La Violencia Begins in Colombia (Great Events from History II: Human Rights Series)
Article abstract: The Dance of the Millions (rapid economic expansion) led to political unrest among rural people that exploded into violence with the assassination of populist leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán in 1948.
Summary of Event
Jorge Eliécer Gaitán was the symbol of hope for the rural poor of Colombia. In a nation torn by decades of partisan strife, the assassination of this populist leader on a street in the nation’s capital, Bogota, brought a wave of revulsion against the Conservative government then in power. An enraged mob beat the assassin to death minutes after Gaitán fell. The existence of a plot behind the assassination has never been proven, but the immediate consequences of Gaitán’s death were obvious. The international delegation to the Ninth Pan-American Conference, including United States secretary of state George C. Marshall, watched with a mixture of fear and shock as violence overwhelmed their host city. The aroused masses directed their hostility against the incumbent Conservatives. Political outrage merged with urban violence to become a bloody civil war that spread into already unstable rural areas. Two hundred thousand people eventually died, and property damage was immense. La Violencia (the violence) swept up displaced Indians and dispossessed mestizos (a biological or cultural mixture of Indian and European) who had been struggling to survive for decades. The death of their...
(The entire section is 2356 words.)
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