Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, El Bogotazo, and the Development of the Organization of American States, 1946–48

Sunday, January 7, 2018: 12:00 PM
Maryland Suite B (Marriott Wardman Park)
Stefano Tijerina, University of Maine
The early stages of the Cold War impacted the dynamics of the Western Hemisphere, as the agendas of sovereignty, economic development and the role of Europe in the Americas juxtaposed the free market and anti-Communist agendas spearhead by the United States. This conflict of interests impacted international cooperation between the U.S., Canada, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Negotiations over the future direction of the hemisphere unfolded in April 1948 at the Ninth Pan American Conference in Bogotá. The U.S. Secretary of State, George C. Marshall, arrived in Bogotá with the objective of selling his agenda under the proposed Organization of American States (OAS), but the other regional actors were centered on an economic recovery plan for the region and the end of British colonial presence in Belize. Internally, Colombia was experiencing similar ideological debates that confronted the populist movement led by Jorge Eliécer Gaitán against the bipartisan elite-driven status quo that had historically dominated politics. This paper argues, from a trans-national history perspective, that the assassination of Gaitán in April 9, 1948 served as a catalyst for the U.S. to advance its agenda and for the consolidation of political power in the hands of traditional Colombian elites. It also argues that El Bogotazo provided those who favored the U.S. agenda with an opportunity to capitalize on the unleashed violence in order to advance the anti-Communist agenda through local and international propaganda systems. Finally it argues that the unanimous vote in favor of the creation of the OAS marked the beginning of a new era for the hemisphere. Ultimately, the trans-national approach demonstrates how the U.S. hemispheric economic, political and security policies were incorporated into the national agendas of each regional actor through the creation of the OAS.
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