Memorandum by the Special Assistant to the Secretary for Intelligence (Armstrong) to the Secretary of State



  • Intelligence Note: The Political Climate in Colombia

In the first six months of his administration, President Rojas of Colombia has redeemed his promise to restore public order. His promise to restore constitutional processes remains to be fulfilled.

The ending of more than four years of savage and ruinous guerrilla operations in Colombia was accomplished by proffers of amnesty and of rehabilitation aid to the guerrillas. Beyond this basic and indispensable achievement, Rojas has formulated a program with wide potential appeal. He has pledged that his administration will rehabilitate areas damaged by civil strife, reestablish civil liberties, protect capital, institute agrarian reforms, raise rural standards of living, and hold elections. Thus far, however, his “non-political” government has done little to deliver on any of these promises and, what is more, has shown little evidence of being able to do so.

Rojas’s political strength has deteriorated. His main support comes from the Church and from a minority Conservative faction led by Gilberto Alzate Avendano, an opportunist and extremist primarily interested in furthering his own presidential ambitions. The majority [Page 808] group of Conservatives, the moderates, is dissatisfied, largely because it has not been given any decisive voice in either government or party affairs. The aggressive followers of former President Gomez, many of whom have lost lucrative government posts, are reportedly organizing in some regions for armed action. The Liberals, who hoped the Rojas regime would provide the auspices for their political comeback, have become somewhat disillusioned by the growing militarization of the government and by the President’s increasingly apparent intention of perpetuating himself in office. Important industrial and agricultural interests are disturbed because of recent tax increases.

Despite the President’s pledges to hold national elections, the administration is expected to depend more and more upon authoritarian controls to maintain power. At the same time, Rojas may strive to build up a pro-government labor group in the manner of President Peron of Argentina. The deciding factor in Rojas’s political future will be the military establishment. Thus far the armed forces are as a whole loyal to the President, although dissension, involving personalities as well as policies, has occurred among top army officers.

A similar memorandum1 has gone to the Under Secretary.

W. Park Armstrong, Jr.
  1. Not printed.