• U.S.

Colombia: Viva the President!

2 minute read
TIME

One of the world’s least reported slaughters in the years since World War II was a senseless, near-civil war between Colombia’s dominant Liberal and Conservative parties, which killed more than 300,000 people. Four years ago Liberal Statesman-Politician Alberto Lleras Camargo was elected President under terms of a truce whereby the two factions agreed to alternate the presidency. Though the feud still simmers in the backlands, the truce has done something to unite a divided nation and the coffee-growing country of 14 million is making economic strides.

But would the Liberals give way peaceably to the Conservatives? Last week Colombia’s voters reaffirmed the truce by electing as Lleras’ successor. Conservative Guillermo León Valencia, 53, with an overwhelming 1,643,020 votes. Valencia is a far different politician from the patient, persuasive Lleras. A fiery orator, flowery poet and crack pistol shot, he once stood up to a dictator’s besieging troops armed with a .32 revolver, and by bluster and reputation he drove the soldiers away. Anti-Communist and pro-U.S., he puts his faith in the Alliance for Progress and in his own popularity among Colombians. A huge crowd followed him to the polling place in the Bogotá capital. When Valencia had voted, the crowd roared: “Viva Valencia. Viva the President of the poor!”

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