A Colombian Tragedy
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 An expatriate journalist's vivid, authoritative, and righteously indignant account of a defining moment in the troubled, turbulent history of Colombia. Drawing on hitherto unavailable sources, Carrigan (Salvador Witness, 1984) offers a tellingly detailed hour-by-hour record of a national catastrophe that captured the world's attention. On a November morning nearly eight years ago, 35 heavily armed M-19 guerrillas invaded Bogot†'s Palace of Justice, home to Colombia's Supreme Court and Council of State. President Belisario Betancur and his cabinet gave the country's military a free hand to oust the rebels (who had seized scores of hostages) by whatever means it deemed necessary. When the guns fell silent 27 hours later, over one hundred people lay dead and one of the capital city's great buildings had been reduced to rubble. The toll included 11 justices, virtually all the insurgents, one soldier, and eight policemen (most of whom fell to friendly fire). Once the murderous battle ended, Colombia's political elite and armed forces closed ranks to put an acceptably plausible spin on an apocalyptic event. In a violent land where dissidents of any stripe fear for their lives, it's not surprising that the establishment's cover-up version of truth prevailed. As Carrigan (who's Colombian on her mother's side) makes clear, however, Medell°n's druglords played no role in what was essentially an ill-advised and poorly planned assault by leftist revolutionaries. Nor was the government standing on principle in its refusal to negotiate. Indeed, Carrigan shows that the incumbent regime was intent on annihilating the rebels at any cost and hence was largely indifferent to the fate of the high officials and others they held captive. Moreover, that most civilian casualties were gunned down at point-blank range by trigger-happy troops speaks volumes, in Carrigan's view, about the desperate state of Colombia's democratic institutions. An unsparing and convincingly documented tract that could do for Colombia what Zola's J'accuse did for France.

Pub Date: Nov. 29th, 1993
ISBN: 0-941423-82-4
Page count: 304pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1993