History, An Era of Violence
Liberal Party convention, totalitarian regime, state of siege, military junta, plebiscite
Between Gomezís election and inauguration, the political struggle entered a new phase. A number of left-wing rebel factions emerged as a response to disillusionment with the traditional political parties and the governmentís inability to address the problems of the poor. These armed guerrilla bands were active in many outlying areas of the country. Such groups remained a constant challenge to the central government throughout the 20th century.
In response, the government declared a state of siege and suspended the 1950 session of Congress. Shortly after the inauguration of Gomez, a Liberal Party convention declared the government illegal, charging it with suppressing freedom of speech, the press, and assembly. The party vowed to continue its boycott of elections. In February 1953 the Conservative Party proposed a new constitution, the provisions of which would have imposed a totalitarian regime. Liberals and moderate Conservatives bitterly opposed the constitution. In June 1953 a military junta deposed the Gomez government, and both factions gave their approval to the coup díetat.
General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla was named provisional president, and in August 1954 he was elected to a four-year term by a constitutional convention. The convention did not meet again until October 1956, and in the interim the government ruled by decree. When the convention met again, a number of delegates openly denounced the restrictive policies of Rojas Pinilla. A wave of antigovernment violence followed, but Congress reelected Rojas Pinilla in May 1957. This angered the public, and a military coup deposed Rojas Pinilla a few days later. The Liberal and Conservative parties then arrived at an agreement to share all government offices equally for 12 years under a coalition known as the National Front. This plan was approved in a plebiscite on December 1, 1957, and early in 1958 it was extended to 16 years.
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