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Torres Restrepo, Camilo (1929–1966)

Torres Restrepo, Camilo (1929–1966)

Camilo Torres Restrepo (b. 2 February 1929; d. 15 February 1966), Colombian revolutionary priest. From an upper-class (though not particularly wealthy) Bogotá family, Camilo Torres began the study of law at the Universidad Nacional in Bogotá, but in 1947 abruptly changed his career goals and entered the Roman Catholic seminary. His vocation was not grounded in traditional religiosity; rather, he was attracted to the progressive social Catholicism that was a strong current in postwar Europe and would gain added impetus from the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and from the movement of liberation theology. After his 1954 ordination he studied sociology at Louvain, in Belgium; taught sociology at the Universidad Nacional; served as university chaplain; and worked with Colombia's agrarian reform agency and other social programs. Like many Colombian intellectuals of the 1960s, he was influenced by the Cuban Revolution and felt increasingly alienated from his country's political and socioeconomic establishment.

Torres's social activism and willingness to work with Marxists troubled his ecclesiastical superiors, who ordered him to choose between priestly duties and secular concerns. In response he abandoned the active priesthood and in 1965 launched a new leftist coalition known as Frente Unido (United Front). His acknowledged charisma attracted followers, but he felt frustration over the difficulty of organizing a viable movement with any chance of implementing radical reform by peaceful means. He therefore gave up the legal struggle and joined the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (Army of National Liberation), which of all the guerrilla organizations operating in Colombia was the one most closely associated with the Cuban model.

Torres died in the first military engagement in which he took part. Nevertheless, his memory and his writings continued to exert strong influence on Colombian leftists, for many of whom his personal example legitimated the recourse to violent action.

See alsoColombia, Revolutionary Movements: Army of National Liberation (ELN) .


Germán Guzmán, Camilo Torres, translated by John D. Ring (1969).

Walter J. Broderick, Camilo Torres: A Biography of the Priest-Guerrillero (1975).

Additional Bibliography

Pérez Ramírez, Gustavo, Jaime Díaz Castañeda, and Fernando Torres Restrepo. Camilo Torres Restrepo: Profeta para nuestro tiempo. Bogotá: Cinep, 1999.

Vargas Velásquez, Alejo, and Eduardo Umaña Luna. Política y armas: Al inicio del frente nacional. Bogotá: Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Facultad de Derecho, Ciencias Políticas y Sociales, 1995.

                                    David Bushnell

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