Volume 6

The State and the Peasantry in Contemporary Colombia

Bruce Michael Bagley

Bagley, Bruce Michael, Latin American Issues [On-line], 6.
Available: http://sites.allegheny.edu/latinamericanstudies/latin-american-issues/volume-6/


Bruce Bagley is Associate Professor of Political Science, Graduate School of International Studies, University of Miami. He is also Director of the Andean Studies program at that institution. Among his most recent publications are two books published by Westview Press: Development Postponed: The Political Economy of Central America, co-authored with Richard Feinberg (1986), and Contadora and the Diplomacy of Peace in Central America (1987).


In the post-World War II period the Colombian countryside has undergone an accelerated process of capitalist transformation. Still an essentially precapitalist, agrarian society as late as the early 1930s, by the mid-1980s the country boasted one of the most modern, diversified and productive agricultural sectors in all of Latin America, despite remaining pockets of traditional peasant agriculture.

This remarkable transformation was not, however, a painless one. Indeed, at least since the mid-1940s Colombia has been one of the most violent countries in Latin America. Between 1946 and 1958 an undeclared civil war in the countryside — generically labeled La Violencia — claimed almost 200,000 lives. Since 1958 and the inauguration of the bipartisan National Front (Frente Nacional) arrangement that formally brought an end to the Violence, Colombia has experienced continuing high levels of rural unrest accompanied by cyclical protest movements among the peasantry and the rural proletariat and permanent armed guerrilla warfare. As of the mid-1980s rural violence had become so widespread that it constituted a serious challenge to state control and a major impediment to further capitalist expansion in key rural areas of the country.

This essay seeks to explain why in the mid-1980s the Colombian regime confronted a rising spiral of rural unrest and guerrilla violence. To answer this central question, the essay examines the evolution of state-peasant relations in Colombia during the quarter century plus that which has elapsed since the end of the Violencia and the creation of the Frente Nacional in 1958.

The central thesis advanced is that the current wave of praetorianism and violence in the Colombian countryside is a result of the failure of Colombia’s political elites to develop institutions capable of adequately channeling and controlling the new demands for political participation unleashed by the rapid capitalist transformation of the country’s rural areas. In Huntingtonian terms, over the last twenty-five years the processes of political institutionalization in Colombia simply have not kept peace with the profound social changes and rapid mobilization of new groups into politics, thus producing the conditions for prolonged violence and instability.1

The bipartisan National Front arrangement inaugurated in mid-1958 undoubtedly contributed to ending the Violencia and restoring political peace in the Colombian countryside after almost a decade of undeclared civil war between the historically dominant Liberal and Conservative parties. Nonetheless, the monopoly over political office and state decision-making power granted to the two traditional parties under the National Front introduced elements of rigidity and immobility into the Colombian regime that prevented it from undertaking either the socio-economic or political reforms necessary for the institutionalization of a stable and legitimate political system.

At the socio-economic level, the pattern of capitalist development in agriculture that the country’s ruling elites pursued — based primarily on the modernization and commercialization of the large estate (or hacienda) system rather than land redistribution through agrarian reform — progressively pushed the traditional subsistence peasantry off the land, driving them into the ranks of the rural proletariat (or semi-proletariat) or forcing them to join the tidal wave of rural-to-urban migration that flooded Colombia’s cities in the 1960s and 1970s. Such massive disruption of Colombia’s traditional rural areas created fertile ground for the cultivation of rural protest movements, peasant rebellions, and revolutionary guerrilla organizations.

While other Latin American countries have experienced analogous processes of accelerated capitalist modernization in the post-World War II period, none — with the possible exceptions of Guatemala and El Salvador in Central America — has witnessed anything like the levels of peasant protest, rural violence, and guerrilla warfare registered in modern Colombia. To understand the differences between the Colombian and other cases, it is necessary to “bring the state back in” to the analysis; that is, to examine how the National Front and Post-National Front political institutions shaped and directed political participation and political conflict in the Colombian countryside. A structuralist approach focusing exclusively on the underlying processes of social and economic change is useful but insufficient to explain the Colombian experience. An adequate analysis must also consider how the political regime and state policies have shaped and molded elite-mass relations and contributed to attenuating or exacerbating social and political tensions in the countryside.2

At the political level, the bipartisan monopoly over political office granted to the Liberals and Conservatives under the Frente rules eliminated the need for the two parties to compete between themselves for votes. As a result, inter-party rivalry was replaced by increased intra-party competition and factionalism that led to a loss of party coherence and discipline. Moreover, in the absence of inter-party competition the two party’s ideological and programmatic identities became increasingly blurred while their grassroots organizations suffered progressive atrophy.

At the policy level, the failure of the Colombian state to implement an effective agrarian reform or to otherwise ameliorate the problems of the nation’s increasing numbers of landless and land-poor peasants in the 1960s and early 1970s generated the potential for political unrest among different segments of the rural population. The failure of the National Front to institutionalize effective channels of participation meant that many of the rural movements that did arise took the form of radical challenges to the two traditional parties and to the legitimacy and stability of the political regime itself.

The country’s ruling elites responded to each successive wave of rural protest and radicalization with palliative and symbolic reforms, but only limited structural changes. Their tactics ranged from reformist gestures through party-based ideological appeals, patronage-based cooptation and state-led divisionary maneuvers to official and extra-official repression, according to the severity of the perceived threat to the stability of the system.

This essay traces the dynamics of state peasant relations during the last quarter century in an effort to understand the roots of Colombia’s contemporary rural conflicts. For analytic purposes, state-peasant relations in Colombia during the Front and post-Front periods are subdivided into five basic phases. This subdivision is based on the extent to which inclusionary (cooptive) versus exclusionary (repressive) strategies and tactics were employed to maintain state control.

The first phase began with the Interim Military Junta (1957-1958) and the launching of a Community Development Program (Accion Comunal or AC) and other rural pacification efforts designed to reincorporate the peasantry into national life, restore political order, and reestablish state control in the violence-torn countryside. Although at least three revolutionary Marxist guerrilla organizations emerged during the early 1960s, this initial phase was characterized by Alliance for Progress-style economic and social reform, including a broad “Social Agrarian Reform” (Law 135 of 1961). As a result of these inclusionary efforts, relative political peace was effectively reestablished in most of the nation’s rural areas by the early 1960s despite low-level guerrilla activity in some regions. By the mid-1960s, however, the agrarian reform and related reformist programs had begun to falter and the AC program entered a stage of sharply increased militancy. This early phase in state-peasant relations ended in 1966-67 when the Administration of Liberal President Carlos Lleras Restrepo (1966-1970) successfully reasserted central bureaucratic control over the radicalized segments of the AC program, while stepping-up military pressure against the armed guerrilla groups operating in the countryside.

The second phase began with President Lleras Restrepo’s launching of a National Campaign of Peasant Organization in 1967 (that led to the creation of an independent National Peasant Organization, the Asociacion Nacional de Usuarios Campesinos–ANUC) and his parallel efforts to accelerate the pace of land reform in the countryside (Law 1 of 1968). Despite these and other reformist initiatives, however, the conditions of many segments of the peasantry and rural poor continued to deteriorate throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, while the political system proved incapable of accommodating peasant demands for greater participation in and access to the political process. The Administration of Conservative President Misael Pastrana Borrero (1970-1974), the last president elected under the National Front arrangement, effectively ended all land redistribution and moved to reassert state-control over ANUC in 1970-71. The result was the rapid radicalization of ANUC, increasing conflict between the state and the organized peasantry and an expansion of guerrilla activity during the early and mid-1970s.

The suppression of the radicalized ANUC by the state and the upsurge of guerrilla struggles in both the countryside and the cities in the mid-1970s during the Administration of Liberal President Alfonso Lopez Michelsen (1974-1978), ushered in a new phase of state-peasant relations. This third phase was characterized by the state’s definitive abandonment of redistributive agrarian reform in the countryside and dramatic increases in armed conflict in Colombia’s rural areas. Despite Liberal President Julio Cesar Turbay Avala’s (1978-1982) draconian campaign to crush the guerrillas militarily in the late 1970s and early 1980s, by the end of his term in office in 1982 rural violence had reached crisis proportions in many regions of the countryside.

The fourth phase was initiated in August 1982 by newly inaugurated Conservative President Belisario Betancur Cuartas (1982-1986) with his proposals for truce and dialogue with the guerrillas and for major socioeconomic and political reforms. Between 1982 and 1985, President Betancur’s peace and reform initiatives raised hopes that a negotiated solution to the country’s intensifying rural violence and guerrilla warfare could be found.

By late 1985, however, the breakdown of the peace process and the recrudescence of guerrilla activity in the countryside — culminating in the Colombian military’s storming of the National Palance of Justice after it was seized by the M-19 guerrillas on November 6, 1985 — seemed to have dashed these hopes and ushered in a fifth phase of protracted guerrilla warfare and spiraling state repression.

This analysis begins with a brief overview of the origins and structure of the National Front and the evolution of state policies toward agriculture at the outset of the Front period. It then proceeds with detailed analyses of the Accion Comunal program, ANUC, the resurgence of the rural guerrillas in the 1970s, and the peace and reform efforts of the Betancur government in the early and mid-1980s. It concludes with a brief examination of the rural problems confronted by Betancur’s successor, Liberal President Virgilio Barco Vargas (1986-1990), at the start of his government in mid-1986.



The National Front was a bipartisan pact between Colombia’s Liberal and Conservative political parties that required them to share equally all bureaucratic and electoral posts for a period of sixteen years (1958-1974) and the alternate in the presidency every four years during that period. The Front’s stated goals were to reduce the violent partisan conflict that had wracked the country during the Violencia and to permit the institutionalization of a “democratic” political system to replace the Rojas military dictatorship (1953-1957).3

The National Front was not, however, simply a pact to reestablish political peace and civilian leadership. The agricultural, industrial and financial fractions of the capitalist class, that had gradually emerged during the post-World War II period as the dominant class fractions within both of Colombia’s traditional parties, were intent upon combining political stability with accelerated capitalist growth.4 To achieve this goal, the Colombian state had to assume a more active, interventionist role in the national economy to plan and promote the modernization process. The increased centralization of economic policymaking power within the executive branch and the expansion of the planning and regulatory activities of the state built into the Frente arrangement reflected this consensus among the nation’s ruling elite.5

Of particular concern to the dominant fractions of the bloc-in-power were the low levels of production and productivity in agriculture. Industrialization requires an efficient and productive agriculture sector in order to provide in-puts for industry, to free rural labor for work in the factories, to produce cheap and abundant foodstuffs for the expanding urban work force, and to generate the foreign exchange necessary to import modern machinery and technology. Since 1945, Colombian agriculture had made significant strides toward commercialization.6

At the outset of the Front, however, the bulk of the country’s best land was still in the hands of a traditional landowning (latisfundista or terrateniente) class that was neither capable of nor disposed to commercialize production at the pace required by the country’s expanding capitalist economy. Moreover, prices of Colombia’s principal export, coffee, suffered a precipitous decline on the international market in 1956-1957 and subsequently stabilized at record-low levels throughout the 1960s, thus severely curtailing the country’s ability to finance imports needed for industrialization. Responding to these conditions, Liberal Alberto Lleras Camargo — the first president elected under the National Front arrangement (1958-1962) — proclaimed that the modernization and diversification of agriculture through an agrarian reform would be one of the first priorities of his government.7

While the requirements of the expanding urban industrial sector were critical factors in President Lleras Camargo’s decision to launch an agrarian reform, the specific characteristics of the reform as it finally emerged in 1961 (Law 135 of 1961) were molded as much by social and political imperatives as economic considerations. Rural conflicts generated by the Violencia, combined with revolutionary guerrilla activity in the countryside in the aftermath of the Violencia, presented major threats to the legitimacy and stability of the National Front. As of the early 1960s, there were roughly a million peasant families with 20 hectares or less who made up approximately one-third of the total Colombian population. Although they held only about 20% of the nation’s arable land, this small-holder peasant population accounted for 61% of the country’s total agriculture production. Because of high population growth rates, widespread rural violence and increasing competition from commercial agriculture for the use of the land, the lower levels of the peasant strata found it especially difficult to retain a foothold on the land. Between 1951 and 1964, 2.3 million landless peasants emigrated from the countryside to the cities.8

The rural population’s generalized discontent was reflected during the 1960 mid-term elections in the substantial electoral support in the countryside garnered by a dissident anti-Frente Liberal faction: the Liberal Revolutionary Movement (Movimiento Revolucionario Liberal — MRL) led by Alfonso Lopez Michelsen.9 The success of the left-leaning MRL, along with the triumph and rapid radicalization of the Cuban revolution and the rise of revolutionary guerrilla groups in Colombia in the early 1960s, convinced the Lleras Camargo Administration and key elements of the country’s dominant classes of the need to adopt a “social” agrarian reform program designed not only to modernize agriculture but also to placate rural unrest.10

Redistributive agrarian reform also received a significant impetus from international sources: the Act of Bogota in 1960, the Punta del Este Conference in 1961, and the subsequent creation of the Alliance for Progress. The United States, in particular, was keen on agrarian reform in Latin America to prevent “more Cubas” and the Kennedy Administration offered funding through the Alliance to carry out such programs.11

The Agrarian Reform of 1961 was only one aspect of the Frente’s efforts to restore order in the countryside. Along with military operations against guerrilla revolutionaries and rural bandits, the Interim Junta started a series of community development projects in early 1958, prior to the inauguration of the Front, that were designed to encourage local development, pacify the countryside, and tie isolated rural communities closer to the central government. These programs were subsequently continued and expanded under the Lleras Camargo government. To understand this early phase of state-peasant relations in Colombia, it is necessary to examine the dynamics of the Accion Comunal (AC) program in detail.



Origins, Structure and Functions of Accion Comunal

The major Frente non-military pacification effort was channeled through the Community Action program. (For the founding dates of this and other major peasant organization in Colombia see Table 1). The objectives of the AC program were to promote economic and social development in local communities through self-help projects and to create a sense of popular participation in local government through community cooperation. The basic unit of the AC program was the Community Action Board (Junta de Accion Comunal) organized at the rural neighborhood (vereda) and urban neighborhood (barrio) levels.12


Table 1
1. Colombian Labor Confederation (Confederacion de Trabajadores Colombianos – CTC) Liberal Party 1936
2. Union of Colombian Workers (Union de Trabajadores de Colombia – UTC) Conservative Party
Catholic Church
3. Popular Cultural Action (Accion Cultural Popular – ACP) Catholic Church 1949
4. Community Action (Accion Comunal – AC) Interim Military Junta, Lleras Camargo Administration 1958
5. National Agrarian Federation (Federacion Nacional Agraria – FANAL) UTC (Conservative – Affiliated Labor Unions) 1959
6. Civic-Military Action (Accion-Civica Militar) Armed Forces 1960
7. Syndical Confederation of Colombian Workers (Confereacion Sindical de Travajadores de Colombia – CSTC) Communist Party 1964
8. Popular Integration (Integracion Popular) Lleras Restrepo Administration 1967
9. National Campaign of Peasant Organization (Campana Nacional de Organizacion Campesina – CNOC) Lleras Restrepo Administration 1966-67
10. National Peasant Association (Asociacion Nacional de Usuarios Campesinos – ANUC) Lleras Restrepo Administration 1970
11. ANUC (Linea Armenia) Pastrana Borrero Administration 1971
12. Regional Indigenous Council of CAUCA (Consejo Regional Indigena del CAUCA – CRIC) FESAGRO/Independent Labor Organization headed by Gustavo Mejia 1971
13. ANUC (Linea San Sincelejo) Independent Peasant Groups 1972
14. National Agrarian Federation (Federacion Nacional de Sindicatos Agrarios – FENSA Communist Party, CSTC 1977
15. ANUC (Linea San Jacinto) Independent Peasant Groups (split from ANUC-Sincelego) 1977
16. ANUC (Reunification) Turbay Ayala Administration 1981

The law creating the AC program (Law 19 of 1958) provided that duly constituted juntas could assume “functions of control and vigilance” in their communities and gave locally-elected junta officials the authority to represent their communities on the governing boards of various state agencies. In practice, the AC program constituted a new source of governmental funding for local public works projects in poor rural and urban neighborhoods. If a community could organize a junta, mobilize volunteer labor, and raise part of the funds needed for a given project (e.g., schools, health clinics, water and sewerage systems, feeder roads, bridges, dams, recreational facilities), the government would grant matching funds and materials or authorize the use of government equipment free of charge.13

Although the National Division was nominally responsible for coordinating funding for AC activities, resources were actually disbursed to the juntas through a variety of governmental and private sector institutions. Several ministries (e.g., government, public works, education, and agriculture) provided resources from their budgets as did a number of decentralized agencies. Both departmental and municipal level AC offices also disbursed funds to AC juntas. In addition, in 1960 the Armed Forces launched a program called Civic-Military Action in which military personnel worked directly with AC juntas in former violence zones. Congressmen were also entitled to make allocations from special funds (auxilios parliamentarios) to local AC groups in their departments, thereby providing a patronage linkage to the traditional Liberal and Conservative party leadership.14

Many private or semi-private agencies also became actively involved in the AC program during the early 1960s. The National Coffee Growers Association (FEDECAFE) supported Accion Comunal through its rural extension program in coffee-growing areas. A private corporation was formed by local landowners and merchants to promote AC juntas in the Sumapaz region of the Department of Cundinamarca, a zone in which the Communist Party had established a foothold during the Violencia. The Catholic Church backed the AC program through its organizations as well. FANAL (a Church-UTC sponsored rural labor organization), ELIT (Catholic Action Leadership Training Schools), radio network and many local parish priests, all promoted AC organizations as a counter to rural violence.15

Additional support for the AC program was received from various international organizations active in Colombia during the early 1960s. CARE, the Alliance for Progress, the U.S. Peace Corps, the Dutch and British Volunteer Corps, US Agency for International Development (AID) and U.S.-based labor organizations, all made contributions in terms of funds and manpower. The US Peace Corps alone provided an average of two hundred AC promoters a year during the mid-1960s.16

With this impetus from local, national, and international organizations, the AC program expanded rapidly. As of 1966, approximately 9,000 local juntas had been established in rural and urban areas throughout the country. By 1974, around 18,000 juntas had been created. By the end of the late 1960s roughly half the rural veredas in the country had formed a junta, although many subsequently remained inactive for years. Activities of the juntas varied, but most carried out at least one minor construction project as their initial activity. Roughly one thousand school rooms per year were constructed by AC groups in the 1960s and hundreds of bridges, roads, water and sewerage systems and community centers were built as well.17

The growth of the AC program was spectacular. By the mid-1960s, the juntas were managing a sizeable proportion of the nation’s local level infrastructural investments both in urban and rural areas.18 The political benefits derived from the AC program were, however, even greater than the economic ones. In the rural areas especially, the juntas rapidly became focal points for community social activities. Typically, the juntas assumed an active role in organizing community fiestas, dances, charitable programs, athletic events, health and literacy programs, agricultural extension classes, and other such projects. This “renewal of community life” was an important aspect of the restoration of social stability in the violence-torn countryside.19

The AC juntas also provided moderate political alternatives to the leadership of the guerrillas and the rural bandits inherited from the Violencia. The partial collapse of state authority in many rural areas during the Violencia had left an organizational and power vacuum in many isolated rural communities. The juntas quickly surfaced as centers of partisan political activity. Combined with military actions against the remaining guerrilla bands and rural bandits, the AC program helped to curtail the power of armed peasant groups while reestablishing effective state and party control in many rural areas by the mid-1960s.20

The government encouraged Accion Comunal in both rural and urban areas by directing state development programs through the AC organizations. In effect, the juntas became primary channels for dispensing governmental development aid and political patronage at the local level. Access to these resources greatly strengthened the local political leverage of the AC leaders, for they could build patronage networks that translated into control over votes in their neighborhoods during elections. As a result, AC leaders were often local party leaders as well and at times even ran as party candidates for local municipal elections.

Inevitably, the dependence of the AC leaders and their neighborhood clientele groups on governmental largess tied them directly into the Frente’s system of patronage politics. The government officials in charge of allocating AC funds (e.g., congressmen, municipal mayors, AC promoters, ministry bureaucrats) were either politicians or products of political appointments and commonly used their control over the flow of AC monies to reward juntas and communities who supported pro-Frente political groups. The juntas were also focal points of partisan struggles between Liberal and Conservative politicians who used their influence over government funding and patronage to reward their clients within local AC juntas. Given the weakness of grass-roots party organizations in Colombia in the aftermath of the Violencia, the AC juntas rapidly became key vehicles of political-electoral mobilization for both parties during the early years of the Front.21

The Radicalization of Accion Comunal

While the AC system proved to be an effective mechanism of political-governmental control over the bulk of the peasantry and the urban poor, the limited availability of AC funds and the favoritism and corruption that often attended their disbursal, combined with the slow pace of land reform and other state reform programs, produced strong undercurrents of frustration and discontent in many communities.22 Six months after the Agrarian Reform Law of 1961 was enacted, Liberal President Lleras Camargo left office and a Conservative, Guillermo Leon Valencia, assumed the presidency (1962-66) in accordance with the alternation requirements of the Frente pact. Valencia and the Conservatives were far less convinced of the need for agrarian reform, particularly land redistribution, than were the Llerista Liberals. As a result, implementation of the Agrarian Reform proceeded very slowly during the Valencia Administration. The failure of the Frente programs to ameliorate grinding poverty and landlessness in many rural communities during the early 1960s exacerbated the peasant discontent and rural conflicts throughout the country.23 The failure of the Frente leadership to address the problems of unemployment, low-income housing, education, and basic public services in the cities produced a parallel process of growing discontent among the urban poor.24

Reflecting rising levels of popular discontent, by the mid-1960s a large number of both rural and urban neighborhood juntas had extended their activities beyond local construction projects and the search for matching funds to include petitions for land redistribution through the agrarian reform program, accusations of corruption and malfeasance against government officials, demands for better housing, transportation, and other services, and a long list of other grievances.25

The growing political sophistication of some AC groups during the mid-1960s produced a trend toward the formation of regional AC federations. These federations were created spontaneously by local juntas (rural veredas and urban barrios) from one or more municipalities that decided to band together in informal regional AC federations for the purpose of increasing their collective bargaining power vis-a-vis local and departmental authorities. The combination of rural and urban poor in these informal regional federations made them, at least potentially, highly effective vehicles of popular mobilization outside of traditional party control. The demands of these emergent federations sometimes involved direct challenges to local government officials and to the local power structure. In some municipalities, the AC federations went so far as to launch independent slates of candidates in municipal elections to challenge the traditional party lists.26

Camilo Torres and the Accion Comunal Program

The emergence of a variety of AC regional federations as political forces independent of, and frequently antagonistic towards, governmental and party elites was fostered by the ideological and organizational efforts of a small number of urban, anti-Frente, and leftist groups active in the AC program during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Perhaps the most important of these was the Christian-leftist movement begun by the “rebel priest,” Father Camilo Torres Restrepo. The son of a wealthy Bogotano family, Camilo Torres, underwent a gradual process of political “radicalization” during the late 1950s and early 1960s. As a promising young priest marked for rapid ascension within the Colombia Church hierarchy, he had been sent to study sociology at the University of Louvain in Belgium during the mid-1950s where he was exposed to “progressive Christian” and reformist liberal theories of social change. During and after his graduate work, he was influenced by the new wave of Catholic social activism symbolized by the Encyclicals of Pope John XXIII, by the declarations of the World Eucharistic Congress in Rio de Janeiro in 1955, by the subsequent organization of a progressive Latin American Bishops Conference in Bogota, and by the Second Vatican Council. His contacts with radical and Marxist student groups during his tenure as Chaplain and Professor of Sociology at the National University in Bogota during the late 1950s and early 1960s undoubtedly contributed to his increasingly radical political stance as well. Torres’ basic philosophy has been characterized as that of a priest “…to whom supernatural love and divine grace were integral beliefs, whose faith in God and loyalty to Church were profound… (whose) Christian vision and human compassion led… into increasing identification with the exploited and the profaned.”27

Padre Camilo first came into contact with the AC movement through training programs he organized for AC promoters in the early 1960s to prepare them to work with the AC juntas. In addition to his training courses, he also began to organize student and Church groups around the country to work with the AC program in both urban and rural areas. In 1962 he was appointed as the Church’s representative to the Agrarian Reform Advisory Board created by the Agrarian Reform Law 135 of 1961.28

These first years of contact with the peasantry and urban poor within the framework of the AC and Agrarian reform programs led to further radicalization in Torres’ thinking. By 1963, his growing disillusionment with the Colombian “oligarchy” and the slow pace of socioeconomic and political change under the Frente arrangement prompted him to announce his commitment to the “revolutionary reconstruction of Colombian society”.29 He became convinced that the AC program and other such organizations could be utilized as vehicles for organizing the “proletarian masses” into a majority “pressure group”:

If we consider community action not as a government agency but as a method for awakening the consciousness of majority groups, for organizing them to exercise pressure on decisions, we find it involves organizing the majority to have real power. If people are confronted with their real problems and a system does not permit their solution, then whatever the intention of the organizer, the people, having achieved a consciousness of what they want, will become a majority pressure group. Sooner or later the majority pressure group will institute a true democracy…Community organization is not in itself a political party, but it is the school for the formation of a majority political party.30

From 1963 on, Torres became deeply involved in anti-Frente political organization. He repeatedly toured the country, holding mass rallies among the peasants, workers, students, and urban slum-dwellers, to communicate to them his vision of Christianity and peaceful revolution. By 1965, these activities had won Padre Camilo the label of “subversive” and “rebel priest” and earned him the enmity of the police, the army, and the Church hierarchy. In fact, throughout 1964 and 1965, he lived in constant fear of assassination at the hands of government secret agents. In June 1965 he was given an ultimatum by the Church authorities to abandon either his political activities or the clergy. Although committed to the priesthood and Catholicism, he accepted reduction to lay status rather than renounce his pursuit of radical social change. In many senses, his evolution foreshadowed much of the debate over the Theology of Liberation that continues to shake the Catholic Church in Latin America today.31

Despite the bitter personal attacks launched against him by the press, the parties, and the government and the Catholic Church hierarchy in Colombia, Torres continued his organizational work among the peasants, the urban poor and workers. In late 1965 following his defrocking, he founded the United Front of the Colombian People (Frente Unido del Pueblo) in an effort to create a political framework for a grassroots, multi-class movement of peasants and workers.32

While the platform of the Frente Unido did call for the expropriation of the country’s large estates (latifundia) without compensation and nationalization of some industries, banks and insurance companies, it was by no means a socialist or communist program.

What made the platform significant was scarcely its radical content alone, but rather that it represented the emergence of new political forces in Colombia which promised to develop an overwhelming mass following. It was a movement calling for profound changes, a movement endowed with the charisma of Catholicism and of Camilo’s own extraordinary personal qualities, which took religious dogma… and converted it into a philosophical force that undermined and subverted the status quo rather than upheld it, that legitimized, nay, compelled, revolutionary action.33

Despite his own personal popularity and charismatic leadership, however, Torres’ efforts to forge a populist, multi-class political alliance among Colombia’s urban and rural poor foundered on the treacherous rocks of clientelism and traditional party politics. The Frente Unido proved incapable of mounting a serious challenge to the patronage-based clientele networks dominated by the Liberal and Conservative parties. Torres attracted large crowds and inspired a small number of dedicated activists (mainly students, intellectuals and other priests) to work with him, but was never able to create a viable political alternative to the leadership of the two traditional parties.34

Fearful of assassination, frustrated and increasingly radical in his approach to sociopolitical change, Torres joined the guerrillas of the Army of National Liberation (Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional–ELN) in late 1965. After only four months with the guerrillas he was killed by government troops in February 1966 in the mountains outside of Bucaramanga, Santander. Through his organizational efforts and those of other urban radicals (drawn from the Church, the universities and a range of small leftist splinter parties), however, the AC movement had reached a new stage of militancy.

The Cooptation of Accion Comunal

In response to the growing power and independence of various AC regional federations, perceived by the Frente leadership as direct threats to the stability of the system, in late 1966, shortly after Torres’ death, the Lleras Restrepo government moved forcefully to reestablish central authority over the AC program. The last group of AC promoters who had been trained by Torres during 1965 were simply refused jobs with government agencies. Instead of increasing the number of promoters, the government blocked new appointments while burdening existing promoters with new bureaucratic requirements. Funds that were to have gone for new staff were used instead as departmental patronage for rewarding compliant juntas. Independent AC juntas were cut off altogether. Assertions of state authority over the flow of patronage proved to be a highly effective instrument of political control in many local areas.35

Lleras Restrepo also reorganized lines of bureaucratic control over the AC program. A new supervisory agency was established–the Consejo Nacional de Integracion Popular–to coordinate and oversee all community development efforts. The new council included the Minister of Government, two special advisors to the president, and one representative each from the Catholic Church, the Armed Forces, the Association of Medical Faculties, the Teachers Federation, and the Association of Charitable Organizations. Only one direct representative of the AC juntas, and one from the Cooperative Movement, were granted participation in the council and the power to appoint these “popular” representatives was reserved for the president himself.36

Lleras created the regional Consejos de Integracion Popular in late 1966 to supplant the informal regional AC federations that had emerged spontaneously during the mid-1960s. These Consejos were set up in nineteen regions and municipalities around the country, including Sumapaz (Cundinamarca), Puerto Tejada (Cauca), and Pitalito (Huila), where strong regional boards had developed. The new Councils included not only junta representatives, but also representatives of local government, national ministries, decentralized agencies, and private organizations. These Councils were ostensibly created for the purpose of coordinating the activities of the previously uncoordinated agencies involved in rural development. However, the inclusion of a large number of institutional representatives (rather than members of the preexisting federations or juntas) and the failure of the national government to assign any real powers to the Councils indicated that they were established primarily to reduce the autonomy and effectiveness of the existing informal regional juntas.37

A third step was taken in 1968 when the Lleras government reorganized the Ministry of Government. In this reorganization, the Division of Community Action and the Indian Affairs Department were combined into a single new bureaucracy called the General Office of Integration and Community Development. To screen the AC promoters more closely, formal educational requirements for the job of promoter were imposed. This latter measure was particularly effective for it concentrated the federal patronage available to the AC program in the executive.38

At the end of the Lleras Administration and the beginning of the Pastrana government (1970-74) additional limitations were placed on junta autonomy. The local juntas were officially granted the right to form regional federations, but these official regional AC juntas were simultaneously burdened with additional bureaucratic requirements that severely hampered their effectiveness. As a result, by 1974 there were fewer official municipal or regional federations than there had been informal AC federations in 1966 or regional Consejos de Integracion Popular in 1968. Moreover, those still functioning were mostly bogged down in the process of drafting petitions and recovering old documents in order to attain legal recognition required to qualify for the limited amounts of assistance actually available.39

As a result of the government’s tactics of division and cooptation, the AC regional federations were effectively neutralized as a popular political force in Colombia by the late 1960s. Indeed, over the course of the early 1970s, the AC juntas, even in the few areas where effective regional federations had surfaced, essentially reverted to their previous roles as vehicles of patronage distribution and voter mobilization with no significant role in either local or national level policy-making. During the 1970s the AC juntas remained integral parts of local-level party politics despite repeated efforts by left-wing activists to radicalize them again.40



The Origins of ANUC (1966-1970)

As part of his efforts to restore central government control over the AC program, while simultaneously creating a counterweight to the traditional landowner groups that had resisted the implementation of the agrarian reform, soon after his inauguration in August 1966 Lleras Restrepo set in motion a new national-level, peasant organization — the Asociacion Nacional de Usuarios Campesinos (ANUC) — outside the framework of Accion Comunal. Lleras purposely chose to create a new peasant organization rather than reorganize the already existing AC groups that had been operating in both rural and urban areas for a decade. On one hand, he realized that many AC juntas, especially in the rural areas, had been captured by local landowners and political bosses (gammonales) who utilized them as vehicles of political-electoral mobilization. On the other hand, he also recognized that some AC groups had been radicalized and constituted a potential threat to political stability in several regions of the country.

Lleras was interested in organizing a peasant clientele group for a mildly redistributive agrarian reform but was keenly aware of the need to maintain government control over the peasantry. His new organizational scheme called for a more hierarchically structured peasant organization to supplant the juntas in the countryside as the primary links between the state and the peasantry. With this initiative, he hoped to establish a solid peasant base for state agrarian reform while assuring state control over the peasants and their separation from the urban poor. It is probable the Lleras was also seeking to establish an electoral base among the peasantry for the Liberal party and for his own presidential aspirations in future elections after the “dismantling” of the Frente arrangement in 1974.41

Lleras Restrepo’s new program to organize the peasantry was begun under the direction of a Working Committee (Comite Operativo) appointed by President -elect Lleras in April 1966 prior to his August 7 inauguration. This Committee was composed of nine members that included political leaders from both parties, ministerial personnel and representatives of the private sector, the Church and the pro-National Front rural unions. The formal objectives of the Working Committee were:

  1. The design of a plan for organizing the usuarios (beneficiaries) of government services.
  2. The coordination and integration of the disparate public entities actually functioning in the countryside.
  3. The initiation of a campaign of peasant organization through the training of local officials involved in the provision of services to the rural population and of peasant leaders who would carry out the actual tasks of organizing the rural population.42

The Committee submitted its report in August 1966, just as President Lleras officially took office. This report reflected generalized support on the part of the Committee in favor of a state program of peasant organization. Nevertheless, basic differences appeared among its members with regard to the degree of peasant participation in the process of agricultural sector policy-making, the structure and role of local peasant organizations, and the role of government agencies in the promotion and supervision of the Usuario program. The extent of the controversy within the Committee was reflected in the state of Conservative Jose Elias del Hierro, the Agrarian Bank’s (Caja Agraria) representative on the Committee and a spokesman for large landowning interests, who labeled efforts to mobilize the peasantry through such a program as politically “dangerous”.43

In spite of such objections, the Lleras Administration proceeded to inaugurate a National Campaign of Peasant Organization on May 2, 1967. To launch this campaign Lleras used the extraordinary decree powers granted to the president (Executive Decree 744), instead of seeking approval of the program in Congress. This tactic was employed to minimize landowner resistance to his plans. Then-Minister of Agriculture, Liberal Armando Samper Gnecco, was placed in charge of organizing the peasant campaign.44

In June 1967, the government began to train a group of 75 promoters to carry out the program at the local level. President Lleras Restrepo described the launching of the National Campaign of Peasant Organizations in his annual message to Congress on July 20, 1967:

The campaign, which was placed under the direction of the Ministry of Agriculture, is organized in two stages: the first, from June 1 to August 6, should complete the registration of the actual Usuarios. It is calculated that during this period around 500,000 usuarios will be registered. In the second stage, from August 7 on, the actual formation of the Associations will begin. Simultaneously, a publicity campaign clarifying the objectives of the Associations is being launched along with a program of preparation of the public officials in the agricultural sector who will act as … promoters (promotores) of the associations. The program was begun July 12 with a short course for five teams of instructors. Each team includes a lawyer, a sociologist, and a coordinator (comunicador). Between July 17 and August 30 the five teams will offer … fifty courses in which around 1,034 professionals and 1,862 middle-level officials will participate. Upon initiating the campaign to register Usuarios, the Ministry of Agriculture distributed one million forms among the Departmental Secretaries of Agriculture, Agricultural Zone chiefs of the Ministry of Agriculture and 22 entities linked to the development of the sector.45

Between 1968 and 1971, the number of field personnel involved in the National Campaign of Peasant Organizations was maintained constant at 75 promoters while the headquarters personnel in Bogota increased from 15 to 55. By June 1971 the campaign had recruited 968,490 members organized into 496 Municipal Associations.46 With almost a million members, it was by far the largest, national-level peasant organization ever seen in Colombia.47

This program was carried out on an annual budget of between five and six million pesos, leading rural sociologist Oscar Delgado to claim that in Colombia “…the financial cost of organizing the peasantry has been very low; in the two most active years (1969-70), the Ministry of Agriculture spent a total of 605,200 dollars, that is, a little less than one dollar for each member registered and for the training of a reduced number of leaders. The budget for the year 1971 was only 233,250 dollars.”48

Agrarian Reform and the Peasantry

A second dimension of the Lleras Administration’s agricultural sector policies was a reform of existing agrarian legislation (Law 135 of 1961). His new proposal –Law 1 of 1968– was designed to accelerate the commercialization of agriculture. This “reform of the reform” placed greatest emphasis on modernization of large-scale agriculture, but also recognized the necessity of modifying the structure of land tenure in the countryside through a redistributive land reform program. In keeping with this view, Law 1 established the AREPAS program which was designed to distribute land to renters (arrendatorios) and sharecroppers (aparceros). By July 1969, the Colombian Agrarian Reform Institute (INXORA) had registered more than 75,000 peasant families in the program and had initiated steps to acquire around 2, 000 plots of land. Despite this new program, however, INCORA had allotted titles to only 3,500 peasants when Lleras’ successor Conservative Misael Pastrana Borrero suspended all government land distribution programs in July 1971 for an indefinite period.49

An indication of President Lleras’ personal concern with redistributive agrarian reform is the fact that more than half of all negotiated purchases and almost two-thirds of all expropriations during the first ten years of the agrarian reform were carried out between August 1969 and July 1971 under the impetus of his reforms. Yet despite the moderate acceleration of land reform during his Administration, the program’s total impact on land tenure patterns in the countryside as of 1970 remained extremely limited. Acquisitions by expropriations added up to only 72,724 hectares between 1962 and 1970 and acquisitions by purchase came to only 165,930 hectares in the same period. That it, the reform had not affected even 1% of the country’s agricultural land.50

Why did the pro-reform Lleras government fail to increase the pace of land redistribution significantly during this period? It has been suggested that not even “reform-monger” Carlos Lleras Restrepo himself was seriously interested in promoting massive land reform in Colombia in the late 1960s:

Another deterrent to an aggressive redistribution effort seems to have been Carlos Lleras’ concentration on programs for rapid economic development, and his belief that land reform would not contribute to short run increases in national income or to the production of exportable commodities capable of generating the foreign exchange needed for industrialization. INCORA officials in Bogota and in the field stated in 1969 that the Institute’s major concern was not social reform as promised by Law 135, but increased agricultural production. The General Manager said that the highest priorities were extension of credit, construction of irrigation works for the nation’s best lands, and implementation of the AREPAS program. Little concern was shown for redistribution of land to peasants other than tenants and sharecroppers.51

While Lleras Restrepo’s priorities were certainly an important factor, it is necessary to recognize that the conditions that had permitted the enactment of the original Agrarian Reform Law in 1961 had changed substantially by the late 1960s. First, the MRL’s electoral threat declined after the 1966 elections when MRL chieftain Alfonso Lopez Michelsen and his faction (Linea Blanda) broke their alliance with the PCC and rejoined the mainstream of the Liberal party. Second, as a result of intense military repression combined with Community Action programs in the countryside, rural violence continued only in isolated zones and the remaining guerrilla groups had little contact with or control over the bulk of the peasantry. Third, the Cuban Revolution had entered a new phase in which Cuba no longer extended its support to guerrilla movements on the continent as it had during the early 1960s. Fourth, the intensification of the Vietnam War and consequent diversion of US resources (especially during the Nixon Administration) limited the funds available through the Alliance for Progress for agrarian reforms and other rural development projects in Latin America. Fifth, the commercialization and capitalization of Colombia’s large landed estates had proceeded at a brisk pace throughout the 1960s as a result of state policies in the agricultural sector (including new production incentives and the threat of land expropriation). Finally, international prices for coffee, which had been depressed for over a decade, began to rebound in 1968-69 thereby easing the country’s critical foreign exchange problem. Under these conditions, massive land redistribution simply was not as economically or politically important to Colombia’s dominant classes as it had been earlier in the decade.52

While land reform did not prosper during Carlos Lleras Restrepo’s presidency, his efforts to create a clientele group among the peasantry supportive of agrarian reform did appear relatively successful as of 1970. ANUC’s formal structure, as designed by President Lleras and his staff, was rigid and hierarchical. The base organizations were the localveredal juntas and Municipal Associations whose governing boards were to be composed of five persons who rotated among themselves the five posts of the junta or Executive Board (president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, and sergeant-at-arms). Above the veredal and municipal juntas, the third level in the formal hierarchy was the Regional Assembly. In all, 28 assemblies were created (22 departments and six national territories). Each Regional Assembly was composed of one member from the governing board of each Municipal Association in a department or territory. Thus, the number of regional delegates varied from one department to another depending on the number of Municipal Associations. These Regional Associations elected governing boards in the same fashion as the local associations. The National Assembly was the highest authority within ANUC. It was composed of 140 delegates made up of the five members of the Executive Boards from each of the 28 Regional Assemblies. The National Governing Board was composed of one member drawn from each of the 28 regional governing boards. These delegates in turn elected a National Executive Committee of five members. In practice, the National Executive Committee quickly became the political nerve center of the organization.53

At ANUC’s First National Congress held in Bogota in early June 1970, a relatively moderate Declaration of Principles expressing support for Llerista agrarian policies was circulated. This document referred simply to the need “To combat the factors that cause the backwardness or marginal status of poor peasants”.54 The attitude of the Lleras Administration toward the ANUC Congress was positive and the President himself inaugurated the Congress in the National Capitol with high praise for the organization. He also warned ANUC leaders against “political” maneuvering: “…You will be called upon to form the nucleus of new parties and efforts will be made to mobilize your vote; but the Associations were not established for partisan political purposes nor for false revolutions”.55 During this same speech, Lleras announced that ANUC would be granted the status of an autonomous organization independent of state and party authority.56

The Radicalization of ANUC 1970-74

President Lleras Restrepo left office on August 7, 1970, firmly convinced that ANUC had been safely launched within the framework his Administration had set out through the Working Committee and the Ministry of Agriculture in 1966 and 1967. Nevertheless, Lleras’ successor, Conservative President Misael Pastrana Borrero, soon discovered that the National Executive Committee elected during ANUC’s First Congress was made up of a group of independent peasant leaders who rejected the status quo orientation of the traditional parties and demanded more rapid and effective implementation of the agrarian reform.57

ANUC’s demands for an acceleration of the pace of land redistribution in particular ran counter to the agricultural policies enunciated by Pastrana during his presidential campaign and his first months in office and soon produced acrimonious conflicts between the government and ANUC. A variety of factors contributed to the radicalization of ANUC at this time. The basic cause was the progressive deterioration of the peasantry’s economic situation brought on by the rapid penetration of capitalist agriculture in the Colombian countryside.58

The expansion of large-scale commercial farming and the attendant phenomenon of growing land concentration over the 1960s and early 1970s had uprooted large segments of the peasantry, undermined their subsistence economy, and driven them by the millions off the land into the ranks of seasonal migrants (semi-proletariat) or into the waves of rural migration to the cities. Data gathered by Albert Berry indicates that real wages in the rural sector may be risen between 1940 and the mid-1960s by as much as one-third over levels prevailing in the mid-1920s. Between 1965 and 1974, however, they reveal a sharp downward trend “…with the 1973-75 estimate 17 percent below the high reached in 1964-67. The present situation remains very bad in many respects, and the indication of wage stagnation possibly even decline, over the past 10 years is worrisome.”59

Such statistics understate the pain and trauma that attended the massive transformation of Colombian rural areas during the 1950s and 1960s. As the British Economist Roger Sandilands noted: “Despite many obvious and spreading signs of modernization in all sectors and of bloodless statistics indicating that the gross national product has perhaps tripled over this period, it would be hard to demonstrate, even on grounds of formal economic welfare criteria, that the benefits of those who have gained from the processes of change have outweighed the increased misery of the growing number of losers.”60

The economic deterioration experienced by many segments of the peasantry was aggravated in the late 1960s and early 1970s by the ejection of large numbers of tenants and sharecroppers by landowners who feared their lands would be expropriated under the provisions of Law 1 of 1968 that allowed tenants to claim title to the land they worked. The expulsion of peasant tenants and sharecroppers brought on unintentionally by Law 1 of 1968 constituted a catalytic or precipitating event in ANUC’s radicalization. The appointment of new personnel of Conservative affiliation to key bureaucratic positions and the shunting aside of Liberal promoters was an important catalytic factor as well. This political transition from Liberal Lleras to Conservative Pastrana generated tensions within the Ministry of Agriculture and weakened state links with ANUC at all levels. The Pastrana Administration’s efforts to establish Conservative domination over the organization further alienated and disillusioned ANUC’s leaders.61

The negative attitude of Pastrana’s Conservative government toward land reform was apparent from the beginning of his Administration and the ANUC leadership concluded early on that they could not expect the state to voluntarily step-up land redistribution programs. In July 1971, the Pastrana Administration confirmed this assessment when it formally suspended all further land redistribution programs for an indefinite period.62

ANUC’s Strategy and Tactics

Under these circumstances, none of the traditional parties was capable of containing the increasingly radical peasant movement. On June 5, 1971, the National Governing Board of ANUC met at Villa del Rosario in Cucuta (Norte de Santander). During this meeting ANUC’s militant position in favor of a massive acceleration of land reform and against the continued domination of the traditional ruling classes was formalized within the publication of ANUC’s Ideological Platform (Plataforma Ideologica). The radical tone of the document is captured in its first paragraph:

The National Association of Peasants in Colombia is an autonomous organization of salaried, poor and middle peasants that is fighting for an integrated and democratic agrarian reform, for the revindication of the agricultural worker, for an improvement in the economic, social and cultural aspects of his life, and for the full development of his potential. In order to overcome economic backwardness and to achieve greater levels of well-being for the Colombian people as a whole, it is necessary to break the existing structures of internal and external domination, which have benefited only a small, exploitive class, by means of an organized and permanent struggle carried out by the peasantry, the working class and other popular sectors committed to structural change and the total liberation of our country from all forms of domination and colonization.63

Sixteen basic demands were presented in this document. Among the most important were a petition to the government claiming the right of the peasants to organize independently, a demand for the expropriation of all latifundios without indemnification and demands for the nationalization of credit and the legal recognition of existing land invasions. This platform was complemented two months later, just after Pastrana’s decision to half further land redistribution, with the publication of ANUC’s First Peasant Mandate (Primer Mandato Campesino) which called for the elimination of the large landowners’ monopoly over the land, the abolition of tenant and sharecropper labor relations, free land redistribution, basic changes in the existing system of private ownership of the land, and the extension of guarantees to the small owners who work their own land.64

Of particular interest in the Mandato were the provisions for the creation of Consejos Ejecutivos de Reforma Agraria (CERA) at the neighborhood, municipal, departmental and national levels of ANUC. These Councils were authorized to carry out their own land expropriations (invasions) without regard for established judicial processes and without indemnification. In effect, the Mandato formalized a position in favor of illegal peasant land invasions that ANUC had supported de facto since mid-1970s.65 The official publication and distribution of this document was blocked by the then-Minister of Government, Abelardo Forero Benavides. In October 1971 the Ministry of Agriculture ceased financing ANUC’s newspaper, Carta Campesina.66

With the Mandato Campesino‘s publication, ANUC’s relations with the government broke down altogether. The Ministry of Agriculture not only continued blocking publication of Carta Campesina but also reneged on its commitment to provide ANUC with offices and equipment in the Ministry’s building in Bogota. Moreover, the recently named Agriculture Minister, Conservative Hernan Jaramillo Ocampo, whose hacienda in the department of Cesar was invaded by ANUC groups in 1971, initiated a series of governmental maneuvers designed to divide and weaken the organization. His principal tactic was the creation of an alternative ANUC organization (known as the Linea Armenia) closely supervised by the Ministry.67 Jaramillo Ocampo intensified the government’s campaign against the radicalized wing of the organization through wholesale dismissals of Liberal promoters and their replacement by officials of acceptable political affiliation. These new promoters, employing the economic resources of the government in combination with their authority to grant or revoke legal recognition, attempted to force the local Usuarios association to support the Linea Armenia. The Ministry publicly justified its campaign against ANUC with the argument that the organization had been captured by Communist elements.68

ANUC’s Rural Base

The creation of the Linea Armenia was designed to take advantage of the internal divisions and fissures within the peasantry and rural workers affiliated with ANUC. The uneven pattern of capitalist expansion in Colombia by region and economic subsector meant that the pressures of the commercialization of agriculture had fallen differentially on Colombia’s rural population. As a result, ANUC’s social base among Colombia’s rural poor was made up of a heterogeneous amalgam of different types or fractions of the peasantry and rural proletariat whose life-conditions, aspirations and degrees of politicization and radicalization differed substantially. Analytically, four basic sectors of the peasant class can be identified. First, there were small-holding peasant households in areas of traditional peasant economy and older colonization zones. In such areas of established peasant farming the key demands focused on the requirements of maintaining and reproducing the peasant economy: higher prices, more access to credit, better marketing system, expanded extension services and improved infrastructure. Second, there were areas of new colonization where recent peasant migrants from the densely populated mountainous interior sought to establish a new foothold on the land. In these areas, the peasant economy was quite precarious, despite the relative availability of land, because virtually all basic services were lacking. Hence, peasant demands centered on obtaining minimal services. Third, there were areas of traditional latifundia where servile or semi-servile relations of production continued to tie the peasantry to the traditional large landowners. In these areas, the peasantry sought access to the land in order to establish a peasant economy. Fourth, and finally, where commercial, capitalist agriculture predominated, the traditional peasantry had been replaced by the emergence of a rural proletariat. In these areas, the demands of the rural workers usually focused on wages and working conditions, not on land distribution.69

The presence of these differentiated segments within the peasant class contained major implications for radical ANUC. Land-poor and landless peasants in areas of traditional latifundia (e.g., the Atlantic coast) sought to gain access to the land and often resorted to land invasions and other direct action techniques. They rapidly emerged as the “shock troops” of ANUC’s protests. Many Indian peasant communities (e.g., the Paez and Guambiano in Cauca) that sought to recover reservation lands that had been illegally occupied by white or mestizo colonists were also quick to adopt radical tactics. Traditional peasant small-holders or minifundistas (e.g., in interior departments such as Cundinamarca, Tolima, Boyaca and Santander), in contrast, usually sought to retain their foothold on the land in the face of encroachment by large-scale commercial agriculture and to obtain greater access to governmental services. Such traditional minifundistas usually proved more open to the offers of state aid and to the political patronage extended to them via and Linea Armenia that the landless or land-poor peasants. Rural proletarians, in turn, generally sought improvements in wages and working conditions but not access to land of their own and were not inclined to resort to radical tactics such as land invasions, although some recently proletarized peasants did seek access to their own land in order to reconstitute a peasant economy. Moreover, they tended to organize in labor unions (either independents of affiliates of national labor confederation) rather than to join ANUC juntas.70

Without a doubt the most radicalized segments of ANUC were composed of the landless or land-poor mestizo and Indian peasants in regions of latifundia who willingly engaged in illegal land invasions to secure access to subsistence plots for their families. Once such groups had established themselves, however, their goals quite naturally tended to shift towards consolidation of their claims and they frequently abandoned radical tactics and militancy within ANUC for more traditional relationships with the state. Indeed there have been various instances of successful peasant land invasions in Colombia being subjected to second and even third waves of invasions by other landless peasants.71

Such internal differentiation within ANUC’s constituency generated considerable tensions and factionalization within the organization from its inception. Nevertheless, there were sufficient numbers of landless and land-poor peasants in the early 1970s to make ANUC’s calls for radical land redistribution widely popular among many of the organization’s almost one million members.

While such calls quite naturally emerged from the peasantry’s own realities, they were often formulated by left-wing militants drawn from the urban middle sectors who worked with ANUC’s peasant leaders. Colombia’s universities — especially the National University campus in Bogota — were hotbeds of radical student politics and centers of Marxist political debates in the late 1960s and early 1970s.72 Some university professors like Sociologist Orlando Fals Borda, a former Dean of the Social Science Faculty at the National University, created independent, action-oriented research groups such as the Rosca de Investigacion that actively collaborated with local ANUC organizations.73 Finally, a wide range of splinter leftist political parties — made up of students, intellectuals and professionals — had surfaced by the early 1970s and many sought to ally themselves with ANUC and the radical wing of the peasant movement. Among the most prominent of these were the Trotskyite Socialist Bloc (Bloque Socialista) and the Maoist Independent Revolutionary Workers Movement (Movimiento Obrero Independiente Revolucionario – MOIR). Although small in number (only a few thousand at most) and almost nonexistent in electoral terms, these left-wing activists played key roles in articulating the increasingly radical position of ANUC as expressed in documents such as the Plataforma Ideologica and the Primer Mandato Campesino.74

The Division of ANUC

In early 1972 ANUC sponsored a general strike among peasant colonists (colonas) in Florencia, Caqueta. This strike was organized as a protest against the abuses and bad management of the credit programs run by state agencies in the region. The government broke the strike by imprisoning several ANUC leaders.75 In subsequent weeks, several civic strikes (paros civicos) were organized by ANUC in the department s of Caldas, Sucre and Cordoba to protest the government’s tactics and push for more rapid land redistribution. All resulted in repeated jailings of the organization’s leaders.76

Between July 20 and 24, 1972, in a moment of acute tensions between the radical segments of ANUC and the Pastrana Administration, ANUC held its Second National Congress in Sincelejo, Sucre. The radical wing of ANUC subsequently became known as the Linea Sincelejo, after the town in which the 1972 Congress was held. In view of the intense mobilization that preceded this Congress, the meeting symbolized the growing force of the peasant movement in the country. The Pastrana Administration reacted to the Sincelejo Congress with intensified police and military harassment.77

At the Second Congress ANUC-Sincelejo openly denounced the Pastrana Administration’s agrarian policies. In a January 1972 meeting of key party leaders in Chicoral, Tolima, the government had confirmed its decision to abandon redistributive land reform and to shift to a policy encouraging the rapid capitalization and commercialization of agriculture through tax and fiscal incentives without altering existing patterns of land tenure.78 For ANUC-Sincelejo’s leadership, this Chicoral pact (Acuerdo de chicoral) was “…a confession that the oligarchy will not carry out an agrarian reform. This agreement favors the landowning class and as a consequence harms the people.”79

Faced with the Pastrana government’s resistance to land reform, ANUC announced during the Sincelejo meeting its intention to continue invading land in order to achieve a “true” agrarian reform. The failure of the Pastrana government to grant minimal concessions to the peasantry on the question of land reform led to further militancy within the peasant movement during and after ANUC’s Second Congress.80

Another important aspect of the 1972 Congress was the appearance of intense factional infighting over the organization’s goals. The essence of this controversy was captured in two opposed slogans that surfaced during the meeting: “land for those who work it” and “land without patrons”. The former called for an agrarian reform based on individual land ownership; the second favored systems of land tenancy of a communal or socialist type. During the Congress slogans were the object of intense polemics. In an interview granted to the left-wing magazine Alternativa, members of ANUC’s National Executive Committee explained that the long-run interests of the peasantry were represented by the slogan of the moment that marked an historical stage of the peasant movement. In spite of these “clarifications”, however, the controversy was not resolved during the Congress and remained a major point of contention within the organization throughout 1972 and 1973. Behind this fight over these slogans was the struggle among Colombia’s splintered leftist parties over ideological and political control within the peasant movement.81

Among the most important decisions taken during the Congress were the reorganization of ANUC’s internal finances and the creation of a series of Educational Committees designed to strengthen ANUC-Sincelego at the neighborhood and municipal levels. The withdrawal of Agricultural Ministry funds from the Linea Sincelejo by the Pastrana government obliged the leadership to levy dues of one peso per month on each member. Subsequent meetings of the Executive Committee and the National Junta indicated that the collection of these dues was a slow and painful task and that the organization suffered serious financial difficulties.82

ANUC Mobilizes

To organize the tasks of the regional Educational Committees, the National Executive Committee selected and trained eighty “companeros” after the 1972 Congress. The principal objectives of these Committees were to develop new neighborhood and municipal organizations, to train new cadres of leaders and to combat the counter-organization efforts of the government controlled Linea Armenia. Unfortunately, reliable statistics on the activities of these committees are unavailable. In a summary of activities in ANUC’s sporadic Carta Campesina, however, the Executive Committee claimed that the Educational Committees had succeeded in extending the control of the Linea Sincelejo over “the majority” of the Municipal and Departmental Association in the country.83

After the Second National Congress the Pastrana government redoubled its efforts to isolate and discredit the Linea Sincelejo. Sincelejo’s National Executive Committee attempted to outflank the government through a massive mobilization of the peasantry throughout the country. Peasant protest marches in different regions involving tens of thousands of protesters were designed to converge on Bogota. They began in early August 1972 and lasted almost a month. According to its own assessment, Sincelejo’s Executive Committee did not coordinate these marches well, in part because of a lack of funds and in part because of the confusion created by the counter-organizational activities of the government’s Linea Armenia. As a result, participation did not reach the level ANUC leaders had expected and government threats of mass arrests prevented the protesting peasants from actually entering Bogota as planned. Nevertheless, the marches obliged the national press and radio to carry reports of ANUC’s activities for well over a month, thus bringing ANUC back into the public eye.84

After the peasant marches, a series of Popular Regional Seminars were organized to strengthen the Linea Sincelejo, to discuss specific peasant problems in each region in the country, and to stimulate the work of the Educational Committees. The first of these seminars which included peasants, workers, teachers, students and intellectuals, took place September 28, 1972, on the Atlantic Coast. The Popular Regional Seminars were subsequently made permanent through the creation of a series of Popular Regional Committees which met periodically between 1972 and 1974 to analyze the problems of workers and peasants, and to coordinate their activities with those of other popular organizations. According to ANUC-Sincelejo, by 1974 these Permanent Regional Committees were functioning in the North and the West of the country, but not in the East or in the South; these latter regions were dominated by the Linea Armenia.85

Beyond these organizational activities, ANUC-Sincelejo also employed a series of direct action tactics to voice its demands within the political arena. For example, in 1972 and 1973 ANUC militants carried out more than a thousand new land invasions in different regions of the country. To pressure INCORA to increase the pace of land reform, INCORA offices were occupied for limited periods in Bogota, Cucuta, Pereira, Sincelejo, Monteria, Sevilla, Neiva, Pasto and Subundoy, among other towns and cities. Finally many state-sponsored cooperative farms (empresas comunitarias), brought together by ANUC during 1973, expressed their discontent with INCORA and demanded more resources for the agrarian reform. ANUC also brought pressure to bear at the municipal level through direct-action tactics such as civic strikes (for example, those of Cunday and San Pablo, Tolima, in 1973 and Monteria, Cordoba, in 1974), worker strikes (such as the tobacco workers work stoppages in the departments of Sucre and Magdalena in 1972), and consumer boycotts (like those of Boyaca and Narino in 1973).86

The Pastrana Administration mobilized the machinery of the state against Linea Sincelejo. Official hostility, legal harassment, and repeated jailings of the movement’s leaders were commonplace during Pastrana’s presidency. In addition, several peasant leaders were assassinated, including one member of the National Junta. These assassinations have generally been attributed to pajaros (hired gunmen) employed by local political bosses and landowners to intimidate or eliminate leaders of organizations like ANUC that challenged the established order between peasants and their bureaucratic, political and landowning patrons. Such rural “death-squads” became increasingly common over the mid and late 1970s.87

It is difficult to determine the number of active members affiliated with ANUC-Sincelejo at the end of Pastrana’s presidency due to the campaign against the organization launched by the government and the press and the artificial governmental buildup of the Linea Armenia. According to Conservative Minister of Agriculture, Hernan Jaramillo Ocampo, there were only five or six thousand militants affiliated with the Linea Sincelejo during this period.88 The Colombian journalist German Vargas estimated that after the division between the Linea Sincelejo and the Linea Armentia in 1972, Armenia had retained about 10,000 followers and Sincelejo approximately 300,000. This same reporter estimated that about 500,000 peasants simply abandoned the organization in the wake of the division.89 The Sincelejo leadership claimed that their organization, even after the division, retained between 750,000 and 800,000 active members. Moreover, they argued that Sincelejo was still expanding while Armenia was undergoing a period of rapid disintegration.90

Given the upsurge of activities preceding the Third Congress in mid-1974, it is apparent that Minister Jaramillo Ocampo substantially underestimated the strength of the Sincelejo group. On the other hand, the Sincelejo leaders almost certainly exaggerated the real strength of their organization. Vargas’ figures appear most reasonable, but the lack of accurate statistics make accounting impossible. Any hope of determining the exact number of ANUC-Sincelejo members ended on December 17, 1975, when the then-Minister of Agriculture, Rafael Pardo Buelvas, ordered the Army to shut down ANUC-Sincelejo’s central offices in Bogota and to confiscate the organization’s files.91

Despite the absence of reliable information, at the end of Pastrana’s presidency ANUC-Sincelejo appeared to hold sway over the peasantry in areas of intense land struggle such as traditional latifundia zones and regions of recent land colonization. The linea Armenia, in turn, appeared to have consolidated its control over most of the agrarian reform zones, the areas of traditional minifundia and in the older and more stable colonization zones.

ANUC and the Lopez Michelsen Administration (1974-1978)

In 1974, the programmed dismantling (desmonte) of the National Front’s bipartisan electoral arrangement was completed. For the first time since 1946 competitive elections were held for the presidency. In the months immediately prior to the April 1974 elections, ANUC intensified its land invasions, civic strikes and other direct-action tactics in an effort to force the “politicians” to support policies favorable to the peasantry. The invasions were particularly intense in the departments of Cordoba, Sucre, Cesar, Huila and Antioquia. Along with these activities, ANUC-Sincelejo also initiated a new cycle of Sectoral and Regional Conferences in preparation for its Third Congress, scheduled for August 30, 1974, just two weeks after the newly elected president was to take office. Despite these activities, however, both candidates — Conservative Alvaro Gomez Hurtado and Liberal Alfonso Lopez Michelsen — publicly declared their support for the Acuerdo de Chicoral and the Pastrana Administration’s agricultural policies.92

Sincelejo’s Third Congress was inaugurated with a massive march of peasants through the center of Bogota in which some 40,000 demonstrators participated. Unlike the Second Congress in Sincelejo in 1972, the Third Congress was not harassed by the recently elected Lopez Administration, although the national press did report a consistently negative version of the meeting. In fact, the government permitted ANUC-Sincelejo to use the facilities of the Coliseo del Salitre in Bogota as the site of the Congress and as lodging for its delegates. The flexible attitude adopted by President Lopez Michelsen in the first weeks of his presidency reflected his desire to measure ANUC’s real strength and determine the possibility of negotiations with ANUC leaders. After the Congress, Lopez apparently concluded that ANUC-Sincelejo did not constitute a serious threat to his government and chose not to undertake political negotiations. Soon after the Third ANUC-Sincelejo Congress, Lopez publicly announced his opposition to land reform and warned ANUC that the full force of the law would be applied to peasants engaging in illegal land invasions.93

During the Third Congress, the Lopez Administration’s agrarian policies favoring the rapid commercialization of agriculture without land reform were angrily rejected by the Sincelejo delegates. While united on this central point, the Congress was severely divided on a number of other important issues. Two examples give some insight into the nature of the political divisions that arose during this meeting. First, the movement’s finances became the object of intense polemics among the delegates connected with different leftist splinter parties. The delegation from Cordoba argued that international economic assistance was absolutely necessary for the survival of the movement. The Antioquian delegation, in contrast, rejected any form of external help on the grounds that the organization should not become dependent upon foreign sources nor open itself to external manipulation. This question remained a major source of division within the organization throughout the 1970s and was a direct reflection of ideological differences among the various left-wing parties active within the peasant movement.94

Following the Third Congress, one of Sincelejo’s Executive Directors, Victor Pastrana, a representative of the Intendency of Caqueta, denounced “The improper use of funds arriving from international entities: such as ILCO, LEBEMO, AKTIE Colombia, from Holland; Bread for the World, from Germany;UBV an organization of the Swedish government; the State Church of Sweden; the Free Church of Sweden; The World Council of Churches; CIAS (a Colombian Jesuit organization); and La Rosca.95 The Colombian sociologist Orlanda Fals Borda and his research group, La Rosca de Investigacion, were apparently one of the primary targets of these attacks. Fals Borda and his associates had been very active in ANUC groups along the Atlantic Coast, especially in the Department of Cordoba, where several radical Baluartes de Autogestion Campesina had developed. Fals Borda, a Protestant, financed his group’s activities in part through monies received from the World Council of Churches. After a bitter controversy, Fals Borda was finally asked to sever his contacts with ANUC-Sincelejo in 1975.96

A second, related controversy during the Third Congress centered on bureaucratic control of the organization. In the 1974 Congress several leftist groups jockeyed intensely among themselves to place their members in key leadership positions within the organization. As a result of these partisan divisions, a number of factions surfaced within the General Assembly and proceeded to fight bitterly. Indeed the most outstanding characteristic of the Third Congress was the intensity of the sectarian and factional in-fighting.

Rowdy behavior, expressed in unrestrained whistling and shouting, almost wrecked the Congress, the dissatisfaction of some delegations led them to consider withdrawal. The attitude of the vociferous groups almost achieved in four days what Mr. Pastrana was not able to achieve in four years: to destroy the peasant movement of divide it into irreconcilable factions.97

Sincelejo’s Third Congress took place during the first month of Liberal Alfonso Lopez Michelsen’s government. Sincelejo’s leaders had formulated their criticisms of Lopez’ agricultural policies on the basis of key campaign statements in favor of the Acuerdo de Chicoral and existing agricultural policies. The first concrete indication of the Lopez strategy for the countryside was Law 6 of 1975, called the Sharecropper Las (Ley de Aparceria). This law had been initiated by the Conservative Pastrana Administration during its final months in office, but was approved and implemented under the new Liberal Administration. Basically the Law’s purpose was to eliminate the tensions and disruptions that had arisen in the countryside as a result of the clauses contained in Law 1 of 1968 that made land worked under rent or sharecropper labor arrangements liable to state expropriation. This earlier law had unleashed a wave of expulsions of peasant sharecroppers and renters by landowners who sought to avoid expropriation. In the wake of these expulsions labor shortages began to appear in many regions of the country. Law 6 sought to resolve this situation by legally recognizing once again certain types of sharecropping arrangements.98

ANUC-Sincelejo harshly criticized the Sharecropper Law for legalizing archaic and exploitative labor relationships and for renouncing the goal of converting peasants into landowners through land reform.99 In spite of this critical interpretation by ANUC, most observers concluded that this law did not represent a return to pre-capitalist labor relationships in the countryside, but rather a mechanism for harmonizing existing precapitalist relationships with new capitalist forms of production. By providing for the resumption of sharecropping arrangements, Lopez did relieve some of the pressure on landless peasants and thus reduced radical activity within some segments of ANUC. At the same time, the guarantees provided to landowners against expropriation under this law made it acceptable to them.100

A few months later Lopez complemented Law 6 with the announcement of his government’s economic development plan, “Para Cerrar la Brecha” (1975-78). Principal emphasis in this new plan was placed on modern, large-scale production in keeping with the priorities established by Pastrana Borrero’s Administration through the Acuerdo de Chicoral(1972) and Laws 4 and 5 of 1973. Lopez himself emphasized his agreement with the agricultural policies designed by the former government:

In my role as candidate for the Presidency of the Republic, I promise not to offer the country new laws on agrarian reform, but rather to limit myself to the execution of the existing ones with the object of removing the “sword of Damocles” from over the heads of the country’s ranchers and farmers. I have been faithful to this promise. With the exception of the Sharecropper Law, to which I committed myself during the campaign, my government has limited itself to implementing the Acuerdo de Chicoral, consummated under the former government through negotiations between owners and government officials.101

While emphasizing the commercial agricultural sector, President Lopez was also aware of the social conflicts and political mobilization in the countryside that had resulted from the penetration of capitalist agriculture and the concomitant deterioration of the peasant economy. In response, Lopez complemented his government’s agricultural sector policies with a National Nutrition Plan (Plan de Alimentacion y Nutricion–PAN) to improve levels of nutrition in the countryside and a Program in Integrated Rural Development (Programa de Desarrollo Rural Integrado–DRI) whose principal objectives were to channel credit and technical assistance into the traditional or peasant sector for the purpose of increasing total production of foodstuffs and overall productivity in that sector.102

PAN and DRI differed fundamentally from the agrarian reform policies of the Lleras REstrepo Administration in that the former were premised on a rejection of land reform on a large scale as politically impossible and economically counterproductive. These plans proposed instead to raise nutritional levels among the rural poor while converting those peasant farmers who already possessed some land (the highest strata within the peasantry) into commercial farmers through state-sponsored credit, technical assistance, subsidy, and marketing programs. Initially, the DRI was limited to a few regions of the country. Five pilot zones were chosen in order to test the program: 1) Narino-Cauca; 2) Cundinamarca; 3) Antioquia; 4) Cordoba-Sucre; 5) Boyaca-Santander. While all were among the most impoverished regions of the country, the selection of specific project zones reflected primarily political factors:

The first…was the strategic location of the areas and districts…Outside of some traditional minifundio zones that logically could not be overlooked, on observes a concentration of programs in frontier regions, in areas of guerrilla activity, or of strong peasant mobilization; such are the zones of Cauca where the indigenous movement has been heavily influenced by CRIC, the zone of Santander that borders on the regions dominated by ELN, the zone of Antioquia bordering on guerrilla-controlled Anori, and the zones of Cordoba and Sucre where ANUC has been influential. The second…was the 1978 presidential elections. One should not underestimate the electoral impact that the distribution of 7 billion pesos in rural zones through DRI in the years prior the electoral campaign signifies.103

With PAN and DRI the Lopez Administration did not put forward a land reform scheme but rather a program to control and coopt the mobilized elements of the peasantry through the distribution of credit and technical assistance and thus to preserve political stability in the countryside while modernizing the traditional sector. ANUC-Sincelejo’s initial reaction to the Lopista agrarian initiatives — the Sharecropper Law, PAN and DRI — was negative. Victor Pastrana, a member of Sincelejo’s National Executive Committee, set out the organization’s principal objections:

The new agrarian policy tries to bury the agrarian reform and to strengthen, with all the official resources at its command, the latifundio and the large commercial farms, at the same time that it tries to promote colonization programs as an escape valve for agrarian conflicts…(It) looks to create an intermediate layer in the countryside that serves as a support for the exploiters and a brake on the peasants’ struggle. The new plan of credit, marketing and technical assistance will be applied primarily in guerrilla areas.104

Expanding Victor Pastrana’s criticisms of the DRI, ANUC-Sincelejo’s National Executive Committee bitterly denounced the plan: “Discarding all possibility of agrarian reform, the government has launched a vast plan of credit and technical assistance designed to develop agrarian capitalism and to undermine ANUC’s social base in the countryside, the middle peasant.105

The Eclipse of ANUC

To protest these policies, ANUC-Sincelejo was active on a variety of fronts during 1975. For example, on February 21, 1975, the Day of the Peasant, mass protest demonstrations were organized in several departments along the Atlantic Coast. In Cordoba and Tolima several large estates were invaded. In May 1975 peasants of the Baluarte de Autogestion Campesina “Vicente Adamo: succeeded in “receiving” more than 2,000 hectares of latifundio land in Guayabital, Cordoba. In July 1975 a National Protest Day was organized to protest the Sharecropper Law and government repression against the peasant movement. At Sincelejo’s Thirteenth National Junta meeting in September 1975, massive land seizures, general strikes and demonstrations to protest against the DRI were planned. Despite these plans, however, ANUC-Sincelejo leaders proved unable to sustain mass mobilizations during 1975.106

The failure of these protests against the Lopez government’s agricultural policies is attributable both to improvements in the living standards among the rural poor that resulted from the agricultural “bonanzas” of the mid-1970s and to the policies of cooptation, division and repression pursued by the Lopez Administration vis-a-vis the peasant movement. Beginning in 1974 the Colombian agricultural sector experienced a dramatic upturn as first sugar (1974-75) and then coffee (1975-78) prices soared to record levels on international markets. These bonanzas were paralleled by booms first in marijuana cultivation and subsequently in cocaine trafficking. As a direct consequence of these bonanzas, profits for peasant farmers and wages for rural workers rose substantially during the 1975-1980 period. The attendant decline in rural unemployment and poverty undercut the militancy of many segments of the peasantry and rural proletariat and thus weakened ANUC-Sincelejo’s ability to mobilize the rural masses.107

In 1975 and beyond,many of the infrastructural projects initiated by the Lleras Restrepo and Pastrana Borrero governments in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with financing from US AID, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and other international agencies, began to come on-stream, producing noticeable improvements in public services in many rural areas. Rural electrification programs, for example, brought electricity to millions of rural households during this period. New networks of rural farm to market roads and government-sponsored crop storage facilities were also constructed. The direct benefits brought by such public works were important in reducing rural militancy in key regions of the country.108

Finally, the upsurge in the neighboring economies of Venezuela and Ecuador resulting from the 1973-4 OPEC-inspired oil price-hikes generated increased demand for Colombian agricultural laborers as rural wages in both countries rose to levels substantially higher than in Colombia. In 1979 Venezuelan sources estimated that perhaps 1.0 to 1.5 million undocumented Colombians resided in Venezuela. The profit remissions of these migrant laborers helped to raise standards of living while easing unemployment in the Colombian countryside and thus further undercut the militancy of ANUC-Sincelejo’s support groups. Venezuela in particular became an important “escape valve” for Colombia’s surplus rural labor in the same way that the United States serves as an escape valve for Mexico’s poverty-stricken rural population.109

The policies adopted by the Lopez Michelsen Administration towards ANUC-Sincelejo and rural protests generally also helped to weaken and divide the peasant movement. First, governmental efforts to promote the Linea Armenia organization eroded the control of the Linea Sincelejo over the peasantry in several regions.110 Second, the organization and the leadership of many protest activities were deficient.111 Third, the confusion generated by the many splinter leftist groups and parties vying for dominance within the movement encouraged factionalization. Fourth, the PAN and DRI programs were successful in coopting and demobilizing the upper strata of the peasantry.112 Finally, state repression was intensified against ANUC militants who were frequently accused of direct links with armed guerrilla organizations.113

Sectarianism and personalism within the movement, combined with the repressive and cooptive activities of the government, debilitated ANUC-Sincelejo and prevented it from uniting the peasantry in opposition to the agricultural programs of the Lopez government. In fact, after the Third Congress in August 1974, internal disputes among the Sincelejo leadership and component groups became critical barriers to the further development of the organization. Over the 1975-1977 period, ANUC-Sincelejo continued sporadic activities but grew increasingly weaker and isolated as the rifts within the organization and between ANUC and the various splinter parties on the Colombian left grew wider. In February 1977, the Fourth Congress of ANUC, held in Tomala, Sucre, resulted in further acrimony and divisions within ANUC-Sincelejo were formally reintegrated with Linea Armenia into a single ANUC organization closely controlled by the government.114

ANUC and the Colombian Left

At ANUC’s Third Congress in 1974 explicit reference to a peasant-worker alliance, to be led by the urban proletariat, was included in the conclusions of the Congress: “The peasantry has become educated in the sense of understanding that the peasant movement alone and isolated cannot triumph, that isolated the working class cannot achieve its demands either, and that the worker-peasant alliance is necessary, under the direction of the industrial and agricultural proletariat, in order to confront the bourgeoisie-landowner alliance.115 From such statements, it is apparent that ANUC’s leaders were at least theoretically aware of the necessity of political alliances with other social classes in order to achieve the fundamental structural changes called for in their program. In practice, however, the difficulties inherent in forging a broad-based peasant-worker alliance in Colombia proved to be overwhelming.

ANUC and Organized Labor

The pro-system labor unions systematically opposed ANUC-Sincelejo. The Conservative-oriented Union de Trabajadores de Colombia (UTC) and the Liberal-oriented Confederacion de Trabajadores Colombianos (CTC), for example, jointly organized a march against ANUC-Sincelejo in Bogota on August 30, 1974. This march was designed to express labor union support for President Lopez and opposition to the peasant march that ANUC had organized to inaugurate its Third Congress.116

The rivalry between ANUC-Sincelejo and the traditional labor unions pitted radical ANUC openly against the UTC’s agrarian affiliate, the National Agrarian Federation (Federacion Agraria Nacional–FANAL). A moderate peasant organization with close ties to the Conservative party and the Catholic Church, FANAL consistently supported Alliance for Progress-type agrarian reform in the 1960s and received funding from US AID and the AFL-CIO’s international wing – AIFLD – for its efforts. When in the early 1970s ANUC-Sincelejo turned to more radical tactics such as land invasions and civic disobedience, however, FANAL publicly condemned the organization and opted to work closely with ANUC-Armenia to win followers away from ANUC-Sincelejo. In effect, the moderate, pro-government orientation and its close association with the party system and the Colombian Church prohibited FANAL from cooperating in any way with the radicalized segments of ANUC.117

ANUC and the Communist Party

Rivalry has also characterized the relationships between ANUC-Sincelejo, the Colombian Communist party (PCC) and the Communist-oriented Confederacion Sindical de Trabajadores de Colombia (CSTS). One of the earliest examples of the antagonism between ANUC and the Communists occurred in 1971-1972 at the time of the split between Armenia and Sincelejo. During this critical period, like FANAL, the Communist Party supported the Pastrana government’s Linea Armenia rather than the Linea Sincelejo in hopes of gaining a foothold within ANUC and countering the growing influence of splinter socialist groups active within the Sincelejo wing. Because of the unpopularity of the Linea Armenia, however, this tactic did not increase Communist influence among the organized peasantry. On the contrary, the PCC was effectively discredited among the radicalized ANUC leaders because of its cooperation with the government’s counter-organizational efforts.118

During the period 1972-1974 the tension between ANUC-Sincelejo and the Communists deepened. In November 1974 ANUC-Sincelejo, in an article published in Carta Campesina entitled “False Revolutionaries,” launched a frontal attack on the Communist Party labeling it a “bourgeois party” interested only in “votes” and a collection of petty political bosses (gamonales) and patronage appointees that ignored the “revolutionary struggle of ANUC.” The Communist Party, in turn, accused ANUC-Sincelejo of being a “conformist” and “anti-Communist” organization controlled by the most reactionary elements of the peasantry.119

Various factors lay behind the division between the Colombian Communist Party and ANUC-Sincelejo. First the Moscow-line party was intent upon expanding its bureaucratic control over the peasant movement. Their efforts to do so created severe tensions between the leaders of ANUC and the PCC. Second, ANUC-Sincelejo was more militant than Communist Party-influenced peasant groups. The Sincelejo leadership advocated direct-action techniques and rejected electoral politics while the Communist leadership clung to the legal, electoral route (via electoral) Third, ANUC’s platform was nationalistic, anti-imperialist and anti-Soviet while the Communist Party was closely identified with the Soviet Union. The anti-Soviet position of ANUC-Sincelejo was spelled out explicitly by ANUC President Hernan Monsalve in 1977:

Our platform is directed against the landowners, the political bosses, the bourgeoisie, North American imperialism and against the new superpower: the Soviet Union. It is certain that the gringos have us in their hands today, but the Soviets have begun to consolidate themselves…The Communist party of PCC Chieftain Gilberto Vierira is the instrument of this policy. They have interfered with our declarations, carried out provocations against us and plotted to divide us. Their policy is to separate the workers movement from the peasant movement…I think that a tactic designed to isolate the workers from the revisionist direction of the Communist Party should be undertaken by the most conscious sectors of the left.120

The rift between ANUC-Sincelejo and the Communist Party grew steadily wider during 1976 and 1977. In December 1976, the Communist leadership convened a National Agrarian Congress for the purpose of creating a new National Association of Small Farmers for the peasantry and a National Rural Workers’ Union for the rural proletariat to challenge ANUC-Sincelejo’s leadership of the peasant movement.121

ANUC responded to the Communists by emphasizing the strategic importance of the worker-peasant alliance during a National Conference of Independent and Class Syndicalism held in late 1976 while rejecting the tutelage of the “Stalinist” Colombian Communist Party. ANUC argued that the CSTC had not made “any gesture of solidarity” with the peasants and that, consequently, the peasants and workers ought to organize independently of all existing labor confederations (CTC, UTC, and CSTC). “Only in this way will independent syndicalism succeed in accumulating the necessary force to be able to support effectively worker demands now undercut by paternalistic policies and by the activity of the union bureaucratic cliques.”122

The contemptuous attitude of the Communist Party toward ANUC was trumpeted in an article on the problems of the peasant movement published in mid-1976 in the Communist Party journal Documentos Politicos:

The grand bourgeoisie, at the same time that it maintains its apparatus of violence, uses demagogic policies…(such as) the Asociacion Nacional de Usuarios Campesinos de Colombia, an organism that because of its origins was destined for failure. Finally, after having been manipulated by unscrupulous latifunistas in order to seize land and to pressure for better prices through INCORA, ANUC ended up irreconcilably divided, anarchistic and isolated.123

In spite of ANUC’s objections, the First National Agrarian Congress took place in December 1976 under the direction of the Communist Party. During the Congress a National Federation of Agrarian Syndicates (FENSA) was created. Through this new Federation, the Communist Party sought to organize agricultural workers, peasant farmers and indigenous communities into an agrarian union affiliated with the CSTC rather than ANUC. The PCC justified the creation of a rival to ANUC-Sincelejo with the argument that ANUC was simply a petty bourgeois organization characterized alternatively by reformism and ultra-leftism. They claimed that the National Agrarian Congress constituted a true expression of the worker-peasant alliance under the direction of the proletariat, and that only through this organizational framework would it be able to overcome ANUC’s “reformism” and “campesinismo“.124

The Polemical relationship between ANUC-Sincelejo and the Communist Party is only one example of ANUC’s problems with the Colombian Left. ANUC-Sincelejo’s relationships with virtually all leftist groups and parties in the country including the Maoist Movimiento Obrero Independiente y Revolucionario (MOIR), the Troskyite Bloque Socialista, and the Marxist-Leninist Union Revolucionaria Socialist (URS), proved extremely contentious.125

ANUC’s Executive Committee responded to its left-wing critics with accusations of “politiqueros” (petty politicians) and “impractical theorists” and moved to limit the influence of all leftist parties within ANUC in the mid-1970s. This isolationist trend first surfaced with the creation of a Comision Central Impulsadora de la ANUC, known as the “Political Commission”, in early 1973. During 1973, this Commission became the principal political arm of ANUC-Sincelejo. In the months prior to ANUC’s Third Congress in 1974, the Commission held, “…various seminars with mass participation from the Education Committees in which the only thing that was done was to ‘analyze,’ one by one, all the revolutionary organizations of Colombia in order to conclude that none of these were of any use, that all of them were diversions and that all were opportunists…”126 The Sincelejo leadership took advantage of these regional meetings to purge ANUC of the Maoist militants active within various Regional Associations. In the wake of these purges, late 1974, the Sincelejo Executive Committee created the People’s Revolutionary Organization (Organizacion Revolucionaria del Pueblo–ORP), a secretive caucus established to prepare the groundwork for a future Peasants’ party independent of all existing leftist parties.127

In reaction to these initiatives, virtually every left-wing political group in Colombia criticized ANUC-Sincelejo’s leaders for the “anarchical-syndicalist” tendencies and for their efforts to separate the peasant movement from the country’s working class and revolutionary political organizations. The comments of the radical magazine Patria Rojasummarized the general position of the left towards ANUC-Sincelejo’s political strategy:

The growing sectarianism of some directors of the organization expressed in constant attacks against all revolutionary organizations, attacks that contribute little to the debate on political and ideological questions, has been used to exclude all revolutionary political organizations. The majority of comrades that have fallen into such sectarian positions do it unconsciously…This blind sectarianism does not help to raise the political consciousness of the peasant proletariat. On the contrary, it foments apathy and strengthens backward positions.128

On various occasions Sincelejo’s Executive Committee defended itself against these accusations of sectarianism. At the XIV Meeting of the National Junta in 1974, for example, ANUC’s leaders wrote:

The minority sectors that have expressed differences of opinion but have not encouraged factionalism have had the right to express their positions openly and their criticisms have been heard both within and outside of ANUC. Since the third Congress, disciplinary measures to control the divisionist activity within the organization have been applied only once, in the case of (Caqueta leader Victor) Pastrana.129

Faced with continuous criticisms from the leftist parties in general and directly challenged by the CSTC-affiliated FENSA, in November 1976 ANUC-Sincelejo’s Executive Committee circulated a working-documents prepared by ORP entitled “Proposal for a Platform for ANUC’s Struggle,” in which “a plan for concrete political organization” involving the creation of a Peasants’ party was put forward. These proposals were discussed intensely during ANUC’s Fourth Congress that took place in Tomala, Sucre, on February 21-24, 1977, and were finally ratified by the Congress. Approximately one-third of the delegates withdrew from the Tomala Congress and organized their own meeting in San Jacinto, Bolivar, to protest the Peasants’ party initiative and the “revisionism” of the ANUC leadership. These dissidents became known as the Linea San Jacinto.130

In the midst of the internal divisions and the withdrawal of delegates during the Tomala Congress, the Sincelejo leaders carried out a self-critical review of their program and activities. Declining militancy among the peasantry, the failures of the land invasion strategy, and the incapacity of the peasants to influence government agricultural policy were dominant themes. ANUC’s leader attributed the declining salience of the land reform issue to the coffee and marijuana bonanzas of the mid-1970s, to the cooptive effects of the government’s PAN, DRI and other rural programs, to the successes of earlier waves of ANUC-led land invasions and to state repression. ANUC-Sincelejo attempted to adjust by developing new organizational strategies focused on the agricultural proletariat, especially immigrant cotton pickers, and on the peasant cooperative movement. Because of the seasonal characteristics of cotton picking, the seasonal pattern of the labor force, and the limited politicization of the agricultural proletariat, however, this initiative failed and was ultimately abandoned. In the cooperative movement, ANUC’s often dogmatic adherence to impractical strategies and tactics, such as the rejection of government credit and technical assistance programs and the refusal to accept government land titles, alienated many coop leaders who proved to be much more pragmatic in their dealings with the state.131

At the Fourth Congress Sincelejo’s leaders concluded that it was necessary to intensify political activities and to organize the peasants into a political party representative of peasant interests. This party was not to replace ANUC, but rather to complement its activities at the political-electoral level. The reaction of the Colombian left to ANUC’s political initiative was predictably negative. The Marxist-Leninist Leagues (Ligas M-L) and the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Tendency (Tendencia M-L-M), for example, declared that it was sheer folly for ANUC-Sincelejo to attempt to form a political party. The URS criticized ANUC-Sincelejo for attempting to form a peasant Party separate form the urban working class. The Communist Party, of course, rejected this initiative out of hand. In effect, the entire Colombian left interpreted ANUC’s decision to create a Peasant Party as an effort to split the peasantry from the labor movement and predicted that it would inevitably open the peasantry to division and cooptation: “…ANUC’s leadership intends to transform the organization into a nationalist, petty bourgeois party that represents the interests of the most vacillating and conciliating sectors of the peasantry.”132

Despite these criticisms from the Left, in September 1977 at a special meeting held in Tulsa (Valle) ANUC-Sincelejo implemented ORP’s proposal for a Peasant Party by formally launching the Movimiento Nacional Democratico Popular (MNDP). In anticipation of the 1978 elections, two left-wing political fronts had been formed. The first, called the Union Nacional de Oposicion (UNO), was composed of the Communist Party, some dissident Liberal groups and the remnants of ANAPO. The second, called the Frente por la Unidad del Pueblo (FUP), brought together MOIR with some fragments of the Liberal Party and ANAPO. ANUC and the MNDP joined forces with FUP because of their dislike for the Soviet-line Communists involved in UNO.133

The results of the experiment were a crushing electoral defeat for ANUC-Sincelejo and the MNDP. Colombia’s left-wing organizations polled a combined total of 195,000 in the 1978 elections, or 4.6 percent of all votes cast. The FUP obtained a mere 55,000 votes, of which only some 15,000 were attributable to the MNDP. In the entire country ANUC-Sincelejo ended up with a mere 23 municipal council seats and no congressional posts. Even on the Atlantic Coast, where ANUC-Sincelejo had obtained its greatest peasant support for its land invasion strategy, the MNDP won only four municipal council seats in Sucre, two in Bolivar, two in Cesar and none if Cordoba and Magdalena.134

In the final analysis the MNDP or Peasant Party was simply unable to challenge the traditional hegemony of the Liberal and Conservative Parties and their clientelistic networks among the peasantry. This devastating defeat at the polls constituted the final coup de grace for ANUC-Sincelejo from which the badly splintered peasant movement proved unable to recover. The majority sectors of ANUC-Sincelejo at the Tomala Congress opted finally in February 1981 for reintegration with the Linea Armenia. For their part, the dissident sectors of the Comite Ejecutivo elected at Tomala created a separate organization which they formally named the Comite de Unidad Campesina (CUC) in a National Conference held in Bogota in mid-1979. Other dissidents, associated with the Central Committee of the PCML, formed a grouping called Sectores Consecuentes y Slasistas de la ANUC (SECCA). Still another segment, identified with the Maoist ML faction, organized the so-called Sectores 21 de Febrero. Following the reunification of ANUC-Sincelejo with the Linea Armenia in 1981, several of these small fragments of radical ANUC decided to put aside their differences and organize a Fifth Congress in 1983. Despite their efforts, however, ANUC-Sincelejo could not be resuscitated.135

The Fragmentation of the Colombian Left

Internal differentiation within the peasantry and rural proletariat leading to different and often contradictory goals and strategies made unity within ANUC difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. The extreme fragmentation of the Colombian left further complicated the task. A combination of factors accounts for the political debility characteristic of Colombia’s left-wing opposition groups. First, because of the country’s late, associated and dependent pattern of capitalist development, the middle and working classes — the traditional leadership pools for leftist parties — have historically been numerically small, economically weak and politically powerless. The absence of a strong labor movement has meant the left has no ready-made constituency for radical politics.136 Second, because the country’s unique pattern of political violence and “inherited hatreds” reinforced traditional party loyalties during the 1940s and 50s, the historically dominant Conservative and Liberal parties were able to preserve hegemonic control over the electorate — middle, working and peasant classes — well into the National Front period.137 Third, the exclusion of dissident parties from direct participation in politics under the National Front arrangement inhibited the creation of opposition groups while monopoly party control over state patronage reinforced clentele networks and political-electoral conformity.138 Fourth, selective state repression was an effective instrument of control. Leftist organizations were kept under permanent surveillance, often subjected to systematic harassment, and even “legitimate” left-wing groups were frequently accused of active cooperation with Colombia’s armed guerrilla organizations.139

In the absence of real political power or electoral strength, the Colombian left focused inwardly, engaging in protracted internecine battles over nuances of Marxist ideology (Marxist-Leninism, Trotskyism, Stalinism, Castroism, Maoism, etc.) and external alliances (USSR, China, Cuba) that usually had little resonance among the Colombian rural masses. The left wing parties also indulged in bitter, personalist struggles over bureaucratic control of base organizations that undercut their legitimacy among the grassroots and weakened popular organizations.

Frustrated by such in-fighting, and lacking solid economic and political bases in grassroots organizations, many young, middle-class Colombian radicals have willingly been coopted back into the traditional parties. Indeed, for Colombian Liberals youthful forays into left-wing politics are considered almost obligatory rites of passage. After early experimentation, however, it is expected that such excesses will be abandoned and the individual reincorporated into the mainstream of the economic and political life of the nation. Liberal President Alberto Lleras Camargo, for example, was one of the original founders of the Colombian Socialist Party in the late 1920s. Liberal Alfonso Lopez Michelsen launched the MRL in the late 1950s and established an electoral alliance with the PCC in the early 1960s, only to return to the party fold later in the decade. Liberal Senator Hernan Echeverria Jejia ran as the United Left Opposition (UNO) presidential candidate in 1974 and then subsequently renounced his linkages with this movement and rejoined the Liberal Party. The cooptive capacity of the Liberal Party in particular has strengthened that party and the system as a whole while weakening leftist political parties across the board.


The Collapse of ANUC and the Rise of the Rural Guerrillas

Faced with the progressive disintegration of ANUC-Sincelejo in the late 1970s, the great majority of Sincelejo’s peasant supporters apparently retreated in quiescence and passivity or chose to cooperate with the government-controlled Linea Armenia in order to obtain whatever state benefits were available. With ANUC-Sincelejo sidelined, however, levels of rural violence and guerrilla activity spiraled steadily upwards during the Lopez Michelsen Administration.

Several factors lay behind this trend. At the economic level, despite overall improvements in rural incomes resulting from the agricultural bonanzas of the 1970s, important pockets of the rural poor did not share in the benefits of the country’s agricultural prosperity. Indeed, the continued advance of commercial agriculture accelerated the displacement of subsistence peasant farming in many areas of the country. As a consequence of growing landlessness, substantial numbers of peasants remained predisposed to radical political appeals despite the splintering and collapse of ANUC-Sincelejo.140

The willingness of some sectors of the peasantry to engage in violent anti-system activities was augmented during the Lopez presidency by the spread of right-wing paramilitary groups and of drug-related violence directed at peasant leaders. In various areas of the country (e.g., Northern Cauca and the Magdalena Medio), landowners had resorted to the organization of death squads to combat peasant-led invasions and rural labor union activity.141 The tactics of intimidation and assassination used by drug-traffickers to gain access to land for the cultivation of marijuana also was a factor in convincing some peasants that armed self-defense was the only alternative.142

The national government proved unable to control the rise of right-wing death squad activity. In many instances, local level government and police officials, under the sway of regional political bosses, tolerated or even cooperated with paramilitary violence sponsored by influential local landowners. In the mid-1980s, several different paramilitary organizations were known to exist, some with alleged connections to the military.143 State authorities were similarly unable to control the spread of drug related violence. The huge amounts of illegal money involved in the drug trafficking business inevitably led to the corruption of local and even some national level officials and created a climate of lawlessness in many rural areas in which local peasants were unprotected victims.144

This context of continued deterioration among some sectors of the traditional susitence peasantry and colonists and rising lawlessness and rural violence provided fertile recruiting grounds for revolutionary guerrilla organizations operating in the Colombian countryside, for the guerrillas offered to defend local peasant communities from outside violence. Their efforts to enlist peasant support were further facilitated by the hostile attitude that the Lopez Michelsen Administration had adopted towards redistributive agrarian reform, for it left landless and land-poor peasants little hope that they would be able to gain or preserve a foothold on the land and thus enhanced the appeal of guerrillas who promised radical land reform to the peasantry as part of their revolutionary programs.145

The Lopez government’s efforts to weaken and divide ANUC-Sincelejo also helped drive some radical peasants towards armed rebellion, for the disintegration of ANUC left the peasantry with no organized, independent voice in national politics. In effect, the collapse of ANUC-Sincelejo and rising levels of state repression convinced a number of militants that working within the “oligarchical” Colombian political system was impossible and that the only alternative left was with one or another of the country’s revolutionary guerrilla groups.146

While the total number of radical peasants who opted during the mid and late 1970s to cooperate with rural guerrilla organizations was certainly small, the net result was a dramatic upsurge in guerrilla violence in the Colombian countryside during the Lopez Michelsen presidency. The Lopez government responded to this resurgence of rural revolutionary activity with the imposition of a nationwide state of siege and a major anti-guerrilla campaign. In view of the inevitably clandestine nature of Colombia’s various guerrilla organizations, it is not possible to detail with any precision the nature and extent of the relationships established between the guerrillas and the most radicalized segments of ANUC. What is clear is that in many of the same regions where ANUC-Sincelejo had previously been active, guerrilla organizations were able to step up their activities during the second half of the 1970s.

The Rural Guerrillas

In the 1960s, three major revolutionary guerrilla organizations surfaced in the Colombian countryside. The largest was the Communist-oriented Revolutionary Armed Forced of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia — FARC). Formally constituted in 1966, the FARC traced its roots back to Communist and Liberal peasant guerrillas of the Violencia period that had operated in the Tolima, Huila, Cauca, Valle del Cauca, and Caqueta areas. Because of its close association with the Colombian Communist Party, both during the Violencia and after the creation of the National Front in 1958, the FARC has often been accused of being the “armed wing” (“braso armado”) of the PCC. The PCC, in turn, has repeatedly denied any formal relationship with the FARC, but informal linkages undoubtedly continued. By the early 1970s, the FARC had some 5,000-8,000 combatants; in the early 1980s its numbers had grown to roughly 12,000.147

A second major guerrilla organization, formed in 1964, was the Castrate National Liberation Army (Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional–ELN). Originally based in Santander in northeastern Colombia, the ELN was inspired by the Cuban Revolution and supported by Havana. Its leadership was composed primarily of students from the Industrial University of Santander (Bucaramanga) — led by Fabio Vasquez Castano — who had become disaffected with the pro-Soviet PCC. In the mid-1960s most of the ELN’s several hundred members were poor peasants from the Santander and the Magdalena Medio regions. Some workers, students, professionals and even a few priests joined its ranks in the late 1960s and early 1970s. By the early 1980s the ELN had expanded to about 1,500 combatants.148

The third rural guerrilla organization to emerge in the 1960s was the Maoist-oriented People’s Liberation Army (Ejercito Popular de Liberacion–EPL), founded in late 1967 as the guerrilla arm of the Communist Party of Colombia, Marxist-Leninist (PCC-ML). The EPL was the product of a schism within the Moscow-line PCC in 1964-1965. With perhaps 1,000 combatants drawn from the ranks of radical students and peasants, the EPL’s principal areas of activity are in the Alto Sinu and Alto San Jorge regions of northern Colombia, between Medellin and Cartagena in the departments of Antioquia and Cordoba.149

While each of these rebel groups was able to recruit some peasant supporters and launch armed operations against the government during the late 1960s and early 1970s, they proved unable to win over large numbers of the rural population or to mount major challenges to the National Front. By and large their activities remained limited to isolated rural zones and their organizations vulnerable to the anti-guerrilla operations undertaken by the Colombian military. Both the ELN and the EPL, in particular, were severely set back by military campaigns launched against them in the late 1960s and early 1970s in their respective zones of operation. With a stronger peasant base, FARC proved less vulnerable to such government anti-guerrilla operations.150

First Accion Comunal, and subsequently ANUC-Sincelejo, provided alternative avenues for peasant political mobilization and protests and thus helped to reduce the appeal of revolutionary guerrilla organizations among the peasantry and rural poor in many areas of the country. With the progressive collapse of ANUC in the 1975-78 period, however, the guerrillas found themselves in an increasingly favorable position. The FARC benefited least from ANUC’s collapse because its intimate linkages with the pro-Soviet PCC were spurned by the Sincelejo leadership. The ELN in the Magdalena Medio and the EPL in the Antioquia-Cordoba region, in contrast, seemed to have harvested some new recruits among ANUC militants in the wake of the organization’s dissolution.151

Urban Praetorianism

The pattern of rising levels of praetorianism in rural areas during Lopez’s term in office was paralleled by increased signs of discontent and praetorianism in the nation’s cities as well. One relatively moderate expression of this trend was the increasing frequency of local civic strikes (paros civicos) in many urban barrios, small towns and cities. These paros were typically supported by the urban poor, the urban working class and sectors of the middle class and generally involved one or two-day protests focused on demands for improved public services (housing, sewage, water, electricity, transportation, schools, etc.). Local ANUC-Sincelejo groups helped to organize some of these paros in rural market towns. Accion Comunal juntas were involved as well, providing leadership and an organizational framework at the urban barrio level. Local labor unions, civic groups, church organizations, dissident party leaders and even some local officials participated as well. While often reflecting widespread popular discontent, such short-lived and diffuse protests were, as a rule, easily ignored or coopted. Without national level leaders or an effective organizational framework, they could mount no sustained challenge to the system’s entrenched political leadership.152

A second manifestation of rising urban praetorianism were the national strikes for better wages and working conditions organized by various national labor confederations in 1975, 1977, and 1981. These national labor stoppages were typically proceeded by intense labor unrest and strike activity at the local or plant level. The 1977 Paro National Civico against the Lopez Administration’s economic policies was particularly significant because of the street violence that accompanied it, especially in Bogota where scores of people were killed as the military and police battled to establish order. However, unity within the labor movement proved impossible to sustain and the combination of state concessions and repression proved to be an effective strategy for maintenance of government control over labor.153

The emergence of a new, urban guerrilla organization — called the M-19 — in 1974 constituted a third expression of the increasing levels of urban praetorianism characteristic of Colombia in the mid- and late-1970s. The origins of the M-19 lie in the allegedly fraudulent presidential elections of April 19, 1974, when the National Popular Alliance (Alianza Nacional Popular – ANAPO) presidential candidate and former president (1953-57) General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla was supposedly defrauded of his rightful electoral victory. The M-19 was organized by dissident ANAPO-Socialista members such as Carlos Teledo Plata, a medical doctor and former ANAPO congressman from Boyaca, and former FARC guerrillas such as Jaime Batement, who had become disaffected with the FARC-Communist Party line. From the outset, the M-19 adopted a nationalist and populist revolutionary line rather than Marxist-Leninism.154

Unlike its rural predecessors, from its inception the M-19 took the guerrilla struggle directly into the major urban centers — Bogota, Cali and Medellin. This strategy presented a much more immediate thread to the stability of the political system than the rural guerrillas, whose operations had largely been confined to remote rural communities, small frontier towns and military outposts.155

The M-19 first came to public attention in January 1974, just three months before the 1974 presidential elections when M-19 militants stole the sword of Simon Bolivar, and revered Liberator of South America, and announced that the sword would not be returned until Colombia had been “truly” liberated via a popular and nationalist revolution. This highly symbolic act gave the M-19 a “Robin Hood” image which the organization carefully cultivated in 1974 and early 1975 with actions such as hijacking shipments of food and medical supplies and distributing them free in the poor urban barrios. The “Robin Hood” image began to change, however, in 1975 when the M-19 assassinated Liberal Congressman Jose Raquel Mercado, President of the Liberal-oriented CTC and a staunch Lopez supporter, because he opposed the 1975 national strike. The M-19 guerrillas accused him of “selling-out” the Colombian working class and executed him as a warning to others. In the wake of this brutal assassination, the M-19 resorted to increasingly violent urban terrorist tactics.156

The climate of urban instability in Colombia was further aggravated in 1977 and 1978 by intensifying drug-related violence in the nation’s principal cities, deepening institutional corruption brought on by drug money, and the spread of common criminality of all types. In this environment, many prominent and wealthy Colombians literally feared for their own and their families’ safety. Frequently they resorted to sending family members abroad to avoid the threat of kidnapping or assassination. For those who remained at home, private armies of personal bodyguards became indispensable. During the 1970s, Colombia had one of the highest kidnapping rates in the world.157

Against this backdrop of popular protests and rising praetorianism in both rural and urban areas, on September 14, 1977, the country’s three principal labor confederations — the Conservative UTC, the Liberal CTC, and the Communist CSTC — joined together for the first time in their history to call for a national civic strike to protest the labor and economic policies of the Lopez government. President Lopez responded by declaring the strike illegal, imposing martial law and arresting the strike leaders. Scores of demonstrators were killed in the process of suppressing the strike.158

In the aftermath of the strike the Lopez government faced steadily mounting rural and urban praetorianism despite the on-going agricultural bonanzas. Throughout the final year of his presidency he governed the country through his state of siege powers. Dissident factions from within his own party and many Conservatives openly opposed his Administration in Congress. His family was repeatedly in the headlines, accused of influence trafficking and corruption. Rumors that discontented segments of the military were plotting a coup to oust Lopez from power surfaced frequently in Bogota, although no coup attempt ever actually materialized. Lopez left office in mid-1978 with the political system in the grips of a severe legitimacy crisis.159

Turbay and the Authoritarian Response

When Liberal President Julio Cesar Turbay Ayala assumed office on August 7, 1978, he inherited both the agricultural bonanzas of the Lopez years and the worst wave of political violence his country had experienced since the Violencia. In the 1978 presidential campaign against Conservative candidate Belisario Betancur Cuartas, Turbay put forward a hard-line platform of “law and order” that placed primary emphasis on military force to control rural unrest and guerrilla violence. Backed by the Liberal party machinery, Turbay won a narrow victory over his more progressive and populist Conservative party rival.160

On September 7, 1978, just a month after his inauguration, the new president used his emergency powers to decree a National Security Statute (Estatuto de Seguridad Nacional) that severely curtailed civil rights while greatly expanding the powers of the military to arrest, interrogate, and try civilians for crimes of subversion and to govern large regions of the country.161 The timing of Turbay’s National Security Statute was dictated in part by calls from the Communist-oriented CSTC for another national paro on September 14, 1978, to commemorate the victims of the previous year’s national strike and to pressure the Turbay Administration for policies favorable to the peasantry, working class and urban poor. By invoking his National Security Statute, President Turbay was able to suppress this threatened strike. The Statute also served to strengthen the military’s hand in the fight against the guerrillas in fulfillment of his campaign promises to restore public order in the country. Modeled on similar legislation employed by the right-wing, authoritarian military regimes of the Southern Cone (Chile, Argentina, Uruguay), adoption of the National Security Statute set the stage for a major counter-assault against the rebel groups by the Colombian Armed Forces over the next two years.162

As early as mid-October 1978 accusations began to surface alleging that the military had employed torture tactics — under the protective umbrella of the National Security Statute — to elicit confessions from suspected guerrillas or sympathizers at the National University in Bogota. Then, on New Year’s Eve 1978, the M-19 raided the Army’s Canton del Norte arsenal in the north of Bogota and got away with 5,000 weapons. For Colombia’s military leaders this bold raid constituted both a serious military problem and an acute embarrassment.163 Under the authority of the Security Statute the Armed Forces took sweeping actions against suspected guerrilla collaborators throughout the country. Between January and August 1979 the military arrested and interrogated an unprecedented number of Colombians.164 Accusations against the military of torture and other gross human rights violations in both rural and urban areas became widespread during 1979 and 1980 and provoked harsh public denunciations of the Turbay government by both domestic critics and international human rights organizations.165

The Turbay government’s repressive tactics had a devastating impact on Colombia’s peasant and Indian organizations around the country. Already severely weakened by internal factionalization and government harassment, literally thousands of ANUC-Sincelejo, Accion Comunal, and other militants and their urban supporters were rounded up by the military and accused of active ties with guerrilla organizations. Dozens have claimed they were tortured. Scores remained in jail without trial or the possibility of bail for a year or more. By 1980 ANUC-Sincelejo had been completely dismembered.166

To contain and suppress the expanding guerrilla movement, the Turbay government permitted the Armed Forces to militarize entire regions of the country, to suspend or sharply curtail basic civil liberties in guerrilla-infested areas, and to govern them through military rather than civilian authorities.167 The 1980-81 anti-guerrilla operations conducted in the Department of Caqueta against the FARC illustrate the tactics that the military adopted in its campaign against rebel forces under President Turbay. In a concerted effort to wipe out the FARC headquarters in the El Pato-Guayabero region of the Department of Caqueta, the army attacked the guerrilla stronghold with at least 5,000 troops after first “softening” it up with intense aerial bombing. Several thousand peasants were forced to evacuate their settlements, of whom at least 1,500 ended up living in temporary camps in Neiva, Huila, the capital of a neighboring department, for almost a year.168

In this campaign, no major leaders of the FARC were captured, and while reliable information is scarce, the FARC apparently held its own in the fighting and retreated to nearby areas relatively unscathed. The FARC was, however, forced to abandon at least temporarily an area that it had controlled for decades and thousands of its peasant supporters obviously suffered great privations. Despite such setbacks, Colombian military sources estimated that as of the early 1980s the FARC had twenty-seven separate “fronts” spread throughout the country. To wipe out the FARC through military action proved to be beyond the capacities of the Colombian military during Turbay’s presidency.169

In practice, rather than crushing guerrilla activity in the country, Turbay’s hardline tactics appear to have spurred the creation of new revolutionary guerrilla groups and brought new recruits into the ranks of the already existing organizations. In September 1978, for example, just after Turbay’s National Security Statute was decreed, a new urban guerrilla group surfaced — the Movement for Worker’s Self-Defense (Movimiento de Autodefensa Obrera–MAO or ADO). At least initially, the MAO claimed to be the urban arm of the EPL (and by extension of the pro-Chinese PCC-ML). Organized into small commando units and urban cells, this group was composed of no more than a few score of combatants. Among its first actions was the September 1978 assassination of former Agriculture and Government Minister Rafael Pardo Buelvas in Bogota, (who as Agriculture Minister had ordered the 1975 raid on ANUC-Sincelejo headquarters in Bogota and as Government Minister had been involved in drawing up the National Security Statute and directing the repression of the 1977 paro civico).170

In 1979, in the aftermath of the Turbay Administration’s mass arrests of suspected guerrilla sympathizers, yet another rural guerrilla group — subsequently known as Quintin Lame — began to coalesce among the most radical sectors of the Indian peasantry of the southwestern Department of Cauca. Since 1971, the Regional Indian Council of Cauca (Consejo Regional Indigena del Cauca–CRIC), a militant Indian peasant organization initially affiliated with ANUC, had sponsored multiple land invasions in the Cauca to reclaim Indian reservations land. By the mid-1970s the military began to accuse CRIC of cooperation with both the FARC and M-19 guerrillas in the Northern Cauca. As a result, dozens of CRIC leaders and their urban supporters were jailed by the Colombian military in 1979 and 1980 under the authority of the National Security Statute. There were numerous reports of torture as well. This crackdown apparently prompted a small number of former CRIC members — probably fewer than one hundred — to create the Quintin Lame guerrilla organization. From the outset, this small organization had close ties to the M-19. In effect, some Indian activists and their urban support groups had become convinced that neither the local political bosses nor the military would allow the Caucano Indian peasantry to organize or to seek redress of their grievances within the country’s existing political structure.171

There are also accusations that elements of the ORP — ANUC-Sincelejo’s political organization — may have engaged directly in urban guerrilla actions after the 1978 elections. Although convincing evidence was never presented, the Turbay Administration and the military used such accusations to justify their application of the National Security Statute to the remnants of radical ANUC in 1979 and 1980.172

In 1980-81 the M-19 leadership decided to expand their activities beyond Bogota, Cali, and the other urban centers where they had been active since 1974, into the country’s rural areas. In March 1981, the M-19 launched a major attack on Mocoa, Putumayo, a departmental capital near the Ecuadoran border. Although this assault resulted in a crushing defeat for the M-19 column involved, the M-19 did gradually establish a foothold in rural areas of the country such as Putumayo, northern Cauca and Caqueta. Since 1984, the M-19 has cooperated closely with the Quintin Lame organization in Cauca and with the EPL and ELN in Santander, Arauca and the Magdalena Medio region in an effort to consolidate a rural base for its operators.173

Since the summer of 1980, it has been reported that the FARC, the M-19, the ELN, the EPL, and the MAO have attempted to coordinate some of their political and military activities. Success has been minimal. 1984 Quintin Lame joined with the M-19 to form the “America Battalion,” (Batallon America), which also includes at least token representatives from the Alfaro Vive Carajo guerrilla group in Ecuador and the Tupac Amaru group in Peru. In 1985 a National Guerrilla Coordinator (Coordinador Nacional Guerrillera–CNG) was formed, bringing together in an informal alliance the M-19, Ricardo Franco (a splinter group from FARC), Quintin Lame, EPL, ELN, and two recently created groups, Patria Libre and Ejecito Revolucionario de los Trabajadores (ERT). The absence of FARC, in particular, weakened the CNG from the outset. As a result, the CNG has never succeeded in bringing about complete coordination of the Colombian guerrilla movement. Indeed, atrocities committed by the Ricardo Franco Front against almost 200 of its own members in 1985 led the M-19 to sever most of its contacts with that organization.174

While not abandoning its efforts to defeat the guerrillas militarily, in 1980 the Turbay Administration, under prompting from moderate congressional leaders in both parties as well as from national and international human rights organizations, offered an official amnesty to the country’s rebel groups.175 That initial offer was unanimously rejected by the guerrilla forces who labeled it a “farce.”176 At the urging of former Liberal President Carlos Lleras Restrepo and other party notables, President Turbay commissioned a high-ranking group to study the guerrilla problem and to propose an alternative amnesty arrangement. Ignoring most of his own Commission’s recommendations, Turbay’s second amnesty proposal presented in 1982 also contained severe restrictions imposed by the military and ultimately ended with the resignation of Chairman Lleras Restrepo in protest over the government’s inflexibility. As a result, no accommodation with the guerrillas was achieved during Turbay’s presidency.177

President Turbay came to power intent upon crushing the decades-old Colombian guerrilla movement militarily. Despite his invocation of a highly repressive National Security Statute and the systematic application of hard-line military tactics against the rebels during his four years in office, however, guerrilla violence was more widespread at the end of his term than at the beginning. Moreover, the military’s role in the governance of the country had expanded substantially during his presidency, leading to growing concern among many civilian sectors about the progressive militarization of Colombian society.


In the 1982 electoral campaign, the progressive Conservative candidate Belisario Betancur Cuartas ran for the presidency against Liberal candidate and former President Alfonso Lopez Michelsen (1974-78). His reformist and conciliatory platform contrasted dramatically with the hard-line strategy that had been pursued by Liberal President Turbay. Among the key planks in his campaign platform were a promise to lift the nationwide state of siege and the National Security Statute, thereby halting the increasing militarization of Colombian society. He also pledged to seek a truce with the various armed rebel organizations and proposed a broad amnesty designed to incorporate the guerrillas back into the social and political life of the country. In addition, he set out a program of moderate socio-economic and political reforms — a “democratic opening” — designed to broaden participation in the political process.178

To implement his economic reforms, in December 1982 Betancur declared a State of Economic Emergency that permitted the new government to legislate economic measures by decree during a ninety day period. Within a month after the emergency package was publicly presented in February 1983, however, the Liberal-dominated Council of State struck down the emergency reforms as unconstitutional, leaving the Betancur government without a coherent economic policy to confront the nation’s deepening economic crisis. High interest rates in the United States had already encouraged heavy capital flight. Betancur’s lack of an economic strategy further undermined business confidence in the economy and catalyzed additional capital flight and a concomitant drop in the nation’s foreign reserves from 1983 on.179

To resolve this impasse, Betancur found himself obliged to negotiate compromise legislation with the traditional leadership of both parties that significantly watered down the progressive thrust of his initial economic package. The legislation finally approved by Congress in August 1983 — after months of partisan infighting and debilitating delays — left the government severely strapped for resources and unable to finance its ambitious plans for social and economic reform.

Among the social programs proposed by the Betancur Administration were an expansion of the educational system to the poorer segments of Colombian society, a low-income housing program for the urban poor and regional agrarian reform to ease peasant discontent in the countryside. He also proposed extensive “rehabilitation” programs for zones of guerrilla conflict. The nation’s severe economic slowdown brought on by a deepening international recession in 1982-1983, combined with the government’s inability to implement the Economic Emergency reforms, drastically undercut Betancur’s ability to execute his social reforms; hence, progress during the first two years of his presidency proved to be excruciatingly slow. Indeed, Betancur was increasingly forced to dedicate his government’s scarce resources to stop-gap efforts designed to shore up the country’s seriously troubled banking system and many of its principal industrial enterprises.180

Unable to forge ahead with even a relatively modest program of socioeconomic reform, Betancur focused much of his reformist zeal on negotiating peace with the country’s armed rebels, on opening up the nation’s political system at home and on advocating peace in Central America through the Contadora process. Taking advantage of the political momentum created by his surprising electoral victory over Lopez Michelsen, within a month of assuming office President Betancur established a new Peace Commission made up of a bipartisan group of notables to study how best to proceed toward the incorporation of the guerrillas into the political system. He also quickly signed into law a new amnesty (Law 35 of 1982), that in contrast to Turbay’s two earlier amnesty proposals encompassed not only rebels in the field, but also those guerrillas who had already been tried and convicted for the crimes of subversion, rebellion and sedition, while dropping all existing charges against guerrillas for crimes committed prior to the effective date of Law 35. The Law also authorized the government to provide guerrillas who accepted the amnesty with the wherewithal to adjust to civilian life, including housing, land, credit, technical assistance and employment opportunities.181 The Peace Commission assumed primary responsibility for explaining the administration’s proposals to the various guerrilla organi/auons and with carrying out peace negotiations.182

While Betancur’s amnesty was initially greeted enthusiastically by the Colombian public, it did not prompt the guerrillas to disband or to lay down their arms. Between two hundred and five hundred prisoners were freed and the government dropped charges against some 2,000 combatants; but the fighting continued.183 Most of the guerrilla organizations argued that they had not undertaken their struggle simply to receive a pardon from the government, but rather to achieve structural socio-economic and political changes. Groups such as the FARC and the M-19 indicated their willingness to “dialogue” with the Betancur government, but not to lay down their arms in advance of a final agreement or key reforms of the system. The Peace Commission served as the principal contact point for the discussions with the country’s various rebel organizations that began in late 1982 and extended through 1984.184

Paralleling his amnesty and negotiation strategy with the guerrillas, Betancur put forward a package of political reforms designed to “open” or “democratize” the Colombian political process. Among the key proposals in this democratic opening were provisions for the direct election of mayors, public financing of electoral campaigns, the institutionalization of opposition parties, electoral reform, judicial reform and a broadening of opposition-party access to the mass media.185

Both Betancur’s amnesty and the government’s subsequent negotiations with guerrillas as well as his political reforms encountered intense opposition from various sectors of the Colombian power structure. Within his own party, the Conservative Alvarista faction was openly critical of the peace process and the political reforms. The dominant Turbayista and Lopista factions of the Liberal party also expressed reservations. Hence, Betancur’s political support in Congress proved to be quite soft. The central concerns in both parties focused on fears that the guerrillas would be legitimized by indirect government recognition, that the morale of the military would be undermined, and that the rebels would take advantage of the respite granted to them to rest, rearm, and rebuild their political networks in the countryside and the cities. As a result of such concerns, the traditional party leadership and Congress did not take an active role in the negotiations conducted by the Peace Commission.186

The lack of party support was in part a reflection of objections expressed by key interest groups, such as the farmers (SAC), the cattlemen’s association (FEDEGAN) and the industrialists (ANDI), about Betancur’s “soft-line” towards the rebels. It also reflected the relative weakness of Betancur’s own National Movement (Movimiento Nacional) vis-a-vis other party factions and his lack of cormtrol over the Conservative party’s political machinery.187

The military high-command raised heated objections to Betancur’s peace negotiations. Their criticisms reflected skepticism about the possibility of any agreement with “delinquents.” their concern with verification, their belief that the whole process was an impeachment of the “honor” of the Armed Forces, and their strategic and tactical reluctance to concede any respite to the guerrillas in the field.188 Continued violence during the negotiation process in 1983 fueled criticism from those hardliners who preferred a military over a negotiated solution to the guerrilla problems. In December 1983, Betancur’s Minister of Defense, General Fernando Landazabal, publicly declared that the negotiations had failed. In January 1984, Betancur forced Landazabal to resign from the Defense Ministry to remind the military high command of their constitutional obligation to refrain from political interference and to obey the nation’s Commander-in-Chief. The new Minister of Defense, General Gustavo Matamoros, publicly declared the Armed Forces support for the peace process, but lower-key military resistance continued throughout 1984 and 1985.189

Nevertheless, after Landazabal’s resignation, the Betancur government was able to conclude peace treaties with several guerrilla organizations in relatively short order. On March 28, 1984, the FARC and the Peace Commission reached a “cease-fire” accord that subsequently went into effect on May 2, 1984. In this accord, the FARC did not agree to lay down arms, but simply to desist from taking offensive action against the military if the military did likewise. On August 28, 1981, the M-l9, the EPL, and the ADO signed similar accords. Only the ELN refused to sign these cease-fire arrangements and continued full-scale guerrilla operations.190 These accords provided that the Betancum government would create a National Verification Commission charged with verifying that all sides observed the provisions of the cease-fire. It also committed the Administration to undertake a “National Dialogue” among government and opposition forces to come up with “political reforms.”191

The Collapse of the Peace Process

The structure and meaning of this National Dialogue formula remained ill-defined and subject to alternative interpretations. Betancur and the FARC apparently saw it as an opportunity for the rebels to enter a modified and fairer electoral process. The more radical M-19 and EPL seemed to have envisioned some sort of power-sharing arrangement in which the Dialogue was to serve as a constituent assembly to remake the entire political system. The Colombian military was highly critical of the accord’s failure to commit the guerrillas to disarm and insisted on its right to enforce the constitutional prohibition against the possession of arms. This ambiguous situation produced continuing friction between the Armed Forces and the guerrillas even after the cease-fire accords went into effect.192

The intense national debate over the peace accords was interwoven with the debate in tile Congress over Betancur’s proposed political reforms. Many Liberal and Conservative opponents of the legislation expressed fears that the direct election of mayors would lead to the election of guerilla leaders or drug-lords to important mayoral posts in a variety of municipalities around the country. Traditional leaders of both parties were also keenly concerned with the loss of key patronage links in local governments that would, in turn, undermine party machinery control over the electorate. Vocal objections were also made to the other proposed political reforms and the legislation’s progress in Congress proved to be exceeding slow. The direct election of mayors provisions were finally approved in 1985, but all the other key political reforms remained effectively bottled up in Congress through the end of Betancur’s presidency in mid-1966.193

Betancur’s promises to push ahead with his guerrilla rehabilitation program, regional agrarian reform, and low-income housing also proved very hard to fulfill. The national economy continued to stagnate throughout 1984, leaving few government resources available to fund such activities. Indeed, capital flight and balance-of-payments deficits forced Betancur to adopt increasingly austere IMF-style stabilization measures in 1984 in order to continue to service the country’s international debt obligations. These austerity measures inevitably fell most heavily on the urban and rural poor and the lower middle classes and thus helped to undermine the early popularity of the Betancur government.194

While Betancur’s political program called for substantive political reforms, his political strategy did not involve the mobilization of mass political support behind his program. His National Movement proved to be a short-lived political tactic, not an enduring shift away from traditional party allegiances. In practice, he relied on the traditional party leadership in Congress to implement his proposed reforms rather than seeking to mobilize mass support behind them.195

The lack of unity among and within the guerrilla organizations made Betancur’s effort to negotiate with them extremely difficult. Continuing violence by some guerrilla groups or factions led military and conservative opposition to Betancur’s “soft-line” approach. The ELN never signed a cease-fire accord and its on-going operations in the Magdalena Medio and the Eastern Plains undercut the entire peace process. To protest the FARC’s 1984 decision to accept a cease-fire, several hundred members of that organization split off to form the Ricardo Franco Front, and continued the guerrilla struggle. In addition, even organizations like the FARC and the M-19 that had accepted the cease-fire were almost certainly guilty of frequent violations of the agreements.196

The military remained overtly suspicious of and hostile towards the peace process and, the guerrillas alleged, systematically violated the cease-time by taking offensive actions against them. Both the military and many right-wing politicians from both parties were indignant that the FARC and the M-l9 were allowed to campaign publicly for political support and to organize opposition parties before laying down their arms. The proclivity of the M-l9 to organize public rallies in full battle regalia in rural strongholds such as Corinto (Cauca) and urban centers such as Cali (Valle del Cauca), further inflamed hard-liner passions against the cease-fire accords.197

During the late l970s and early l980s, right-wing death squad activity against guerrillas and suspected left-wing sympathizers had spiraled out of control. After the Colombian Attorney General brought charges against military officers for complicity in death squad activity in January 1983 and the peace accords were signed in mid-1984, right-wing assassinations dropped to lower levels. By mid-1985, however, they had returned to 1982-1983 levels as many right-wing groups renewed activities to protest Betancur’s peace strategy.198

Under growing pressure from the military and right-wing death-squads, the M-l9, the EPL, and ADO became progressively more frustrated with Betancur’s lack of progress on political reforms and disenchanted with the National Dialogue. The FARC, in contrast, remained content to seek legal status through the creation of a political party — called Union Patriotica -. in which it joined an electoral alliance with the PCC, the Communist-oriented labor union (CSTC), and other splinter Marxist groups.199

To protest the Betancur Administration’s IMF-style austerity measures, the CSTC, various independent unions, and most guerrilla organizations and the political fronts called for a general strike to be held on June 20, 1985. To forestall this strike, the Betancur Administration declared a State of Siege, outlawed the strike and militarized Bogota and the other major cities. On June 21, the M-19 returned to a full-scale guerrilla offensive against the military. Subsequently, the EPL and ADO also returned to guerrilla warfare. Only the FARC chose to continue to observe the truce. For the next several months, M-19 and other guerrilla organizations were active in various regions of the country simultaneously and the nation was engulfed in a wave of violence that cost hundreds of lives. The military reacted forcefully to the renewed guerrilla challenge, declaring that it would “annihilate” the M-19 and its allies in a matter of months.200

While the Betancur Administration was obliged to endorse military reprisals against the M-19 and the EPL because of their open violation of the cease-fire accords, it continued to emphasize that the largest guerrilla organization in the country, FARC, was still abiding by the accords and was preparing to participate in the congressional and presidential election of 1986. It also continued to hold out the hope that the M-19 and the other guerrillas would return to the negotiating table.201

The M-l9 had other plans. The leadership was convinced that Betancur’s peace process and national dialogue had failed. In many senses, the suppression of the June 20 general strike through presidential state of siege powers was the final straw. They reasoned that if such a peaceful protest was not possible under Betancur’s democratic opening, the process was meaningless. Furthermore, they claimed that military harassment of their organization had reached intolerable limits and calculated that little would be gained by any further observance of a “fictitious” cease-fire. By Fall 1985, Lame, Patria Libre and ERT had all returned to guerrilla warfare. Only the FARC continued to observe the cease-fire and press ahead with political organizational activities in anticipation of the 1986 congressional and presidential elections.202

Against this backdrop of the partial collapse of Betancur’s negotiation strategy and the recrudescence of guerrilla violence, the M-19 carried out its spectacular seizure of the National Palace of Justice in downtown Bogota on November 6, 1985. Their apparent objectives were to force the resignation of Defense Minister Vega Uribe, whom they accused of systematically violating the terms of the cease fire, and to oblige the government to publish the Verification Commission findings that they claimed proved the military’s responsibility in the breakdown of the peace accords.203

The M-19 guerrillas who took the Palace clearly did not count on the ferocity of the military’s reaction. Although the M-19 seized a number of hostages, including several justices of the Nation’s Supreme Court, the Armed Forces, without first consulting President Betancur, refused to negotiate with the M- 19 inside the Palace and counterattacked. Within thirty-six hours after the assault had begun, it ended in the complete destruction of the Palace, the death of all the M-19 guerrillas involved and the loss of eleven justices and scores of civilian and military deaths.204

In the wake of the M-l9 attack on the Palace, any further hope for a negotiated peace with the guerrillas (with the major exception of FARC) seemed to have evaporated. Betancu, authorized the military to launch massive operations in the Northern Cauca, Valle del Cauca, and Magdalena Medio regions. In mid-April 1986, fifteen thousand troops were engaged in efforts to encircle and destroy the M-19, Ricardo Franco Front, and Quintin Lame organizations in Cauca and Valle.

In practice, Betancur’s conciliatory and reformist strategy of the first three years of his term in office gave way in his last year to an increasingly hardline, military response to the M-19 and other organizations. Only the FARC remained within the peace process. While the Union Patriotica did garner 1.1 percent of the popular vote in the March 1986 congressional elections (up from 2.4 percent for the Communist Party alone in 1982), its electoral weakness vis-a-vis the traditional party machinery remained obvious. This mediocre showing, and the growing violence in the countryside, could convince some factions of the FARC to return to the guerrilla struggle.205

Whether or not the FARC resumes armed struggle, the M-19’s seizure of the Palace of Justice is likely to be seen in retrospect as a watershed even in President Betancur’s search for a negotiated peace to Colombia’s internal wars. The military clearly felt vindicated in its hostility to the M-l9 and other guerrillas and received expanded powers from the Betancur Administration to repress the rebels. By early 1986, a new cycle of militarization of the conflict was well underway.

Not only was the role of the military in the governance of the country bolstered by the Palace affair, but the Judicial branch of government received a catastrophic blow. The deaths of the eleven Supreme Court Justices and of many other ministry employees, plus the destruction of files stored in the ministry building, were only the most obvious losses. In the immediate aftermath of the shocking events at the Palace, the Judicial Workers Union declared a week-long strike against the Betancur government to protest the military’s “sacrifice” of the hostages. The President of the Judicial Workers Union, Jaime Pardo Leal was subsequently nominated as the presidential candidate for the PCC-FARC dominated Union Patriotica. The widespread demoralization within the judicial branch may take years to repair.

The M-l9 attack also seems to have served as a catalyst in polarizing broad sectors of Colombian society, especially in the middle and upper classes, against the M-19 and the guerrilla struggle. The middle class, in particular, has reacted to rising levels of insecurity and guerrilla violence with increasing support of the Armed Forces and a hard-line military response to the problem.

The Barco Administration (1986-1990)

Upon assuming office on August 7, 1986, Liberal President Virgilio Barco Vargas confronted a daunting panorama of rural violence, guerrilla warfare and military repression. Throughout the last six months of the Betancur governmnemlt, reports of military excesses (torture, assassination) rose dramatically. In effect, the new president inherited an on-going “dirty war” that will be difficult to reign in.206

Nevertheless, President Barco did assume office with some major political advantages vis-a-vis former Conservative President Betancur. In the first place, he inherited an expanding economy rather than the recessed economy that Betancur received from Turbay in 1982. Thus, at least in theory, he may marshall more resources to finance social and economic reforms if he chooses to do so.207

Second, in the March 1985, congressional elections Barco’s Liberal party won a majority of seats in both the House and the Senate, giving him a degree of control in Congress that Betancur’s minority Conservative party never enjoyed.208 Whether the new Liberal president will be able to shape Liberal predominance into an effective legislative majority capable of approving key reform initiatives will be a critical test of his leadership abilities. During the campaign, Barco endorsed in general terms the need for regional agrarian reform, infrastructural development and other socio-economic programs in major zones of conflict in the countryside. If he is able to implement such reforms, they could go a long way towards undermining existing peasant support for the nation’s multiple guerrilla organizations. If he is not able to deliver on such promises, the prospects for a continuing spiral of violent confrontations between the guerrillas and the Armed Forces and an increasingly exclusionary and authoritarian pattern of governance are high.

Third, Barco also stands to reap the benefits of several of the successful reform initiatives of the Betancur Administration. 400,000 new low-income housing units were built by Betancur’s government. He was also able to achieve passage of the new law sanctioning the direct election of mayors. This initiative will go into effect in 1988 and may well provide new channels of local and regional political participation that could help to reduce resorts to violent protest. President-elect Barco promised to name opposition mayors in those localities where the opposition had garnered the majority as a way of demonstrating his willingness to undertake peaceful political reform.

Fourth and finally, the huge margin of Baro’s electoral triumph in the presidential race gave him a personal victory of considerable magnitude.209 This mandate could be translated into effective political power if parlayed


Given these political advantages, it is possible that Liberal President Barco could move to lower the high levels of conflict in the countryside that he has inherited. The difficulties he faces, however, are truly staggering. The underlying structural conditions that have produced cyclical peasant mobilization and permanent guerrilla warfare in Colombia’s rural areas during the last quarter century remain in place and the process of political reform has barely gotten underway. If he is not able to address the causes of violence through effective socio-economic and political reform early in his Administration, his government will almost certainly find itself relying on intensified military repression to preserve political order in the face of expanding guerrilla violence in both the countryside and the cities.

Direct military intervention is not a major political threat in contemporary Colombia. Despite frictions with the Executive during the Betancur Administration, the military was given broad powers to repress the guerrillas, especially after the Palace of Justice incident. Thus there is no reason for a coup. A more realistic possibility is that increased levels of guerrilla violence will prompt a curtailment of democratic reform, the progressive militarization of society, and increasing resorts to authoritarian and exclusionary political strategies by civilian elites to retain political control. The remainder of the 1980s looms as a decisive test of the Colombian political regime’s capacity to institutionalize effective channels of political participation capable of reversing the rising tide of praetorianism and violence in the country. If the current spiral of violence continues, the principal victims will inevitably be the peasantry and the rural poor, along with their urban brethren, who will suffer the consequences of the violence directly and whose opportunities for legitimate organizations, protest and reform will be severely reduced, if not eliminated.


  1. The concept of political institutionalization is developed by Samuel P. Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies (New Haven: Yale University Press), 1968 pp. 1-31.  return to text
  2. 0n the limitations of structuralist analyses arid the need to “bring the state back in,” see Theda Skocpol, “Bringing the State Back In: Strategies of Analysis in Current Research,” in Peter B. Evans, Diemrich Rueschemeyor and Theda Skocpol, eds., Bring the State Back In (London and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 3-43.  return to text
  3. For an analysis of the principal features of the Frente system, see Robert Dix, Colombia: The Political Dimensions of Change (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967), pp. 129-135.  return to text
  4. Ibid, pp. 147-170; also Victor Manuel Moncayo, “Notas para un analisis historico del Frente Nacional,” Revista de Historia, Vol. 1, No. (Agosto 1975) pp. 55-60; Humberto Rojas Ruiz and Alvaro Camacho Guizado, El Trente Nacional: Ideologia y Realidad (Bogota: Punta de Lanza, 1973) pp. 135-184; Victor Manuel Moncayo and Fernando Rojas, Luchas obreras y politica laboral en Colombia (Bogota: La Carreta, 1978) pp. 173-203.  return to text
  5. 0n the centralization and expansion of the state’s economic planning powers during the early years of the National Front, see Israel Rivera Ortiz, “Colombia’s National Planning Department.” Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, Department of Political Science, University of New York at Buffalo, 1976.  return to text
  6. Salomon Kalmanovitz marks the real “take-off” of modern, capitalist agriculture in the Colombian countryside from 1945 and the end of World War II onwards. See S. Kalmonovitz, El desarrollo de Ia agricultura en Colombia (Bogota: Carlos Valencia Editores, 1982) PP. 36-42.  return to text
  7. 0n the land tenure and low-productivity problems facing Colombian agriculture in the early 1960s see Kalmanovitz, Ibid., pp. 63-143. The agrarian sector policies of the Lleras Camargo government, especially agrarian reform, are analyzed by Bruce Michael Bagley, “Political Power, Public Policy and the State in Colombia: Case Studies of the Urban and Agrarian Reforms During the National Front, 1958-1974.” Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, Department of Political Science, University of California at I,os Angeles, 1979, pp. 138-191.  return to text
  8. Kalmanovitz, op. cit., pp. 42-48.  return to text
  9. For a discussion of the political significance of the MRL see Dix, op. cit., pp. 137-146. Also Gonzalo Sanchez and Donny Meertens, Bandoleros, gamonaies, y. campesinos: El caso de La Violencia en Colombia (Bogota: El Arcora, 1983) pp. 19 1-225.  return to text
  10. Bagley, op. cit., pp. 187-191; also Victor Manuel Moncayo, “La ley y el problema agrarlo en Colombia,” ideologia y Sociedad, No. 11-15 (1975) pp. 29-31.  return to text
  11. Otto Morales Benitez, Alianza para ci Progreso y Reforma Agraria (Bogota: Aedita Editores Limitada, 1963); also Ernest Duff Agrarian Reform in Colombia(Washington: Praeger, 1968).  return to text
  12. Orlando Fals Borda, Accion Comunal en una vereda colombiana (Bogota: Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 1961). Colombia’s rural veredas or neighborhoods are the most basic units of governmental organization in the countryside. The next level in the governmental structure is the municipio or county which usually contains several dozen veredas. Many of Colombia’s veredas can trace their local histories back to the colonial system and have clear identities as rural communities with well-established political ties to either the Conservative or Liberal parties. Even in zones of recent colonization, however, veredal subdivisions emerge quite spontaneously, for they grow out of rural communities’ own sense of self-identity and form part of long-standing political-bureaucratic traditions in the countryside. Organizing the AC program at the local level often involved little more than converting already existing veredal organizations into AC juntas.
    The barrio or urban neighborhood is the equivalent jurisdiction in the towns arid cities. In many pueblos and smaller cities, barrio subdivisions often accurately reflect local communities and thus constituted natural units easily organized into AC juntas. In the larger cities, however, barrios were frequently too large or heterogeneous to be organized into a single community junta, thus two or more would be created.  return to text
  13. This discussion of Accion Comunal relies heavily on my own experience as a Peace Corps volunteer and AC promoter in Fusagasuga, Cundinamarca, Colombia, from August 1968 through December 1970. It also draws systematically from a previous article written with Dr. Matthew Edel in 1974-75 and published as “Popular Mobilization Programs of the National Front: Cooptation and Radicalization, in R. Albert Berry, Ronald G. Hellman and Maurico Solaun, eds., Politics of Compromise: Coalition Government in Colombia (New Brunswick: Transaction, Inc., 1980) pp. 247-286.  return to text
  14. In 1966, the national budget included more than 35 million pesos (two million dollars) specifically earmarked for community action projects and additional monies came from other institutions. Edel estimated total investment in AC projects in 1966 at between 100 and 150 million pesos, with approximately 60 percent of the investments deriving from government sources. By 1969, the AC program was receiving 300 million pesos annually directly from the state. Bagley and Edel, op. cit., p. 264.  return to text
  15. Ibid., p. 260-61.  return to text
  16. lbid., p. 263.  return to text
  17. In terms of enlisting local energies and investments as well as the marginal efficiency of the investment, AC proved to be an economically efficient program. A cost-benefit analysis of AC construction programs carried out in the mid-1960s indicated that community construction saved 40-50 percent of the cost of similar construction undertaken directly by the government or other semi-official institutions such as the National Coffee Growers Federation (FEDECAFE). Matthew Edel, “The Colombian Community Action Program: An Economic Evaluation.” Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, Department of Economics, Yale University, 1967; Bagley and Edel, op. cit., p. 264.  return to text
  18. Ibid., p. 264.  return to text
  19. Ibid., pp. 264-5.  return to text
  20. Ibid., 264-5; also Ronald Hart, “The Role of the Local Community in National Political Change.” Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, Department of Political Science, the University of California at Los Angeles, 1974.  return to text
  21. Bagley and Edel, op. cit., p. 265.  return to text
  22. A 1970 study of the electoral impact of the agrarian reform found that those campesinos (peasants) that had the greatest contact with the Colombian Agrarian Reform Institute (Instituto Colombiano de Reforma Agraria –INCORA) were less inclined to vote in favor of National Front candidates than were campesinos who had had no contact with the INCORA at all. Rodrigo Losada Lora, “Impacto electoral de Ia reforma agraria,” in (lAS, ed., Hacia una reforina agraria inasiva (Bogota: CIAS, 1971) pp. 107, ff. 94.  return to text
  23. Assessments of Colombia’s agrarian and related rural reforms can be found in Ernest Duff, op. cit.; Hermann Feistehausen, “Agrarian Reform and Development in Colombia,” in A.I.D., ed., Agency for international Development Spring Review, Vol. 1972, No. 880 (1972); and A Eugene Havens, et al. “Agrarian Reform and the National Front: A Class Analysis,” in Berry, et al., eds., op. cit., pp. 341-80.  return to text
  24. For analyses of the country’s urban problems during the 1960s see W.L. Flinn and Alvaro Camacho, “The Correlates of Voter Participation in a Shantytown Barrio in Bogota, Colombia,” Inter-American Economic Affairs, Vol. 22, No.3 1969, pp. 47-58; Mauricio Solaun, Fernando Cepeda and Bruce Bagley, “Urban Reform in Colombia: The Impact of the Politics of Games on Public Policy,” in F. Rabinovitz and F.M. Trueblood, eds., Latin American Urban Research Vol. III (Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, 1973; and Emilio Pradilla Cobos, “La Politica urbana del estado colombiano,” Ideologia y sociedad, No. 9 (1974).  return to text
  25. Bagley and Edel, op. cit., p. 265.  return to text
  26. In some cases, these independent AC slates reflected the influence of left-wing political organizations such as the Communist Party. Often, however, such independent lists were the result of local political party factional infighting. If a local leader from either party was dissatisfied with his share of the “spoils of office” (botin burocratico), he could challenge the municipal party leadership by putting together his own party-factional list in the hope of wresting political control away from other rival factions within his own party. In their constant search for state assistance and political patronage, many junta leaders could be induced to mobilize community support for dissident factional leaders in local elections in exchange for the promise of subsequent favors once their candidates were in office. Rather than a sign of anti-system sentiment, this type of political transaction was an integral part of local-level politics during the National Front.  return to text
  27. Maurice Zeitlin, “Introduction: Colombia: The Political, Economic, and Religious Background of Revolution,” in Maurice Zeitlin, ed., Father Camilo Torres Revolutionary Writings (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1969), pp. 2-3.  return to text
  28. John Gerassi, “Introduction: Camilo Torres and the Revolutionary Church,” in John Gerassi, ed., Revolutionary Priest: The Complete Writings and Messages of Camilo Torres (New York: Vintage Books, 1971) p. 20-24.  return to text
  29. Zeitlin, op. cit., p. 3; also Carlos H. Pareja, El Padre Camilo: El Cura Guerrillero (Mexico: Editorial Nuestra America, 1968) pp. 169-178.  return to text
  30. SEDEC, Una Politica para el desarrolo, (Bogota, SEDEC, 1969) pp. 68-69.  return to text
  31. Gerassi, op. cit., pp. 36-45.  return to text
  32. Pareja, op. cit., pp. 179-196; Orlando Fals Borda, La subversion y el cambio social (Bogota: Tercer Mundo, 1969) pp. 15 1-160.  return to text
  33. Zeitlin, op.cit., p.5.  return to text
  34. Fals Borda, op. cit., pp. 159-160.  return to text
  35. Bagley and Edel, op. cit., p. 266.  return to text
  36. Ibid., pp. 267-268.  return to text
  37. Ibid., p. 268.  return to text
  38. Ibid., pp. 268-269.  return to text
  39. Ibid., p. 269.  return to text
  40. Ibid., pp. 269-70. One example of left-wing mobilization of the AC juntas in the mid-1970s was the movement organized in Bogota to protest the construction of the so-called Avenida de los Cerros through a number of urban poor barrios. Although construction was held up for a time by these protests, the Avenida (subsequently renamed the “Circumvalar” was ultimately built despite sporadic local protest. See Grupo de Estudios “Jose Raminundo Russi,” Luchas de clase por el derecho a Ia cuidad(Medellin: Editorial Ocho deJunio ltda., 1975); and Jorge Enrique Vargas G. and Luis Ignacio Aguilar Z., coordinadores, Planeacion urbana y lucha de clases (Bogota: CINEP, Controversia No, 47, 1976).  return to text
  41. This analysis of ANUC draws on material previously published in Bagley and Edel, op. cit., and from a second article published with Fernando Botero Zea entitled “Organizaciones campesinas contemporaneas en Colombia; Un estudio de la Asociacion Nacional de Usuarios Campesinos, ANUC,” Estudios Rurales Latinoamericanos, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Enero-Abril 1978).  return to text
  42. Ministerio de Agricultura, Programa Nacional de Organizacion Campensia, Informe. (Bogota: Ministerio de Agricultura, 1971), Mimeographed, p. 2).  return to text
  43. German Vargas, “Historia de La ANUC ilegal,” El Periodico, Agosto 31, 1974, p. 4.  return to text
  44. Bagley and Edel, op. cit., p. 271; Bagley and Botero, op. cit., p. 63.  return to text
  45. Carlos Lleras Restrepo, Mensaje del senor Presidente de Ia Republica de Colombia, Doctor Carlos Lleras Restrepo, al Congreso Nacional, 20 de julio de 1967 (Bogota: Talleres Graficos del Banco de la Republica, 1967), p. 228.  return to text
  46. Ministerio de Agricultura, op. cit., pp. 19-20.  return to text
  47. Oscar Degaldo “La organizacion de los campesinos en Colombia,” Aportes, No. 25 (1972) pp. 83-106.  return to text
  48. Ibid, p. 95.  return to text
  49. Roger Findley, “Ten Years of Land Reform in Colombia,” Wisconsin Law Review, Vol. 1972, No. 3 (1972) p. 906.  return to text
  50. Salomon Kalmanovitz, “Evolucion de Ia estructura agraria colombiana,” Cuadernos colombians, Ano I, No. 3 (1974) p. 282.  return to text
  51. Findley, op. cit., p. 905.  return to text
  52. The factors behind the collapse of the Agrarian Reform are discussed in detail by Bagley, “Political Power…” pp. 227-257.  return to text
  53. Bagley and Botero, op. cit., pp. 65-65.  return to text
  54. ANUC, Declaracion de Principios del Primer Congreso Nacional de la ANUC, (Bogota: Ministerio de Agricultura, 1970, mimeographed) pp. 1-3.  return to text
  55. Carlos Lieras Restrepo, “Palabras del senor Presidente de Ia Republica, Dr. Carlos Lleras Restrepo” (Bogota: Ministerio de Agricultura, mimeographed), p. 8.  return to text
  56. Ibid., pp. 8-9. Created by Presidential Decree, ANUC was made independent in the same fashion. Lleras’ decision to free ANUC from state supervision was motivated by his desire to keep the organization out of the hands of the in-coming Conservative Administration and by his hopes of mobilizing the peasant organization behind his bid for a second presidential term in 1974.  return to text
  57. Bagley and Botero, op. cit., pp. 66-67.  return to text
  58. Gustavo De Roux, “The Social Basis of Peasant Unrest: A Theoretical Framework with Special Reference to the Colombian Case,” Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, University of Wisconsin, Department of Development, 1974, pp. 288-303.  return to text
  59. Albert Berry, “Rural Poverty in Twentieth-Century Colombia,” Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs, Vol. 20, No. 4 (Nov. 1978) pp. 363-73. A review of the available data on rural poverty in Colombia can be found in Wayne R. Thirsk, “Some Facets of Rural Poverty in Colombia.” (Washington, D.C.: Rural Development Division, Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, Agency for International Development, General Working Document 2, July 1978).  return to text
  60. R. Sandilands, “The Modernization of the Agricultural Sector and Rural-Urban Migration in Colombia.” (Glasgow: University of Glasgow, Institute of Latin American Studies, Occasional Papers No. 11971) pp. 9-10.  return to text
  61. 0n the effects of tenant expulsion, See Moncayo, op. cit., pp. 27-28. The political impact of ANUC of the shift from a Liberal to a Conservative Administration is discussed by Bagley and Botero op. cit., p. 67.  return to text
  62. Bagley, op. cit., pp. 227-232.  return to text
  63. ANUC, Plataforma Ideologica (Bogota: Foto Egar, 1971) p. 1  return to text
  64. ANUC, Primer Mandato Campesino Bogota: Ediciones Populares, UNINCA, 1972).  return to text
  65. Pierre Gilhodes has reported that during the month of October 1971 ANUC groups invaded around 150,000 hectares on the Atlantic Coast, Andin, Tolima, Huila, Cundinamarca, Cauca, Valle and Antioquia. Pierre Gilhodes, La Question Agraire en Colombie (Paris: Presses de la Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, 1974) p. 356. Daniel Pecaut concluded that during 1971 ANUC invasions mobilized more than 30,000 peasants and affected 274 rural properties. The invasions were especially intense in February and in November. Daniel Pecaut, “La Modernization de l’Agriculture en Colombie,” Problems d’ Amerique Latine, (1974) p. 13. For a breakdown of ANUC’s land invasions by departments during 1971 and 1972, see Hugo Escohar Sierra, Las Invasiones en Colombia (Bogota: Editorial Tercer Mundo, 1972).  return to text
  66. ANUC, Tierra para quien la trabaja: Conclusionés del II Con greso Nacional de lisuarios Campesinos, Sincelejo, julio 20 a 24 de 1972 (Bogota: Editoriales Uninca, 1972) p. 33.  return to text
  67. This wing of ANUC was baptized Linea Armenia because its first Congress in 1971 was celebrated in the city Armenia, Quindio.  return to text
  68. Vargas op. cit., p. 4.  return to text
  69. See Leon Zamosc, “Peasant Struggles in the 1970s in Colombia.” (Unpublished paper, Department of Sociology, University of Kansas, 1985) pp. 10-12. Also Orlando Fals Borda, Historia de Ia cuestion agraria en Colombia (Bogota: Publicaciones de Ia ROSCA, 1975) pp. 93-135.  return to text
  70. Zamosc, op. cit., pp. 11-12.  return to text
  71. Personal interviews with INCORA officials, August, l974, Bogota, Colombia.  return to text
  72. On the rise of radical student politics in Colombia in the 1960s see Francisco Leal Buitrago, “La frustracion politica de una generacion; La universidad comombiana y la formacion de un movimento estudiantil 1958-1967.” Desarrollo y Sociedad, No. 6 (Julio 1981) pp. 299-325.  return to text
  73. For discussions of the work of La Rosca and other groups see Orlando Fals Borda, “Sentido politico…,” op. cit., pp. 169-176; 0. Fals Borda, Conocimiento y poder popular (Bogota: Siglo XXI y Punta de Lanza, 1985) p. 177.  return to text
  74. 0n the role of left-wing activists within ANUC see Leon Zamosc, Los usuarios cam pesinos y las luchas poT la tierra en los anos 70 (Bogota: CINEP, Colombia Agraria 8, No Date) pp. 74-91. Silvia Rivera, Politica e ideologia en ci movimento campesino colombiano: el caso de la ANUC (Bogota: CINEP, Colombia Agraria 8, 1982) pp. 115-153; and Orlando Fals Borda, “Las organizaciones campesina – Experiencia de Ia Asociacion Nacional de Usuarios Campesinos – ANUC,” in Margarita Jaramillo de Botero and Francisco UribeEchevarria, eds., op. cit., pp. 453-462.  return to text
  75. ANUC, Tierra op. cit., pp. 1-11.  return to text
  76. Ibid., pp. 6-11.  return to text
  77. Vargas, op. cit., p. 4.  return to text
  78. For a discussion of the Acuerdo de Chicoral, see Bagley, op. cit., pp. 233-248.  return to text
  79. ANUC, Tierra…, p. 21.  return to text
  80. Bagley and Botero, op. cit., pp. 67-68.  return to text
  81. Alternativa, “Habla el Comite Ejecutivo de la ANUC,” Alternativa, No. 14 (20 de Agosto, 1974) pp. 16-17. Bagley and Botero, op. cit., pp. 70-7 1.  return to text
  82. ANUC, Comite Ejecutivo Nacional, “Informe General presentado por el Comite Ejecutivo a la VIII Junta Directiva Nacional de Usuarios Campesinos reunida en Bogota del 7 al 13 de enero de 1973,” in Asociacion Departmental de Usuarios Campesinos de Antioquia, Comite de Solidaridad con la ANUC eds. Documentos de la ANUC: La tierra es p’alguien qu e Ia trabaja (Medellin: Editorial La Pulga, 1974) pp. 16, 83-108.  return to text
  83. “Balance de Actividades,” Carta Campesina, No. 27 (1972) p. 11.  return to text
  84. ANUC, “Informe General…,” op. cit., pp. 93-94.  return to text
  85. Ibid., p. 96; ANUC, Comite Ejecutivo Nacional, “Informe General del Comite Ejecutivo a Ia IV reunion de junta directiva de Ia Asociation Nacional de Usuarios Campesinos de Colombia–ANUC.” Asociacion Departmental de Usuarios Campesinos de Antioquia, Comite de Solidaridad con Ia ANUC, eds. op. cit., pp. 112-1 13.  return to text
  86. Carta Campesina, “Balance…,” pp. 10-11.  return to text
  87. For ANUC’s denunciation of official and extra-official persecution of their organization see ANUC, Comite Ejecutivo National, “Denuncia publica a la violencia y represion de FFMM contra la ANUC.” (Bogota: ANUC, July 21, 1975, mimeographed); ANUC, Comite Ejecutivo Nacional, “Denuncia publica,” ‘(Bogota: ANUC, Septiembre 17, 1975) p. 2. On the growth of rural death squads during the late 1970s and early 1980s, see Americas Watch, The Central-Americanization of Colombia? Human Rights and the Peace Process, (New York: The Americas Watch Committee, 1986), pp. 114-117; and Zamosc, Los Usuarios…, op. cit., pp. 112-116.   return to text
  88. Personal interview with Dr. Herman Jaramillo Ocampo July 11, 1974, Bogota, Colombia.  return to text
  89. Vargas, op cit., p. 4.  return to text
  90. ANUC, “Informe General…,” op. cit., pp. 102-105.  return to text
  91. Eldesalojo de ANUC,” Alternativa, No. 67 (Enero 26 a Febrero 2, 1976) p. 20; El Manifiesto, “ANUC: Nueva etapa,” No. 44 (Julio 25, 1977) p. 21.  return to text
  92. Alcides Gomez Jimenez, “Politica agraria de Lopez y icy de aparceria,” Ideologia y sociedad, No. 14-15 (Julio-Diciembre 1975) pp. 47-63; also Bagley, op. cit., pp. 227-257.  return to text
  93. Zamosc, Los usuarios…, op. cit., pp. 105-112.  return to text
  94. “Sincelejo se tomo a Bogota,” Alternativa, No. 16 (Sept. 16 a 29, 1974) pp. 5-6.  return to text
  95. Victor Felix Pastrana, et al., “Nuevas estrategias del estado para el sector agropecuario–Plan de Desarrollo 1975,” in Boletin Informativo de ANUC. No. 13, (1975) pp. 1-4.  return to text
  96. Rivera, op. cit., pp. 129, 155-6. Fals Borda’s fight with segments of the Colombian left that forced him to halt La Rosca’s work with ANUC-Sincelejo also extended to his collaboration with the leftist magazine Alternativa, which he had founded along with Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Enrique Santos Calderon in 1974. In October 1975 Fals broke with Garcia Marquez and Santos Calderon and helped create a new magazine called Alternativa del Pueblo. See “Carta al Lector: Una Informacion necesaria,”Alternativa, No. 18 (Oct. 14a27, 1974) p. 1; “La crisis en Alternativa,” Alternativa del Pueblo, No. 19 (Oct. 24 a Nov. 16, 1974) pp. 2-5.  return to text
  97. “Sincelejo se tomo a Bogota,” Alternativa, No. 16 (Sept. 16 a 29, 1974) p.6.  return to text
  98. Bagley, op. cit., pp. 227-257.  return to text
  99. “Ley de Aparceria; Ley del Embudo,” Carta Campesina, No. 29 (Febrero de 1975) pp. 1,8.  return to text
  100. Moncayo, “La Iey…,” pp. 43-46; Gomez, op. cit., pp. 47-63; Alejandro Reyes Posada, Aparceria y capitalismo agrario (Bogota: CINEP, Controversia No. 38, 1975) p. 67.  return to text
  101. El Tiempo, Junio 17, 1976, p. 4A.  return to text
  102. Ernesto Parra Escobar and Bruce Cantor, El Plan de Desarrollo Lopez, (Bogota: CINEP, Controversia No. 39, 1975) p. 83. The DRI was sponsored by the World Bank (IBRD) as part of a program directed toward institutional stabilization and agricultural modernization. Total financing for DRI was initially set at 12 billion pesos of which haIf was to come from three international agencies: World Bank ($US 52 million), IDB ($US 66 million) and CIDA ($US 13.5 million). See Departamento Nacional de Planeacion, Para Cerrar La Brecha, Plan de Desarrollo Social, Economico y Regional (Bogota: DNP, 1975) p. 38.  return to text
  103. Parra Escobar and Bruce Cantor, op. cit., p. 50. DRI was initially designed to provide services to some 80,000 peasant families over a four year period. The program’s future beneficiaries could own up 20 hectares and possess up to 500,000 pesos. Since in 1970, 73.1 percent of the existing farms in the country were less than 10 hectares, it is clear that the limits established by the DRI permitted the participation of middle and rich peasants as well as poor and landless peasants.  return to text
  104. “Intensificar la lucha por Ia tierra,” Alternativa, No. 50 (Sept. 8 a 15, 1975) p. 13.  return to text
  105. “El debate campesino: Hacia donde va la ANUC,” Alternativa No. 51 (Sept. l4 a 21, l975) p. 16.  return to text
  106. “Intensificar Ia lucha por Ia tierra,” Alternativa, No. 50 (Sept. 8 a 15, 1975) p. 13; “Editorial: An un ano del Tercer Congreso de ANUC,” Patria Roja, No. 1 (Septiembre 1975) pp. 1-6.  return to text
  107. Zamosc, Los usuarios…, op. cit., pp. 117-130; The World Bank, Colombia: Economic Development Policy Under Changing Conditions (Washington D.C.: The World Bank, 1984) pp. 29-39, 101-117.  return to text
  108. Miguel Urrutia, Winners and Losers (London: Cambridge University Press, 1985); The World Bank, op cit., pp. 29-39; 76-84; 10 1-1 17.  return to text
  109. Gabriel Murillo, La migracion de trabajadores colombianos a Venezuela (Bogota: Ministerio de Trabajo y Seguridad Social, 1975) p. 95.  return to text
  110. River, op cit., pp. 154-170; ANUC (Linea Armenia) Tercer Congreso Nacional Campesino Santa Marta, Febrero 13- I7de 1977 (Bogota: ANUC (Linea Armenia), 1977).  return to text
  111. Patria Roja, op. cit., pp. 4-6.  return to text
  112. According to a preliminary evaluation undertaken by the FAO and the IBRD in 1975, DRI was well received by the peasantry. “An experiment carried out in Caqueta demonstrated to this mission that in the initial stage 32 percent of the peasantry was receptive to the credits and other services offered by the State … On the other hand, the whole peasantry participated in the organizations that were created (cooperatives, clubs, friendship groups, communal boards, and so forth) and became disinterested in ANUC.” Victor Felix Pastrana et al., “Nuevas estrategias del estado para el sector agropecuario–Plan de Desarrollo 1975,” Boletin Informativo de ANUC. No. 13 (1975) p. 3.
    Both PAN and DRI were conceived as part of the over-all strategy of agricultural modernization programs advanced by the Lopez Michelsen government as Para Cerrar la Brecha. The formal objectives of PAN were laid out by the Departamento Nacional de Planeacion (DNP) in “Plan de Alimentacion y Nutricion,” Revista de Planeacion y Desarrollo, Vol. VI, No. 2 (Abril-Sep. 1974) pp. 9-38. Those of DRI were presented in “Programa de Desarrollo Rural Integrado: Esquema preliminar,” inIbid., pp. 39-50. “Colombians generally admit that DRI has helped reduce tension in the countryside, with an assist from the government’s policy of repressing rural dissent.” T. Sanders, “Food Policy Decision-making in Colombia,” AUFS Reports, No. 50 (South America 1980) p. 20. For a critical Marxist analysis of DRI see V.M. Moncavo and Fernando Rojas H., Produccion campesina y capitalismo: Significacion del Programa de Desarrollo Rural Integrado-DRI (Bogota: CINEP, 1979); alsoCIDOS, PAN y DRI: Nueva forma de agresion imperiatista (Bogota: Centro de Investigacion y Documentation Social, 1979).  return to text
  113. Comite Permanente por Ia Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, ed., Represion y tortura en Colombia: Informes internacionales y testimonies nacionales (Bogota: Fondo Editorial Suramerica, 1980).  return to text
  114. Zamosc, Los usuarios…, pp. 179-211; Rivera, op. cit., 154-182. For chronology of the reunification of ANUC-Sincelejo and ANUC Armenia during 1980-8 1, see Christina Escobar, Trayectoria de la ANUC (CINEP, Colombia 1982).  return to text
  115. ANUC, Conclusiones del Tercer Congreso, Agosto-Septiembre 1974 (Bogota: Editora Viento de Pueblo, 1974) pp. 3 1-32.  return to text
  116. Bagley and Botero, op. cit., pp. 8 1-82.  return to text
  117. Ibid., 82.  return to text
  118. “Los Falsos revolucionarios,” Carta Campesina, No. 28 (Nov. 1974) p. 5.  return to text
  119. ANUC’s acerbic comments on the PCC are found in “Los Falsos…,” op cit., p. 5; the PCC criticized ANUC bitterly in Voz Proletaria, Septiembre 1974.  return to text
  120. “ANUC: Nueva Etapa,” El Manifesto, No. 44 (Julio 25, 1977) p. 23.  return to text
  121. Lujs Hernan Sabogal, “Problemas de Ia organizacion campesina,” Documentos Politicos, Revista del Partido Comunsta de Colombia (PCC), No. 120 (Julio-Agosto 1976) p. 100.  return to text
  122. “Encuentro sindical clasista,” Carta Campesina, No. 34 (Junio de 1976) p. 11.  return to text
  123. Sabogal, op. cit., pp. 98-99.  return to text
  124. Evelio Suarez, “En torno a nuestra alianza obrero-campesina,” Documentos Politicos, No. 123 (Enero-Febrero) pp. 8-24.  return to text
  125. Bagley and Botero, op. cit., pp. 78-79.  return to text
  126. Victor Felix Pastrana, “En que no creemos ya? (Una repuesta a la ‘Comision Politica Impulsadora’ y quienes La representan en La direccion de La ANUC)” (Florencia, Caqueta: ANUC, 1975, mimeographed) p. 1-2.  return to text
  127. Zamosc, “Peasant Struggles…,” op. cit., p.20; Rivera, op. cit., pp. 146-7.  return to text
  128. “Editorial: An un ano del Tercer Congreso de ANUC,” Patria Roja, No. 1 (Septiembre, 1975) pp. 1-6.  return to text
  129. “XIV Junta Nacional: Por un congreso unitario,” Carta Campesina, No. 34 (Junio de 1974) p. 7.  return to text
  130. Orlando Fals Borda, “Sentido politico del movimiento campesino en Colombia,” Estudios Rurales Latinoamericanos, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Mayo-Agosto 1970) pp. 175-6.  return to text
  131. Zamosc, “Peasant Struggles…,” op. cit., pp. 22-24; Zamosc, Los usuarios…, op. cit., pp. 130-139.  return to text
  132. Alonso Cordona,” ANUC: Organizacion gremial o partido politico,” El Manifiesto, No. 33 (Febreo 17 – Marzo 2, 1977) p. 31.  return to text
  133. Zamosc, Los usuarios…, pp. 19 1-192.  return to text
  134. Ibid., pp. 192-193.  return to text
  135. Rivera, op. cit., pp. 166-170.  return to text
  136. The reasons for the political weakness of the Colombian labor movement are analyzed by Miguel Urrutia, Historia del sindicalismo en Colombia (Bogota: Tercer Mundo, 1969) pp. 189-225; Daniel Pecaut, Politica y Sindicalismo en Colombia (Bogota: La Carreta, 1973) pp. 177-276; Victor Manuel Moncayo and Fernando Rojas, Luchas Obreras y Political Laboral en Colombia (Bogota: La Carreta, 1978) pp. 174-229.  return to text
  137. Robert Dix, Colombia…, op. cit., pp. 203-230; Gary Hoskin, “The Colombian Political Party System: The 1982 Reaffirmation and Reorientation.” A paper prepared for delivery at the XI International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association, Mexico City, September 29-October 1, 1983, p. 52.  return to text
  138. Fernan Gonzalez G., Clientelismo y administracion publica (Bogota: CINEP, 1980); Francisco Leal Buitrago, Estado y politica en Colombia (Bogota: Siglo XXI, 1984); Eduardo Diaz Uribe, El Cliente lismo en Colombia: Un estudio exploratorio (Bogota: El Ancora Editores 1986).  return to text
  139. Comite de Solidaridad con Los Presos Politicos, ed., Libro Negro de la Represion: Frente Nacional 1958-1974 (Bogota: Editorial Graficas Mundo Nuevo, 1974).  return to text
  140. There is no authoritative estimate of precisely how many radicalized peasants remained at the end of the 1970s. The invoking of the 1978 National Security Statute drove many activists underground. Nevertheless, several local ANUC-Sincelejo groups continued to operate in various regions of the country (e.g., ANUC del Magdalena Medio) despite persecution. The Consejo Regional Indigena del Cauca (CRIC), a former ANUC affiliate made up of Paez and Guamibiano Indians in the Department of Cauca, also remained active. Zamosc, Los usuarios…, op. cit., pp. 240-243. There were also efforts to reorganize and revitalize the peasant movement in the early 1980s. See for example, Coletivo Nacional y Comite de Impulso del Movimiento Popular, ed., Por el poder popular (Bogota: Fundacion para ci Desarrollo de Ia Democracia “Antonia Garcia” y el Comite de Impulso del Movimiento Popular. 1983, p. 64.  return to text
  141. Zarnosc, Los usuarios…, op. cit., pp. 112-116.  return to text
  142. See, for example, Theodore MacDonald “From Coca to Cocaine: The Political and Economic Implications for Tribal Amazonian Indians,” in D. Pacini and C. Granquemont, eds., Coca and Cocaine: Effects on People and PoIicy in Latin America (Cambridge, MA: Cultural Survival and Latin American Studies Program, Cornell University, 1986) pp. 145-147.  return to text
  143. In January 1983 the Betancur government indicted 59 active and retired military personnel for suspected linkages to the Death to Kidnappers (Muerte a Secuestradores – MAS). The MAS had reputedly been formed a few years earlier in response to a guerrilla kidnapping of a drug lord’s daughter. Drug traffickers allegedly financed the MAS and recruited sympathetic military officers to carry out reprisals against guerrillas and left-wing activists. The 59 indictments were subsequently turned over to military courts when the military protested that civilian courts had no jurisdiction over military personnel. These cases have never been brought to trial.  return to text
  144. There has been no systematic study of the forcible displacement of traditional subsistence peasants by drug mafias in marijuana or coca growing areas of Colombia, but extensive personal interviewing in several regions of the country during 1983 and 1984 led to the conclusion that violence and intimidation were commonly used to force peasants to convert to marijuana production or to drive them off the land altogether. The 1984 decision by the Betancur government to begin extensive spraying of marijuana fields with the herbicide gylsophate also appears to have had a negative impact on subsistence agriculture in many peasant communities.  return to text
  145. The FARC, for example, has long been involved in this kind of self-defense organization. It is also true that the guerrillas often resorted to violence to extort loyalty and support from local peasant populations in their zones of activity. For an insight into the organizational tactics employed by the FARC in the Belen de Bajira, Uraba, region of northwestern Colombia, see Jan Van der Puttin, “La guerrilla en Colombia; Cuarenta anos de lucha,” LaJornada, 2 deJulio de 1986, pp. 15-18 (Mexico).  return to text
  146. This both is a difficult and delicate point. It is difficult because it is impossible to know how many of ANUC’s activists took up armed rebellion in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It is delicate because such unsubstantiated accusations were used by tile military to justify the systematic harassment and persecution of ANUC throughout the 1970s.   return to text
  147. On the origins of FARC, see Richard Gott, Guerrilla movements in Latin America (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Co., Inc., 1972) pp. 223-256; Arturo Alape,La Paz, La Violencia: Testigos de Excepcion(Bogota: Planeta, 1985, pp. 179-278); and Carlos Arango, FARC viente anos: De Marquetalia a Ia Uribe (Bogota: Ediciones Aurora 1984) p. 263. There were also several small guerrilla organizations formed in Colombia in the early 1960s inspired by the Cuban foco theory of guerrilla warfare. Among these were the Movimiento Obrero-Estudiantil-Campesino-7 de enero (MOEC), the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion (FAL) and the Ejercito Revolucionario de Colombia (ERC). However, all proved to be short-lived, either dissolved because of internal disputes or crushed by military campaigns against them.  return to text
  148. On the ELN see Gott, op. cit., pp. 257-267; also Michael S. Radu, Insurgent and Terrorist Croups in Latin America (Washington: Defense Intelligence Agency, The Pentagon, September 20, 1984) pp. 218-228.  return to text
  149. On the EPL see Gott, op. cit., 301-306; Radu, op. cit., pp. 240-248.  return to text
  150. Gott, op. cit., 223-306; Fernando Landazabal Reyes, Factores de Ia Violencia (Bogota: Ediciones Tercer Mundo, 1975) p. 134.  return to text
  151. Personal Interviews, Bogota, Colombia, July 1985.  return to text
  152. On Colombia’s paros civicos see Oscar Delgado, compilador, El paro popular del 14 de septiembre de 1977 (Bogota: Editorial Latina, no date) p. 217; Arturo Alape, Un dia de septiembre: Testimonias del paro civico, 1977 (Bogota: Editorial La Oveja Negra, 1981) p. 206; Pedro Santana, et. al.El paro civico 1981 (Bogota: CINEP, Controversia 101, 1982) p. 136; Pedro Santana, Desarrollo regional y paros civicos en Colombia (Bogota: CINEP, Controversia No. 107-108, 1983) p. 207; Jaime Giraldo, Paros y movimientos civicos en Colombia (Bogota: CINEP, Controversia 128, 1985) pp. 5-36.  return to text
  153. On the Colombian labor movement in the I 970s and early 1980s see Maria Teresa Herran, El sindicalismo por dentro y por fuera: CINEP and Editorial Ia Oveja Negra, 1981) 208 p.; also Alvaro Delgado, Politica y movimiento obrero 1970-83 (Bogota: Ediciones CEIS, 1984) p. 282.  return to text
  154. On the origins of the M-19 see Ulises Casa, Origen y Desarrollo del Movimiento Revolucionario Colombiano: Un Analisis Critico de los Diversos Movimientos u Organizaciones Denominadas Revolucionarias (Bogota: No Publisher, 1980) p. 189; also Patricia Lara, Siembra vientos y recogeras tempestades (Bogota: Editorial Punto de Partida, 1982) p. 189; Radu, op. cit., pp. 261-263.  return to text
  155. See, for example, Fernando Landazabal Reyes, Conflicto Social (Medellin: Editorial Beta, 1982) pp. 448-507.  return to text
  156. Radu, op. cit., pp. 261-2; Lara, op. cit., pp. 99-178.  return to text
  157. Kidnapping is used by Colombian revolutionaries to capture the political limelight and to collect ransom. But many kidnappings are perpetrated by criminal gangs purely for profit with no ideological overtones whatsoever. It is often difficult to know who is responsible because criminals disguise themselves as guerrillas to throw the police off their trail.  return to text
  158. See Oscar Delgado, El paro…, op. cit.; and Alape, Un dia…, op. cit return to text
  159. 0n the nature of the regime crisis see Fernando Rojas H., Colombia 1977; La crisis del regimen (Bogota: CINEP, Controversia No. 54, 1977 p. 102; Francisco Leal Buitrago, Estado y politica en Colombia (Bogota: Siglo Veintiuno de Colombia and CEREC, 1984) pp. 136-170.  return to text
  160. For analyses of the 1978 presidential contest see, Gary Hoskin, “Post-National Front Trends in the Colombian Political Party System: More of the Same?” (A paper prepared for the Annual Meeting of the Latin American Studies Association, Pittsburgh, April 5-7, 1979).  return to text
  161. 0n the National Security Statute see Alfredo Vasquez Carrizosa, “El Estatuto de Seguridad y el modelo de fascismo dependiente,” in Comite Permanente por Ia Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, ed. op. cit., pp. 9-28. Amnistia Internacional, Informe de una mision de Amnistia internacional a Ia Republica de Colombia (Londres: Amnestia Internacional, 1980, pp. 33-37; on the military’s expanded powers to govern in place of civilian authorities in extensive areas of the country see Americas Watch, Human Rights in the Two Colombias: Functioning Democracy, Militarized Society (Washington, D.C.: Americas Watch, 1982) p. 3.  return to text
  162. Fernando Rojas H., El Estado en los ochenta: un regimen policivo (Bogota: CINEP, Controversia No. 82-83, 1980) pp. 79-142; Gustavo Gallon Geraldo, La republica de las armas (Bogota: CINEP, Controversia 109-110, 1983) pp. 61-106; Gonzalo Bermudez Rossi, El poder militar en Colombia (Bogota: Editorial Expresion, 1982) pp. 210-214.  return to text
  163. Leal Buitrago, op. cit., pp. 267-268.  return to text
  164. Ibid., p. 168 Amnistia Internacional, op. cit., pp. 9-33.  return to text
  165. Leal Buitrago, op. cit.; pp. 266-67; Amnistia Internacional, op. cit., pp. 117-124.  return to text
  166. On the growing reliance of the military on torture tactics see Leal Buitrago, op. cit., pp. 266-7, ff. 79. Rossi, op. cit., 255-60, 284-286; on the effects of official and extra official violence on the peasant movement, see Zamosc, Los usuarios…, op. cit. pp. 179-211; Rivera, op. cit.; Amnistia Internacional, op. cit., pp. 37-95.  return to text
  167. Gallon Giraldo, op. cit., pp. 100-106; Alejandro Angulo, et al.La pendiente antidemocratica (Bogota: CINEP, Controversia No. 90, 1980) pp. 9-94.  return to text
  168. El Espectador, Feb. 8, 1981, p. 3D. For a general description of the El Pato campaign see Alfredo Molano and Alejandro Reyes, Los Bombardeos en el Pato (Bogota: CINEP, 1980). Estimates of the numbers of troops involved in the anti-guerrilla campaign in the Caqueta and Putumayo range as high as 20,000, almost one third of the entire Colombian Army.  return to text
  169. For general background on FARC-controlled regions, see German Guzman, La Violencia en Colombia: Parte Descriptiva (Cali: Ediciones Progeso, 1968) pp. 417-50. For guerrilla views of these “peasant self-defense zones” see Jacobo Arenas, Diario de la Resistencia de Marquetalia (Bogota: Ediciones Abejon Mono, 1972); Manuel Marulanda V., Cuadernos de campana (Bogota: Ediciones Abejon Mono, 1973); and Arturo Alape, Diario de un Guerrillero (Bogota: Ediciones Abejon Mono, 1973).
    On the military’s inability to wipe out the FARC and other guerrilla organizations see Leal Buitrago, op. cit., pp. 269-275; Carlos Arango Z., FARC viente anos: De Marquetalia a Ia Uribe (Bogota: Ediciones Aurora, 1984) p. 263.  return to text
  170. Radu, op. cit., pp. 249-260; Olga Bejar, Las Guerras de Ia Paz (Bogota: Editorial Planeta, 1985) pp. 87-94.  return to text
  171. On the persecution, torture and assassination of CRIC leaders see Amnesty International, op. cit., pp. 37-51. While the seeds of the Quintin Lame group lie in the 1978-79 period, the group was basically dormant until 1984.  return to text
  172. If ORP ever actually engaged in guerrilla activities, a point very much in doubt, the group was never very active or numerous and was soon absorbed into other guerrilla organizations.  return to text
  173. On tile M-19s tactical decision to establish operations in the countryside in 1981 see Eduardo Pizarro, “La guerrilla revolucionaria en Colombia” in Gonzala Sanchez and Ricardo Penaranda, compiladores, Pasado y Presente de Ia Violencia en Colombia (Bogota: Fondo Editorial CEREC, 1986) pp. 404-406. The March 1981 M-19 operation in southern Colombia received support from Cuba. The Turbay Administration charged the Castro regime with complicity and suspended diplomatic relations with Cuba in late March 1981. The Cubans denied that they had armed the M-19 column or that they were in any way involved in planning or implementing the operation, but admitted that they had provided training to members of the M-19 in Cuba. According to the testimony of an 18-year-old M-19 guerrilla who was wounded and captured during the fighting on the Colombian-Ecuadorian border, about one hundred M-19 members had been “adiestrados” by Cubans in guerrilla tactics for about three months in Cuba during late 1980 and early 1981. El Tiempo, March 22, 1981, pp. 1A and 6A.  return to text
  174. Pizarro, op. cit., pp. 406-410.  return to text
  175. Amnesties are not new to Colombia. Rojas Pinilla offered one to the guerrillas in 1953 which was never accepted by the Communist-oriented bands that ultimately coalesced into the FARC. Others were offered by the Interim Military Junta of 1957-58 and by various Frente governments. The Turbay initiative, finally approved by the Congress, was one of several proposals put forward in 1980. The others were advanced by Congress, by the Comite Permanente por Ia Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, by the guerrillas themselves. For a history of recent amnesties in Colombia see Alfredo Molano, Amnistia y Violencia (Bogota: CINEP, Controversia No. 86-87, 1980) 175 p.  return to text
  176. El Tiempo, Nov. 16, 1980, pp. 1A and 8A. Over 1980, Jaime Bateman Cavon of the M-19 showed some interest, declaring his intention to run for the presidency if a full amnesty was granted by the Turbay government. One of the reasons for the collapse of the Turbay initiative seems to have been that it covered only guerrillas still in the field and not those who had already been captured or jailed. Another, expressed by Bateman, was that it did not include sufficient “guarantees” for the guerrilla forces.  return to text
  177. Marc Chernick, “The Peace Process in Colombia” (Bogota: Unpublished paper, Universidad de los Andes, Depto. de Cierwia Politica, 1985) pp. 8-21.  return to text
  178. lbid, pp. 22-23, 48-65; Americas Watch, op. cit., pp. 88-100.  return to text
  179. See Manuel Jose Cepeda Espinosa, ed., Estado de Sitio y Emergencia Economica (Bogota: Contraloria de Ia Republica, 1985) pp. 13-71.  return to text
  180. For the Betancur government’s economic and social programs see Eduardo Lora, La politica economica y social del gobierno de Belisario Betancur (Cali: Corporacion Editorial Universitaria de Colombia, 1983) p. 114.  return to text
  181. Americas Watch, op. cit., pp. 30-4.  return to text
  182. For the text of the decree creating the Peace Commission, see Enrique Santos Calderon, La guerra por la paz (Bogota: Fondo Editorial CEREC, 1985) pp. 286-288.  return to text
  183. Americas Watch, op. cit., p. 26.  return to text
  184. Ibid., p. 28.  return to text
  185. See Ricardo Santamaria S. and Gabriel Silva Lujan, Proceso Politico en Colombia: Del Frente Nacional a la Apertura Democratica (Bogota: Fondo Editorial CEREC, 1984) pp. 67-176; Cristina de Ia Torre, ed., Reformas Politicas: Apertura Democractica (Bogota: Editorial Nikos and Editorial Ia Oveja Negra Ltda., 1985) p. 183.  return to text
  186. Americas Watch, op. cit., 34-37, 41-48.  return to text
  187. Personal Interviews, July 1985, Bogota, Colombia.  return to text
  188. Americas Watch, op. cit., pp. 77-84.  return to text
  189. lbid., pp. 81-83; El Tiempo Sept. 2, 1985, 1A, 10A.  return to text
  190. For the texts of these accords see Enrique Santos, op. cit., pp. 292-309.  return to text
  191. Ibid., pp. 313-318.  return to text
  192. Chernick, op. cit., pp. 48-54.  return to text
  193. Americas Watch, op. cit., pp. 88-93.  return to text
  194. From a job approval rating of more than 80 percent in his first two years in office, by mid-1985 his rating had plummeted to below 19 percent. See Latin American Regional Report: Andean Group, July 26, 1985, p. 8.  return to text
  195. Chernick, op. cit., pp. 55-61.  return to text
  196. Ibid., pp. 48-74; Americas Watch, op. cit., pp. 101-140.  return to text
  197. Chernick, op. cit., pp. 67-72.  return to text
  198. Americas Watch, op. cit., pp. 114-117.  return to text
  199. Chernick, op. cit., pp. 66-74, Santos, op. cit., 257-266.  return to text
  200. El Tiempo, July 10, 1985, p. 11A.  return to text
  201. Chernick, op. cit. pp 67-74; Enrique Santos, op. cit., pp257-262.  return to text
  202. Chernick, op. cit., pp. 86-87; Americas Watch, op. cit., pp. 55-56.  return to text
  203. Chernick, op. cit., pp. 75-76. During the palace seizure, the M-19 delivered a communique to the press explaining their motives. It was subsequently published under the title “El Movimiento 19 de Abril, M-19, enjucia al gohierno de Belisario Betancur en operacion Antonia Narino por los Derechos del Hombre,” Semana, Noviembre 12-18, 1985.  return to text
  204. Some observers labeled the military’s reaction as a “24 hour coup” because the military undertook its counter-assault on the Palace without direct orders from President Betancur. Justice Minister Jaime Castro confirmed the military’s autonomous action in his comments to the Forum on “Procesos de Reconciliacion Nacional en America Latina,” organized in Bogota by the Instituto de Estudios Liberales and the Fundacion Friedrich Nauman on December 7, 1985. See Chernick, op. cit., p. 100, ff. 98a; also “Juicio en rio revuelto,” Sernana, Noviembre 19-25 de 1985, pp. 22-21.  return to text
  205. For the results of the March election see “Las elecciones parliamentarias por dentro,” Estrategia, No. 989 (Abril de 1986) pp. 32-33. In August and September 1986 several Union Patriotrica members elected to Congress in the 1986 elections were assassinated by right-wing death squads, further jeopardizing FARC.  return to text
  206. Amnesty International, USA, “Amnesty International Reports Killings, Torture in Colombia” (New York: Amnesty News Release, July 17, 1986).  return to text
  207. See Colombian Newsletter, No. 4 (April 23, 1986) p. 1.  return to text
  208. Estrategia, op. cit., pp. 17-19.  return to text
  209. Barco’s winning margin of 1.6 million votes (58 percent) is the biggest landslide victory in Colombia’s modern political history. See Bradley Graham, “Colombia, in Record Win Vows a ‘More Just Society’,” The Washington Post, May 27, 1986, pp. Al, A16.  return to text