Worshiping Leadership: Morality, Revolutionary Values, and the Politics of Magnicidio (Assassination) in the Case of Camilo Torres and Fabio Vásquez with the ELN, Colombia 1963-1978
Sanchez Sierra, Juan Carlos
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This research explores cult formation and sect-like worship in the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN), around the figures of both the priest and guerrilla fighter Camilo Torres (1929-1966), and Fabio Vásquez, leader and founder of the group in 1963-1978. I examine the relationship between authority and obedience that shaped political leadership in Colombia since the late 19th century. In particular, I consider how collective moral and individual values become ritualized in daily practices and moral discourses fostered by leaders that promoted drastic social change along Colombian history. This analysis of authority and obedience facilitates interpretations into how leaders create allegiances and legitimize violence as a strategy to bring about change in Colombian politics. I argue that the politics of magnicidio demonstrates how the formation of leadership is hampered by the use of selective violence, as a strategy to dismantle or deter political opponents from participation. This happens in both mainstream politics and within insurgent groups. In this vein, I argue that by approaching the figure of Camilo Torres and the reverence to his memory, it is possible to understand the importance of leadership and authority both in a guerrilla group, and in social mobilization, particularly the student movement, intellectual sectors, and the youth. I sustain that reverence to Camilo Torres has been fostered primarily outside the ELN. Although the ceremonies around his figure and the revolutionary project progressively furnished the group with a consistent pattern of belief for individual and group interaction, his leadership in the groups was not substantial. I demonstrate how Camilo Torres surrendered to the leadership of Fabio Vásquez in an attempt to become a suitable guerrillero. I argue that beyond claims for Camilo Torres' political legacy, guerrilla fighters in the ELN used his thought to challenge and undermine Fabio Vásquez' personalistic leadership in 1967-1974. Although the figure of Camilo Torres created internal cohesion, the ELN‘s re-conceptualization of the revolutionary project used his life only as a paradigm of commitment, sacrifice and revolutionary redemption, ignoring the priest's political ideals and assertions on social justice, charity and love. I conclude by exploring Camilo Torres' thought and actions in order to demonstrate how the ELN selectively interprets his legacy, and thereby justify the last months of his life to legitimize radical left leaning fighting.
- Doctoral Dissertations