“They” Killed Gaitán: Conspiracy Theories and Political Violence in Colombia

Friday, January 6, 2017: 10:30 AM
Room 503 (Colorado Convention Center)
Thomas J. Williford, Southwest Minnesota State University
Conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán began to take shape moments after the Liberal Party leader was mortally wounded in downtown Bogotá on April 9, 1948.  His supporters in the Colombian capital and throughout the country blamed a plot by the ruling Conservatives for the shooting, and attacked government, ecclesiastical, and Conservative Party targets, killing hundreds of Conservatives in the ensuing riots.  By the next day the Conservative government and press, shocked by the death and devastation, accused an international communist cabal for the assassination and subsequent destruction; Conservative perpetrators used this claim to justify the massacres of Liberals in the months and years that followed.  Since then, Colombian political activists have indicted other groups for killing Gaitán, including the CIA and anti-gaitanista Liberals.  Even today, the various conspiracy theories structure political discourse in Colombia and beyond.
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