Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Suicide Letter of Tulua

In the 1950s, Tulua, Valle del Cauca, was a dangerous town for Liberal Party members: Right-wing pajaros' were assassinating Liberals amid long-running political violence.
León María Lozano
paramilitary groups called '

In July, 1955, a group of nine Liberal Party leaders took a daring and desperate step: They sent letters to dictator Gustavo Rojas Pinilla and El Tiempo newspaper denouncing the killings and blaming the most feared pajaro of all: León María Lozano, a devout Catholic who was apparently only a humble cheese seller who never missed 6 a.m. mass.

'We are convinced...that, as long as the central government does not decide to implacably punish the sinister people who sow terror...the painful chain of assassinations and depredations will continue.'
The fatal letter.
The letter went on to ask why the killing continued: The answer, it said, 'was very simple:' 'Because those obscure personalities which should be in a penitentiary paying for their horrendous crimes continue walking freely and tranquilly along the streets of this city.'

The consequences were tragic. One by one, the letter's signers were assassinated, while survivors fled to other parts of Colombia. The episode was immortalized in a novel by Gustavo Alvarez Gardeazábal, later made into a movie, called 'El Condor No Entierra Todos Los Días,' and the letter became known as the Suicide Letter of Tulua. Last year, a non-fiction book about the incident by Omar Franco Duque was published under that name.

The Suicide Letter returned to the news recently because its last surviving signer, Ignacio Cruz Roldán, died last week. He had survived being shot in the face in 1957.

The pajaro León María Lozano had powerful friends and escaped punishment.

The long-running inter-party violence, which had surged after the April 1948 assassination of populist leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitán, declined but ended only in the late 1950s, when the Liberal and Conservative parties agreed to share power in the Frente Nacional.

Afterwards, however, came guerrilla and narco-violence which continues today.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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