Anticolonial and Anticommunist Resolutions at the Ninth Pan American Conference

Friday, January 8, 2016: 10:50 AM
International Ballroom B (Atlanta Marriott Marquis)
Marc Becker, Truman State University
Title: Anti-Colonial and Anti-Communist Resolutions at the Ninth Pan American Conference

Abstract: The Ninth Pan American Conference held in Bogotá, Colombia in April 1948 is best known for providing the context for the assassination of liberal leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitán that led to the massive riots known as the bogotazo. The Pan American Conference was also a venue for intense debates over anti-communist and anti-colonial resolutions. The resolutions were not entirely removed from the politics surrounding Gaitán’s assassination. Despite little evidence, most governments and press outlets in the Americas immediately blamed the communists for Gaitán’s death, which provided increased impetuous to approve the anti-communist resolution. Even though the United States State Department was behind the resolution, they pressed Chile to bring it to the plenary. Leftist activists ferociously opposed the resolution as an example of the imperialist nature of Pan American ideologies, driven by the not-so-hidden hand of the United States. The United States government, on the other hand, opposed a parallel anti-colonial resolution even as most Latin American countries supported it as consistent with the democratic ideology emerging out of the recently concluded Second World War. Leftist activists also embraced the anti-colonial resolution as a mechanism to champion the rights of marginalized and oppressed populations. These twin resolutions provide convenient windows through which to analyze competing concepts of Pan Americanism that served as a mechanism for outside imperial domination as well as at the same time liberation through international unity.