Barco Vargas, Virgilio (1921–1997)

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Barco Vargas, Virgilio (1921–1997)

Virgilio Barco Vargas (b. 17 September 1921; d. 20 May 1997), president of Colombia (1986–1990). From a prominent Cúcuta family, Barco combined study in the United States (including doctoral work in economics at MIT) with politics in his home city. In the 1960s he held several cabinet posts and was highly regarded as mayor of Bogotá (1966–1969); he later served as ambassador in Washington, D.C. After an aborted candidacy for president in 1982 he won a landslide victory in 1986. The economy performed creditably under his administration, but the Barco years were better known for the upward spiral of violence propagated by guerrillas, right-wing death squads (which acted with suspicious impunity), and drug traffickers. Colombia's drug cartels stepped up their attacks on judges, journalists, and officials, culminating in the murder of Barco's presumptive successor, Luis Carlos Galán, in August 1989. Over the next several months hundreds were killed in cartel-ordered bombings, while the government's hard line produced few results. The definitive incorporation of the M-19 guerrilla movement into legal politics, near the end of Barco's term, brightened the scene somewhat. In 1992, Barco retired from politics. He died in 1997.

See alsoDrugs and Drug Trade .


Ignacio Arizmendi Posada, Presidentes de Colombia, 1810–1990 (1990), pp. 301-305.

Additional Bibliography

Chacón Medina, Pablo. "Virgilio Barco Vargas, estadista y político." Boletín de Historia y Antigüedades 86 (July-Sept 1999): 843-847.

Deas, Malcolm and Carlos Ossa, eds. El gobierno Barco: Política, economía y desarrollo social en Colombia, 1986–1990. Bogotá: Editorial Nomos, 1994.

                                  Richard J. Stoller

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Barco Vargas, Virgilio (1921–1997)

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