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The history of communism in Colombia goes back as far as the 1920s and has its roots in the idealism of the Russian October Revolution. Today guerrilla groups, self-proclaimed communists, state that they want to seize state power in Colombia by violent means, and organizations such as the National Liberation Army (ELN) continue their four decades old war with the United States-backed Colombian government.

Many social science experts around the world who have studied historical events in Colombia note the influence and intervention, as in many other South American countries, of the United States and of the Soviet Union, to stop or enhance, given the case, communism in Colombia. Some important figures in the history of communism in Colombia are Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, Jaime Pardo Leal, Carlos Pizarro Leongómez, Bernardo Jaramillo Ossa, and Jaime Bateman Cayón, among others. Many of these figures were persecuted or eventually assassinated. According to critics, evidence of the involvement of members of the Colombian Army and of United States organizations like the Central Intelligence Agency was present in many cases.


Historical backgroundEdit

In July 1925 the Colombian government expelled Silvestre Savitski for teaching and spreading the doctrine of communism in Colombia. There were several bombs found in February 1928,[by whom?] and communists were blamed for plotting to blow up various private and public buildings on May 1, 1928 which is celebrated as Labor Day. Several communist leaders were blamed for the plot, such as Tomás Uribe Márquez who visited Russia 18 months before the incident. Other popular communists who were arrested for involvement in the plot were María Cano and Ignacio Torres Giraldo. After this incident the press[which?] released news about similar incidents happening throughout the country. This was the starting point in Colombian history of awareness of communists and their activities.

The Banana Workers Massacre (1928-29)Edit

The United Fruit Company (UFCO) was a politically powerful[how?] multinational company that exported fruit such as bananas and pineapples mainly from Latin American banana-growing countries to the United States and Europe. UFCO workers on banana plantations in Colombia organized a labor strike in December 1928. The national labor union leaders Raúl Eduardo Mahecha and Maria Cano who traveled to the plantations to organize the strikes demanded that the workers be given written work contracts, that they be obligated to work no more than eight hours per day and six days per week, and that the company stop the use of “food coupons”, or scrip.

The union leaders were protesting at Santa Marta, the capital of the Magdalena department in the north of the country.

After U.S. officials in Colombia, along with United Fruit representatives, portrayed the worker's strike as "communist" with "subversive tendency", in telegrams to the U.S. Secretary of State,[1] the government of the United States of America threatened to invade with the U.S. Marine Corps if the Colombian government did not act to protect United Fruit’s interests.

The ruling Conservative government's President Miguel Abadia Mendez sent troops led by General Carlos Cortés Vargas to capture the strike leaders, send them to prison at Cartagena, and send additional troops to protect the economic interests of the United Fruit Company. Many United States citizens[quantify] working for the United Fruit Company lived in the area around Santa Marta, and U.S. warships carrying troops were on the way to Colombia to protect U.S. citizens and property. The Colombian army also opened fire on people who gathered at the main plaza of the city of Ciénaga to support the strikers.

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

The Liberal Revolution (1930-45)Edit

Liberals came into power in 1930 under the leadership of Enrique Olaya Herrera and the presidency of Alfonso López Pumarejo (1934–38). The people's uprising began after the UFCO banana workers massacre eventually brought the Liberals into power. The Colombian Communists also supported the Liberals and the social and economic issues brought up by their government.

There were many social reforms that happened in their ruling period of 15 years, causing some to call it the “Revolution on the March”. The 1936 constitutional amendments gave the government to influence the privately owned economic interests. The rights of the labor were established such as 8 hours per day, 6 days per week and the pre-informed work strike. The Liberal government influenced by the Communists thought the people's education is the most significant factor when taken into the consideration on every angle, and they taken it into the government control from the influence of the Catholic Church.

The petroleum industry is the wealth of the Colombians, they have right to get the benefit, and they decided to take the industry into government control - also the Colombian people were given first preference as workers in the industry.[tone] Low cost housing projects were launched for low income laborers. Inter-departmental customs barriers were put into the trading. The other important economic factor was land reform. The government took excess land from private landowners and distributed it among poor peasants which increased the economic level of them and also increased production in the agricultural sector.[vague][POV? ]

The social revolution of the Communist-influenced Liberals in Colombia lasted only about 15 years. The second term of President Alfonso López Pumarejo (1942–46) did not complete due to political pressure against him from various forces which forced him to resign. Then in 1946 the Conservatives came to power when the popular[attribution needed] Jorge Eliécer Gaitán failed in his bid to become the Liberal Party candidate, and ran instead as an independent, thereby splitting the Liberal vote and giving the victory to Conservative candidate Mariano Ospina Perez (Mariano Ospina Perez 565,939 votes, Gabriel Turbay 441,199 votes, Jorge Eliécer Gaitán 358,957 votes).

El Bogotazo (1948)Edit

After taking state power from Liberals in 1946, the Conservatives began to overturn Liberal reforms. The popular Colombian Liberal Party leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán led the National Left-wing Revolutionary Union or UNIR (Unión de Izquierda Revolucionaria), and they organized protest movements against the Conservative policies which started tension between the two parties.

Gaitan was shot and killed about 1:15 p.m. on April 9, 1948 near the corner of Carrera Séptima and Jimenez de Quesada in Central Bogotá during the 9th Pan-American Conference.

After the death of Gaitán, riots erupted in Bogotá. The angry mob killed his murderer Juan Roa Sierra and dragged his body in the streets to the front of the presidential palace where they hanged it publicly. The rioters took control of all national radio stations in the city of Bogotá, and announcements were delivered against the Conservative government of Mariano Ospina Pérez. Bridges were blown up, and this caused a lack of food in the city. The airfields at Honda, Cartago, Barrancabermeja and Turbo were also taken by the people. The rioters' slogan was Yankee imperialism wants to convert us into military and economic colonies, and we must fight in defense of Colombian society.[citation needed]

Republic of SumapazEdit

A squatters' colony of some 6,000 landless emerged in parts of Cundinamarca, Tolima, Huila, Caquetá, and Meta departments, areas of rural conflict. In the late 1940s, the so-called Republic of Sumapaz was created by Communists, and was the target of military campaigns between 1948 and 1965. The Sumapaz Republic was ended in 1958.[2][3]

Notable Colombian communistsEdit

Communist organizations of ColombiaEdit

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit


  1. ^
  2. ^ J. León Helguera, "Republic of Sumapaz" in Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture, vol. 5, p. 188. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons 1996.
  3. ^ Elsy Marulanda, Colonización y conflicto: Las lecciones del Sumapaz (1991).
  • Dance of the Millions: Military Rule and the Social Revolution in Colombia : 1930-1956, Vernon L. Fluharty, ISBN 0-8371-8368-5, 1975
  • Blood and Fire: La Violencia in Antioquia, Colombia, 1946-1953, Mary Roldan, Duke University Press, ISBN 0-8223-2918-2, 2002
  • Diario de la resistencia de Marquetalia, Jacobo Arenas, Ediciones Abejón Mono, 1972
  • Killing Peace: Colombia's Conflict and the Failure of U.S. Intervention, Garry M. Leech, Information Network of the Americas (INOTA), ISBN 0-9720384-0-X, 2002
  • War in Colombia: Made in U.S.A., edited by Rebeca Toledo, Teresa Gutierrez, Sara Flounders and Andy McInerney, ISBN 0-9656916-9-1, 2003