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Colombia - Opposition to the National Front
Opposition to the national front
Despite the constitutional amendment stipulating that only the PL and PC were authorized to participate in elections, dissident groups opposing the National Front arrangement formed "movements" to challenge the establishment by presenting candidates under the Liberal and Conservative labels. In 1959 Liberal dissidents formed the Liberal Recovery Movement (Movimiento de Recuperación Liberal)- -subsequently renamed the Liberal Revolutionary Movement (Movimiento Revolucionario Liberal--MRL)--under the leadership of Alfonso López Michelsen, son of ex-President López Pumarejo. The more serious challenge to the National Front arrangement came from the populist National Popular Alliance (Alianza Nacional Popular-- Anapo), which was founded in 1961 by Rojas Pinilla after his return from exile. The potential popular support for these dissident movements was manifest in the congressional elections of 1964, when 70 percent of the voters failed to cast ballots and 10 percent voted against Valencia's candidates. Congressional victories by Anapo and MRL reduced Valencia's support in the legislature to a narrow majority.
During the mid-1960s, the embers of la violencia were dying out, but guerrilla activity was increasing. In 1964 the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional--ELN) was formed by students who were disenchanted with the pro-Soviet Communist Party of Colombia (Partido Comunista de Colombia--PCC) and inspired by the Cuban Revolution. The ELN gained its greatest notoriety when Father Camilo Torres, a Roman Catholic priest, joined the guerrilla group in 1966 and was killed in an armed conflict with government forces shortly thereafter. In 1966 another guerrilla movement--the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia--FARC)--began operating and was officially designated as a branch of the PCC.
Carlos Lleras Restrepo, the third president under the National Front, proved to be an effective leader. He was opposed in the 1966 election by the Liberal Anapo candidate, who won almost 30 percent of the vote. Aided by an especially competent group of cabinet members, Lleras Restrepo enacted a number of reforms during his tenure in office. He swiftly announced the creation of a series of presidential task forces to draw up national development plans, which included the establishment of exchange controls to combat the mounting foreign exchange difficulties; an increased state role in economic development; and funding for new housing, infrastructure, and industrial development projects. These proposals drew support from international lending agencies, which helped ease the fiscal problems that had beset the Valencia administration.
The effectiveness of the government was increased by the sweeping constitutional reforms of December 1968, which abolished the requirement of a two-thirds majority for Congress to pass major bills and gave greater authority to the executive in economic decision making. In addition, the reforms provided for the gradual phasing out of the National Front arrangement during the coming decade. Having discarded major obstacles that had stalemated previous National Front administrations, Lleras Restrepo built on the efforts of Lleras Camargo in economic and social reform. The government revised tax laws and rationalized tax collection through more rigid enforcement. Wage and price controls helped stabilize the currency, and inflation was held to a moderate 7 percent per year. The Lleras Restrepo administration improved the balance of payments situation through a program of export diversification, through which exports other than coffee more than doubled between 1966 and 1970. The government reorganized the Ministry of Agriculture and gave it increased resources to finance investments in the agricultural sector. Incora intensified agrarian reform efforts and issued more than 60,000 land titles to tenants and sharecroppers in 1968 and 1969 alone. The creation of the Andean Common Market in 1969 further stimulated economic expansion through the integration of the economies of Colombia and its neighbors.
The policies of the Lleras Restrepo administration resulted in an increased rate of economic growth. Nevertheless, an explosive population increase continued to add some 200,000 young Colombians to the labor force each year, and the problems of poverty and unemployment persisted. A system of family planning was launched, in spite of considerable church opposition, in an attempt to slow the population growth that was largely nullifying the economic gains.
Unrest in the late 1960s assumed a more urban and more nearly class-oriented base as rural and interparty violence receded. Rural disorders declined markedly as a consequence of optimism on the economic front and the capture of some of the most prominent guerrilla leaders. In 1968, however, a new guerrilla group--the Popular Liberation Army (Ejército Popular de Liberación--EPL)--was formed as the armed branch of the Communist Party of Colombia-- Marxist-Leninist (Partido Comunista de Colombia--MarxistaLeninista --PCC-ML), a pro-Chinese group. In December 1968 Lleras Restrepo lifted the state of siege that had been imposed under Valencia in 1965. Sporadic incidents of violence occurred, however, especially among dissident students and labor union members, and the government reinstated its emergency powers on several occasions.
Dissidence within the PL was lessened through the reintegration of the MRL and its leader, López Michelsen, who came to play a valuable role in the Lleras Restrepo government. In the 1968, congressional elections, those elements of both the PL and PC that supported the National Front arrangement gained a strong majority in the legislature. Voter apathy persisted, however, and less than 40 percent of eligible voters participated.
Under the banner of Anapo, Rojas Pinilla continued his appeal to the urban masses and the peasantry, promising solutions to the problems of unemployment and inflation and advocating free education and health care for the poor. Anapo challenged the National Front by presenting Rojas Pinilla as a Conservative candidate for the presidency in 1970. The election took place in an atmosphere of escalating violence, and the public received with widespread skepticism the official announcement that the Conservative candidate of the National Front, Misael Pastrana Borrero, had won by a narrow margin of 65,000 votes. The outpouring of support for Rojas Pinilla indicated significant voter dissatisfaction with the National Front's response to Colombia's persistent social and economic problems.
You can read more regarding this subject on the following websites:
History of Colombia, The National Front, 1958-1974
Colombia Country Studies index
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