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Communism in Colombia

The history of communism in Colombia goes back as far as the 1920s and has its roots in the idealism of the Russian October Revolution. Today the guerrilla groups, self-proclaimed as communists, state that they want to seize state power in Colombia by violent means, and the organizations such as Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia People's Army (FARC-EP) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) still continue their four decades old war with the United States-backed Colombian government. Many social science experts around the world who have studied the historical events in Colombia suggest the influence and intervention, as in many other South American countries, of the United States and of the Soviet Union to stop or enhance, given the case, of communism in Colombia. Some important characters in the history of communism in Colombia are Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, Jaime Pardo Leal, Carlos Pizarro Leongomez, Bernardo Jaramillo Ossa, and Jaime Bateman Cayon, among others. Many of these figures were persecuted or eventually assassinated under different circumstances. According to some critics, evidence of the involvement of members of the Colombian Army and of United States organizations like the Central Intelligence Agency was present in several of the cases. Currently, guerrilla leaders like the founder of the FARC, Jacobo Arenas, or his successor, Manuel Marulanda Velez are involved in kidnapping, drug smuggling, and killing. These groups have had little electoral success.

Historical Background

In July 1925 the Colombian government expelled Silvestre Savitski for teaching and spreading the doctrine of Communism in Colombian society. There were several bombs found in February 1928 and the Communists were blamed for plotting to blow up various private and public buildings on May 1, 1928 which is celebrated as Labor Day. Several Communist leaders were blamed for the plot such as Tomas Uribe Marquez who visited Russia 18 months before the incident. Other popular communists who were arrested for involvement in the plot were Maria Cano and Torres Giraldo. After this incident the press released news about some similar types of incidents happening throughout the country. This was the starting point in Colombian history of awareness of the Communists and their activities among the society and the government of Colombia.

The Banana Workers Massacre (1928-29)

Also known as the Santa Marta Massacre.

The United Fruit Company (UFCO) was a multi-national company that exported fruit such as bananas and pineapples mainly from Latin American banana-growing countries to United States and Europe. UFCO workers on banana plantations in Colombia organized a labor strike in December 1928. The national labor union leaders Raul Eduardo Mahecha and Maria Cano who traveled to the plantations to organize the strikes demanded that the workers be given written work contracts, that they be obligated to work no more than eight hours per day and six days per week, and that the company stop the use of food coupons or scrip. The union leaders were protesting at Santa Marta, the capital of the Magdalena department in the north of the country. The ruling Conservative government's President Miguel Abadia Mendez sent troops led by General Carlos Cortes Vargas to capture the strike leaders, to send them to the prison at Cartagena, and to send additional troops to protect the economic interests of the United Fruit Company. Many United States citizens working for the United Fruit Company lived in the area around Santa Marta and U.S. warships carrying troops were on the way to Colombia to protect U.S. citizens and property. The Colombian army also opened fire on people who gathered at the main plaza of the city Cienaga to support the strikers.

The popular Liberal Party leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitan used the term "La Masacre de las Bananeras" to raise opposition among Colombian society against the massacre. After the massacre reports from the scene told of human skeletons and skulls freely displayed with bunches of bananas. The Liberal Party press criticized the brutality of the methods used to break the strike by the Colombian government.

The Liberal Revolution (1930-45)

The Liberals came into power in 1930 under the leadership of Enrique Olaya Herrera and the presidency of Alfonso Lopez Pumarejo (193438). The people's uprising began after the UFCO banana workers massacre eventually brought the Liberals into power. The Colombian Communists also supported the Liberals and their social and economic issues brought into consideration by the government and acted positively.

There were many social reforms happened in their ruling period of 15 years and called it as Revolution on the March. The 1936 constitutional amendments gave the government to influence the privately owned economic interests. The rights of the labors were established such as 8 hours per day, 6 days per week and the pre-informed work strike. The Liberal government influenced by the communists thought the people's education is the most significant factor when taken into the consideration on every angle and they taken it into the government control from the influence of the Catholic Church. The petroleum industry is the wealth of the Colombians and they have right to get the benefit and they decided to taken the industry into the government control also the Colombian people were given the first preference of the workers in the industry. The low cost housing projects were launched for the low income labor class people. The inter departmental custom barriers were put into the trading. The other important economic factor was land reforms. The government was taken the excess land from the private land owners and distributed among the poor peasant people which increases the economic level of them and also increased the production of the agricultural sector.

The social revolution of the Communist influenced Liberals in Colombia could last only around 15 years. The second term of the president Alfonso Lopez Pumarejo (194246) not completed due to the political pressure against him from several areas of the political field forced him to resigned his presidency. Then the beginning of the year 1946 the Conservatives came into power when the popular Jorge Eliecer Gaitan failed in his bid to become the Liberal party candidate, ran instead as an independent, thereby splitting the liberal vote and giving victory to Conservative candidate Mariano Ospina Perez .

El Bogotazo (1948)

After taking the state power from Liberals in 1946, the Conservatives began to turned back the social revolution into the pre-1930s with the advice and support from the United States. The popular Colombian Liberal Party leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitan who represents the left wing of the party led the National Left-wing Revolutionary Union or UNIR (Union de Izquierda Revolucionaria) and they organized protest movements against the Conservatives reform policies which started a tension between the two parties.

The Jorge Gaitan was shot and killed about 01:15 p.m. on April 9, 1948 at Carrera Septima and Jimenez de Quesada in central Bogota while the 9th Pan-American Conference started under the leadership of U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall. The conference was organized to achieve the two major goals, the first one was to fight against the Communism in the American continent and the second one was to form the Organization of American States (OAS) to strengthen the United States economic and political influence throughout the region.

After the death of Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, riots were started in Bogota, the angry mob killed his murderer Juan Roa Sierra and dragged his body in the streets of the way to presidential palace and hanged it publicly. The rioters took control of all the national radio stations in the city of Bogota and the announcements were delivered against the conservative government of Mariano Ospina Perez. There were some bridges also blown up and it caused lack of food supply into the city. The airfields at Honda, Cartago, Barrancabermeja and Turbo also took control by the people. The rioters' slogan was Yankee imperialism wants to convert us into military and economic colonies, and we must fight in defense of Colombian society.

Notable communists of Colombia

Manuel Marulanda

Jacobo Arenas

Raul Reyes

Alfonso Cano

Communist organizations of Colombia

National Liberation Army (Colombia)

Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia

See also

Colombian Communist Party

Manuel Marulanda

Marquetalia Republic

Military History of the FARC-EP

Jorge Eliecer Gaitan

Jacobo Arenas

National Liberation Army (ELN)

Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP)

Socio-economic Structure of the FARC-EP

External links

CIP Colombia Program


Dance of the Millions: Military Rule and the Social Revolution in Colombia : 1930-1956, Vernon L. Fluharty, ISBN 0-8371-8368-5, 1975

Blood and Fire: La Violencia in Antioquia, Colombia, 1946-1953, Mary Roldan, Duke University Press, ISBN 0-8223-2918-2, 2002

Diario de la resistencia de Marquetalia, Jacobo Arenas, Ediciones Abejon Mono, 1972

'Killing Peace: Colombia's Conflict and the Failure of U.S. Intervention, Garry M. Leech, Information Network of the Americas (INOTA), ISBN 0-9720384-0-X, 2002 War in Colombia: Made in U.S.A.''', edited by Rebeca Toledo, Teresa Gutierrez, Sara Flounders and Andy McInerney, ISBN 0-9656916-9-1, 2003
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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Communism in Colombia

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