Welcome to DU! The truly grassroots left-of-center political community where regular people, not algorithms, drive the discussions and set the standards. Join the community: Create a free account Support DU (and get rid of ads!): Become a Star Member Latest Breaking News Editorials & Other Articles General Discussion The DU Lounge All Forums Issue Forums Culture Forums Alliance Forums Region Forums Support Forums Help & Search

Judi Lynn

(161,430 posts)
Thu May 12, 2022, 12:40 PM May 2022

Colombian Leftist Front-Runner Says Assassination Risk Very High

1h ago

Matthew Bristow, Bloomberg News

(Bloomberg) -- Police, bodyguards and anti-explosives experts are on high alert to prevent assassins from getting to Colombia’s most divisive presidential candidate in the final weeks before elections.

Colombia is the only major country in Latin America that’s never had a leftist leader, and polls suggest it’s about to get one in Gustavo Petro. That’s raising the campaign temperature in a country with a history of political violence.

“Many alternative presidential candidates have been assassinated, and I’m the one who’s come closest to winning, according to the polls,” Petro said in an interview en route to a rally in eastern Colombia last week. “That is to say, the risk level is very high.”

Petro, 62, may have a point in doubting his safety in a country where four presidential candidates have been murdered since the 1980s. Petro says that his status as the alternative to “traditional power in Colombia” makes him a target ahead of the May 29 first-round vote.


~ ~ ~

Before the 1980's, immediately preceding 10 years of total chaos, and the period called "La Violencia," there was the assassination of the extremely popular leftist presidential candidate, Jorge Eliécer Gaitán:


Jorge Eliécer Gaitán Ayala (January 23, 1903 – April 9, 1948) was a left-wing Colombian politician and charismatic leader of the Liberal Party. He served as the mayor of Bogotá from 1936-37, the national Education Minister from 1940-41, and the Labor Minister from 1943–44.[2] He was assassinated during his second presidential campaign in 1948, setting off the Bogotazo [3] and leading to a violent period of political unrest in Colombian history known as La Violencia (approx. 1948 to 1958).

. . .

Gaitán was active in politics in the early 1920s, when he was part of a protest movement against the president Marco Fidel Suárez. Gaitán increased his nationwide popularity following a banana workers' strike in Magdalena in 1928.
After US officials in Colombia, along with United Fruit representatives, portrayed the worker's strike as "communist" with "subversive tendency," in telegrams to the US Secretary of State,[12] the US government threatened to invade with the US Marine Corps if the Colombian government did not act to protect United Fruit's interests[citation needed]. Strikers were fired upon by the army[13] on the orders of the United Fruit Company, which resulted in numerous deaths.

Gaitán used his skills as a lawyer and as an emerging politician in order to defend workers' rights and called for accountability to those involved in the Santa Marta Massacre.[13] Public support soon shifted toward Gaitán; Gaitán's Liberal Party won the 1930 presidential election.[13]

. . .


It is widely speculated that Gaitán would likely have been elected President had he not been assassinated on April 9, 1948.[19][13] That occurred immediately prior to the armed insurrection or Bogotazo.[20][13] Gaitán was then the leading opponent of the use of violence and had determined to pursue the strategy of electing a left-wing government, and he had repudiated the violent communist revolutionary approach that was typical of the Cold War era.[21] His assassination directly led to a period of great violence between conservatives and liberals and also facilitated the rise of the existing communist guerrillas.[14] Over the next fifteen years as many as 200,000 people died from the disorder that followed his assassination.[15]

Gaitán's alleged murderer, Juan Roa Sierra, was killed by an enraged mob, and his motivations were never known.[22] Many different entities and individuals have been held responsible as the alleged plotters, including his different critics, but no definite information has ever come forward, and a number of theories persist. Among them, are versions that, sometimes conflictingly, implicate the government of Mariano Ospina Pérez, sectors of the Liberal party, the Soviet Union ,[23] the Colombian Communist Party, or the CIA.[24] According to one version, Roa Sierra acted under the orders of CIA agents John Mepples Spirito (alias Georgio Ricco) and Tomás Elliot, as part of an anti-leftist plan that was supposedly called Operation Pantomime.[citation needed] It is claimed that it would also have involved the complicity of the then Chief of Police, who would allegedly have ordered two police officers to abandon Juan Roa Sierra to be killed by the mob, a claim that conflicts with mainstream accounts of Roa Sierra's death.[25] An eyewitness to the actual events, Guillermo Perez Sarmiento, Director of the United Press in Colombia, stated that upon his arrival Roa was already "between two policemen" and describes in detail the angry mob that kicked and "tore him to pieces" and does not suggest any police involvement.[26

. . .

Other details which have interested historians and researchers include the fact that Gaitán was murdered in the middle of the 9th Pan-American Conference, which was being led by U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall, a meeting which led to a pledge by members to fight communism in the Americas, as well as the creation of the Organization of American States.


~ ~ ~

Gustavo Petro, Colombia's progressive candidate has always known how deadly life is for liberals in US-heavily supported Colombia, and how much suffering the oligarchy has inflicted from the first, and he still has the courage to try to be the person who brings the country out of the darkness, and puts the interests of the PEOPLE first. He deserves praise, not to have to live in fear for the rest of his life. He has earned real respect. He puts his life in danger every day.

Gustavo Petro

Best wishes.

Latest Discussions»Region Forums»Latin America»Colombian Leftist Front-R...