but later developed a more social-democratic tradition, joining the Socialist International in 1999.

Colombian Communist Party Marxist Leninist Party

The Colombian Communist Party or PCC is a legal communist party in Colombia. It was founded in 1930 as the Communist Party of Colombia, at which point it was the Colombian section of the Comintern, and changed its name in 1991. The party is currently led by Jaime Caycedo and publishes a weekly newspaper called Voz.

The conflict caused millions of people to abandon their homes and property. 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 ]

Civil authority or civilian authority, also known as civilian government, is the practical implementation of a State, other than its military units, that enforces law and order. It is also used to distinguish between religious authority and secular authority. The enforcement of law and order is typically the role of the police in modern states.

The majority of the population at the time was Catholic. During the conflict there were press reports that Catholic Church authorities supported the Conservative Party. Several priests were accused of openly encouraging the murder of the political opposition during Catholic mass, including the Santa Rosa de Osos Bishop Miguel Ángel Builes, although this is unproven. No formal charges were ever presented and no official statements were made by the Holy See or the Board of Bishops. These events were recounted in the 1950 book Lo que el cielo no perdona ("What heaven doesn't forgive"), written by the secretary to Builes, Father Fidel Blandon Berrio. [9] [10] Eduardo Caballero Calderón also recounted these events in his 1952 book El Cristo de Espaldas ("Backwards Christ"). After releasing his book, Blandon resigned from his position and assumed a false identity as Antonio Gutiérrez. However, he was eventually identified and legally charged and prosecuted for libel.[ why? ][ citation needed ]

Catholic Church Christian church led by the Bishop of Rome

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's "oldest continuously functioning international institution", it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the Pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.

Mass (liturgy) type of worship service within many Christian denomination

Mass is the main eucharistic liturgical service in many forms of Western Christianity. The term Mass is commonly used in the Catholic Church and Anglican churches, as well as some Lutheran churches, Methodist, Western Rite Orthodox and Old Catholic churches.

Santa Rosa de Osos Municipality and City in Antioquia Department, Colombia

Santa Rosa de Osos is a middle city and municipality of Colombia located in the northern of the department of Antioquia. Bounded on the north with the municipalities of Yarumal and Angostura, on the east with Guadalupe and Carolina del Principe, on the south with the municipalities of Donmatías, San Pedro de los Milagros and Entrerríos, and on the west with Belmira and San José de la Montaña.

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. In consequence many media figures left the country. Jorge Zalamea, director of Critica magazine, fled to Buenos Aires; Luis Vidales to Chile; Antonio Garcia to La Paz, and Gerardo Molina to Paris.[ citation needed ]

Conclusion

Most of the armed groups (called guerrillas liberales, a pejorative term) were demobilized during the amnesty declared by General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla after he took power on 13 June 1953. The most prominent Guerrilla leaders, Guadalupe Salcedo and Juan de la Cruz Varela, signed the 1953 agreement.

Some of the guerrileros did not surrender to the government and organized into criminal bands or bandoleros, which caused intense military operations against them in 1954. One of them, the guerrillero leader Tirofijo, had changed his political and ideological inclinations from being a Liberal to supporting the Communists during this period, and eventually he became the founder of the communist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC.

Rojas was removed from power on 10 May 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 and which included a system of alternating the president 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 headed by the Bishop Germán Guzmán Campos.

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

Humanitarian consequences

Due to incomplete or non-existent 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 to 800,000 were injured; and almost one million people were displaced. La Violencia directly or indirectly affected 20 percent of the population. [11]

La Violencia did not acquire its name 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' (aka Colombian necktie), and so on. Crucifixions and hangings were commonplace, political 'prisoners' were thrown from airplanes in flight, infants were bayoneted, schoolgirls, 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." [11] 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

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 Peasant Student Workers Movement, started its operations in 1959. [12] Later, other organizations such as the FARC and the National Liberation Army emerged, marking the beginning of a guerrilla insurgency.

From the point of view of members of the FARC and the PCC, the Liberal and Conservative elites, though they had instigated the original violence, 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.[ citation needed ]

Credence in conspiracy theories as causes of violence

As was common of 20th-century eliminationist political violence, the rationales for action immediately before La Violencia were founded on conspiracy theories, each of which blamed the other side 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

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. [13] This conspiracy theory supplied the rationale for Liberal Party radicals to engage in violence, notably the anti-clerical attacks and killings, particularly in the early years of La Violencia. Some propaganda leaflets circulating in Medellín blamed a favorite of anti-Catholic conspiracy theorists, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), for the murder of Gaitán. [14]

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. [13] One priest, Pedro María Ramírez Ramos, 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. [14]

Despite the conspiracy theories and propaganda after Gaitán's killing, most on the left learned from their errors in the rioting on 9 April, and stopped believing that priests had harbored weapons. [15]

The claims by both camps of the existence of some sort of conspiracy made the political environment toxic, increasing the animosity and suspicion of both parties. [16]

Judeo-Masonic conspiracy theory

Conservatives likewise had been motivated to fight against a supposed international Judeo-Masonic conspiracy by eliminating the Liberals in their midst. [17] 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, with many prominent Liberal politicians actually being Freemasons. [18]

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. Jesuits outside of Colombia had already questioned and published disputes of the authenticity of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion , pushing the concept of a 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, Jr. to draft an encyclical against anti-Semitism and racism. [19] 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. [20] 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.

The atrocities that had happened at the outset of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 were seen by both sides as a possible precedent for Colombia, causing both sides to fear it could happen in their country; this also spurred the credibility of the conspiracies and the rationale for violence. [16] 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. [16]

See also

Notes

  1. Stokes, Doug (2005). America's Other War: Terrorizing Colombia. Zed Books. ISBN   1-84277-547-2. Azcarate quotes a figure of 300,000 dead between 1948–1959...[ page needed ]
  2. Gutierrez, Pedro Ruz (31 October 1999). "Bullets, Bloodshed And Ballots". Orlando Sentinel. Archived from the original on 2016-06-25. 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 century that left 100,000 dead, to a partisan clash between 1948 and 1966 that claimed nearly 300,000...
  3. Bergquist, Charles; Robinson, David J. (2005). "Colombia". Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2005. Microsoft Corporation. Archived from the original on 2009-11-01. Retrieved 16 April 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.
  4. 1 2 Livingstone, Grace; foreword by Pearce, Jenny (2004). Inside Colombia: Drugs, Democracy, and War. Rutgers University Press. p. 42. ISBN   0-8135-3443-7.
  5. Britannica, 15th edition, 1992 printing[ page needed ]
  6. Palmowski, Jan (1997). A Dictionary of Twentieth Century World History. Oxford University Press. ISBN   9780192800169.[ page needed ]
  7. Grenville, J.A.S. (1994). A History of the World in the 20th Century .[ page needed ]
  8. "El día que mataron a Gustavo Jiménez". El Tiempo (in Spanish). 7 September 1999. Archived from the original on 2016-06-26.
  9. Berrio, Fidel Blandon (1996). Lo que el cielo no perdona (in Spanish). Planeta. ISBN   9789586145169 . Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  10. Gil Jaramillo, Rosa Carolina (June 2018). "Interpretación del sacerdote, la guerrilla liberal y la policía en Lo que el cielo no perdona" (PDF). Historia y sociedad (34): 103. doi:10.15446/hys.n34.66232 . Retrieved 7 August 2018. Article at URL contains a short English-language abstract. PDF is full article in Spanish.
  11. 1 2 Bailey, Norman A. (1967). "La Violencia in Colombia". Journal of Inter-American Studies. Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Miami. 9 (4): 561–75. doi:10.2307/164860. JSTOR   164860.
  12. Archived June 26, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  13. 1 2 Williford 2005, p. 218.
  14. 1 2 Williford 2005, p. 277.
  15. Williford 2005, p. 278.
  16. 1 2 3 Williford 2005, p. 185.
  17. Williford 2005, p. 217.
  18. Williford 2005, p. 142.
  19. Williford 2005, p. 197.
  20. Williford 2005, p. 178.

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References

Further reading