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Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, Colombia's leftist political leader from 1928 until his assassination in 1948, gave rise to the country's liberal populist movement, Gaitanismo. His leadership and his assassination, followed by the brutal suppression of the movement and its followers, sparked the civil war, or La Violencia, and the violent political process that continues throughout Colombia today.
Using previously unexamined letters by Gaitan and his followers, W. John Green chronicles the rise of Gaitanismo and the reasons for its initial success and ultimate failure. Grounded in the rich correspondence between Gaitan and his supporters, interviews, and the vibrant Gaitanista press, this work focuses on the dynamics of popular political mobilization. It delves into the movement's left-Liberal ideological roots and examines the Gaitanistas' obsession with democracy and social justice.
Green provides an insightful portrait of Gaitan as a labor lawyer, deeply connected to the pueblo, who was more the symbol for the movement than the cause. He illuminates the connection between Gaitanismo/La Violencia and the continuing popular violence in Colombia, the distinctions between populism in Latin America and European fascism, Gaitanismo's development into a multi-class movement that superseded gender, race, and regionalism, and the maintenance of Colombia's long-standing formal democracy.