Gaitan held the positions of Education Minister, Labor Minister, and mayor of Bogota before becoming leader of Colombia’s Liberal Party and running for the presidency. The charismatic orator had a significant lead in election polls when he was killed in Bogota on April 9, 1948.
His assassination was followed by a wave of riots in the capital city, known as “El Bogotazo,” and a period of brutal civil conflict referred to as “La Violencia.”
La Violencia resulted in up to 300,000 deaths, as rival Conservative and Liberal factions fought a decade-long war until 1958.
Many experts credit La Violencia as the starting point of Colombia’s current civil conflict between left wing guerrilla groups and the Colombian government.
Colombia’s largest guerrilla group, the FARC, was formed by veterans of the conflict such as Manuel Marulanda Velez in 1964.