Dance of the Millions: Military Rule and the Social Revolution in Colombia, 1930-1956

Dance of the Millions: Military Rule and the Social Revolution in Colombia, 1930-1956

Dance of the Millions: Military Rule and the Social Revolution in Colombia, 1930-1956

Dance of the Millions: Military Rule and the Social Revolution in Colombia, 1930-1956

Excerpt

On June 13, 1953, a palace military coup, led by General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla, unseated the dictatorial Conservative president of Colombia, Dr. Laureano Gómez. This act terminated a bloody, fiveyear period of civil strife. With it, too, there ended the old political order in which two parties competed for power in a system which had caused many to look upon Colombia as the most stable democracy in Latin America.

Laureano Gómez was ousted from office by the military just five years after disastrous riots had razed Bogotá, disrupted the Ninth Inter-American Conference, and swept over other cities from border to border of the nation. These riots had exploded from deep, basic party differences, and from bitter social and economic cleavages that had set class against class. Attempts to suppress those differences had brought Gómez to power as the head of a determined counterrevolutionary force.

Until the blood bath of 1948 was loosed, Colombia had enjoyed almost forty years of relative peace and progress. Government was under civilians. The constitution was honored, if not always made explicit. The press was free, and public opinion was unshackled.

And then, as though at the wave of some malign wand, frightful violence swept the country. Civil liberties died, and opposition parties were silenced; partisan bands fought bloody pitched battles with the Army and the police; terror-stricken refugees swarmed by the thousands to the cities, depopulating the countryside; the jails bulged with political prisoners. Finally, when Colombians could stand no more, the Army stepped in to end the danse macabre.

Colombia's general course, until it was so radically altered, seemed to offer tangible proof that the whole of Latin America would eventually evolve toward stable political democracy. If Colombia could do this, ran the argument, so could the other Latin-American nations. Hence, the miserable failure of Colombia to meet modern demands with a representative system of popular government spread chagrin and disappointment among the friends of Latin America in general. They were left with the sickening feeling that comes when the star halfback at the crucial moment of the game seizes the ball and sprints . . .

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