Colombia’s extreme left has long been recognized as a threat to democracy. The country’s far right, however, is at least as violent and often overlooked.
Making the distinction between democratic conservatism and fascism is difficult in Colombia. Unlike in most country’s, Colombia’s Conservative Party has traditionally opposed democracy.
Their opposition has led to multiple armed conflicts with the democratic Liberal Party until 1958.
Since “La Violencia,” the party has embraced democracy, but anti-democratic ideologies we associate with the far-right continue to be common, particularly in rural areas and in Medellin, the country’s second largest city.
The far right’s most prominent representative in contemporary politics is former President Alvaro Uribe, who is investigated by the Supreme Court for allegedly forming a death squad and on multiple occasions has opposed the rule of law.
Former President Laureano Gomez (1889-1965) could be considered the godfather of Colombia’s current generation of extremist conservatives and neo-nazis.
Gomez radicalized his party’s opposition to democracy after his return from Germany in 1932.
While in Europe, the political mogul was inspired by the rise of Adolf Hitler, and vowed to strengthen Colombia’s colonial class system.
The end of World War II saw a global clamp-down on fascist governments, but not in Colombia where anti-democratic conservatives like Gomez continued to govern.
While Hitler focused his discriminatory policies on race, Gomez’ ideals were based on discrimination based primarily on class. Ethnic minorities automatically fell in the lowest class.
The CP chief, called “The Monster” by his liberal opponents, became one of the main agitators of “La Violencia” (1948-1958), the most violent decade in Colombia’s history in which partisan violence killed approximately 200,000 people.
Colombia had seen Nazis before. Some of the thousands of Germans who settled there after World War I made no bones during World War II about their political feelings, and they found friends and sympathizers among members of the present government.
Time Magazine (November 20, 1950)
Gomez was exiled after a military coup in 1953. Five years later, the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party agreed to joint rule.
“The monster” continued to dominate his party until his death in 1965 and maintained a loyal following, particularly among provincial elites, and most notably in Medellin.
“Paisa” Laureanistas formed a coherent group at newspaper El Colombiano that was owned by dynasty politician Fernando Gomez (not related to the former president).
El Colombiano was initially founded to support the Conservative Party’s opposition to democracy, and openly supported Hitler and Spanish dictator Francisco Franco.
In the 1970s, the newspaper announced a “Laureanista” opposition to conservative president Misael Pastrana.
Self-proclaimed Laureanista politicians Fernando Londoño and Fabio Valencia joined the newspaper while preparing their own political careers.
Radicals in the military
Also in the military, anti-communist and anti-democratic sentiments remained strong after WWII. The military has traditionally been close to the CP and fought the National Police, which was more aligned with the Liberal Party, during La Violencia.
Fanaticism in the military was fueled and even formalized during the Cold War. Not just socialist thought, but all kinds of attempts to obtain rights were a threat to public order in the military doctrine that was formulated in the 1960s. “The enemy within” became every citizen that sought changes in government.
Any person who is disgruntled, bitter, dissatisfied, or hurt in any way by the society he is part of, is a potential guerrilla. If to this state of mind a sufficiently powerful ideological factor is added to convince the discontent that there is another way of life that can be achieved with the implementation of a system of government different from the existing one, a revolutionary emerges from the rebel.
Mayor Barrera Rueda
The military doctrine defined in the 1962 “Plan Lazo” also allowed deadly violence to suppress all kinds of protest. The 4th Brigade, which is stationed in Medellin, executed workers at the order of Laureanista governor and owner of El Colombiano, Fernando Gomez, to break up a labor strike in 1963.
The same military doctrine allowed the use of terrorist activity to combat the “internal enemy.” According to declassified US cables, then-lieutenant Mario Montoya formed a covert group, the American Anti-Communist Alliance (AAA), that carried out at least one terrorist attack on a communist magazine in the late 1970s.
Montoya would later become commander of the National Army and ultimately responsible for the execution of hundreds of civilians.
The extreme violence imposed on the population fueled the expansion of guerrilla groups to the point they threatened the continuity of the state.
In response to the escalation of guerrilla violence, ranchers and drug traffickers began forming self-defense groups in the 1980s to protect themselves and their businesses from the increasingly powerful rebels.
These clans’ main political representative became an Antioquia politician from the Liberal Party, Alvaro Uribe.
Uribe, an associate of the Ochoa crime family, was initially opposed by the Laureanistas.
When Valencia wanted to succeed Gomez as governor of Antioquia in the 1994 elections he was defeated by Uribe and the two almost ended up in a fist fight.
There was an incident at the Registrar’s Office because I was told that Mario Uribe was there in the counting room. That’s when we had a confrontation. When we were, let’s say, solving the impasse and we were all going to retire, [Alvaro] Uribe entered very upset and tried to attack me. A police general prevented I was beaten up.
After his elections and until Congress banned the practice in 1997, Uribe immediately began formalizing “Convivir” groups that allowed ranchers and businesses to finance paramilitary death squads.
These groups were engaged in an extermination campaign of guerrillas and leftists, often in collusion with the rural ruling class, the military and intelligence agency DAS.
The paramilitary involvement promoted by Uribe escalated the armed conflict to record levels; more than 2 million Colombians were victimized during the administration of former President Andres Pastrana between 1998 and 2002 alone.
The birth of the “Uribistas”
Uribe abandoned the Liberal Party in 2001 and became president in 2002 with the support of the paramilitaries.
A collection of splinter parties promoted by paramilitary umbrella organization AUC entered Congress and provided Uribe with the congressional support he needed to govern.
Under pressure from the international community, Uribe began demobilizing the paramilitary groups and vowed to restore the state’s monopoly on violence.
His militaristic “democratic security” policy earned Uribe the support of, among many others, the Laureanistas. Both Londoño and Valencia joined the Uribe administration and the Gomez family’s newspaper, El Colombiano, became one of the most loyal propaganda outlets of the “uribistas.”
What died with Carlos Castaño was the political meaning of the self-defense groups, their significance as a means of confronting the FARC and sustaining the right to property in the countryside, and with that right a way of conceiving life.
Fernando Londoño (El Colombiano, 2006)
The violent persecution of leftists and critics, the systematic violation of human rights, the incarceration of more than 60 paramilitary congressmen and Uribe’s almost constant clashes with justice, however, cost him a lot of support abroad and among mainstream politicians.
The constitutional court declared his attempt to stay in power for a third term in 2010 unconstitutional and Uribe was forced to resign.
“Enemies of peace”
The beginning of peace talks between Uribe’s successor, President Juan Manuel Santos, and the Marxist FARC guerrilla group mobilized the former president and a collection of conservative and far-right forces.
Prosecutors had begun to investigate thousands of ranchers and business owners over their involvement in the orgy of paramilitary violence that left millions of victims.
Supported by the Laureanistas, fundamentalist Christians, retired military commanders and paramilitary sympathizers, the former president embarked on a relentless opposition to peace.
Key players on Colombia’s far right
- Former President Alvaro Uribe
- Former Inspector-General Alejandro Ordoñez
- Rancher representative Jose Felix Lafaurie
- Military commanders association ACORE
- Paramilitary group Aguilas Negras
- Pundit Ernesto Yamhure
The 2012 agreement with the FARC over a transitional justice system radicalized more moderate conservative leaders like former President Andres Pastrana and former Defense Minister Marta Lucia Ramirez who saw justice as a threat.
Uribe has always propagated a Nuremberg trial-like justice system that would only investigate FARC crimes, leaving the vast majority of war crimes unpunished, and Pastrana and Ramirez out of court.
Rearmed paramilitary groups like the Aguilas Negras have expressed their explicit support for who President Juan Manuel Santos implicitly accused of being “enemies of peace.”
The time has come, you fucking communist pigs, this is the only warning to withdraw from politics and save your lives: Ivan Cepeda, who is infamous for persecuting and slandering the best president of Colombia of all times, Alvaro Uribe Velez, together with the terrorists of the Jose Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective -CAFARC- who pose as human rights defenders, now with their own candidate the cynical M-19 terrorist Alirio Uribe Muñoz, who calls himself “the other Uribe” to disgrace our real leader. Poor assholes, we are going to put dynamite up their asses.
The Uribistas have also opposed ongoing peace talks with the ELN, the last-standing guerrilla group that formed in 1964, and insist on the militaristic approach that has failed since the 1960s.