Armando los espiritus: Political Rhetoric in Colombia on the Eve of La Violencia, 1930-1945
Williford, Thomas J.
In Colombia in the 1930s and 40s, both Liberal and Conservative politicians increasingly made claims about the opposition that contributed to the creation of a discursive framework for the perpetrators of eliminationist political violence during La Violencia (1946-1964), a period when militants in both parties committed brutal assassinations and massacres against defenseless civilians, leaving nearly 200,000 dead. As in other cases of eliminationist political violence in the twentieth century, the rhetoric on the eve of La Violencia relied on conspiracy theories that attached perceived domestic enemies to international cabals bent on destroying la patria. Liberals were depicted as being part of an worldwide Judeo-Masonic plot against Christianity, while Conservatives were presented as soldiers in a Nazi-Falangist conspiracy against democracy and progress. Many party members believed these conspiracy theories because they were grafted onto a pre-existing nationalistic tropes concerning the two parties, dating from the nineteenth century, and because the politicians had “professionalized,” presenting themselves as experts deserving respect because of their specialized knowledge based on advanced study, travel abroad, and the proper use of Spanish.