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Valencia, Guillermo León (1909–1971)

Valencia, Guillermo León (1909–1971)

Guillermo León Valencia (b. 27 April 1909; d. 4 November 1971), president of Colombia (1962–1966). The son of Guillermo Valencia, a celebrated poet and Conservative political leader, Valencia was born in Popayán and studied law at the University of Cauca. Serving in the senate and in the Conservative Party leadership, he became known as a flamboyant orator and impassioned follower of Conservative chieftain Laureano Gómez (president, 1950–1953), who appointed him ambassador to Spain in 1950. Later he moderated his partisanship and distanced himself from Gómez. He was an outspoken critic of President Gustavo Rojas Pinilla (1953–1957). An order (1 May 1957) that Valencia be placed under house arrest sparked a wave of civic unrest that ended the Rojas regime nine days later. Valencia was slated to be the first presidential candidate of the Frente Nacional (National Front), but he was blackballed by Gómez. Instead, he became the National Front nominee in 1962, winning 62.1 percent of the vote.

As president, Valencia continued many of the policies of his predecessor, Alberto Lleras Camargo (1958–1962), though he is usually considered a less competent chief executive. During his administration the armed forces smashed communist-influenced "republics" in central and southern Colombia. In 1964, however, surviving militants founded a southern guerrilla bloc that became the forerunner of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias Colombianas (Colombian Revolutionary Armed Force—FARC). Valencia also confronted economic difficulties, notably a fall in coffee prices, balance of payments problems, depreciation of the peso, and inflation. Opposition to a new sales tax led to a threatened general strike in January 1965, which was averted partly because of government concessions. Criticism of the government by Minister of War General Alberto Ruiz Novoa, who harbored political ambitions, heightened tensions until he was removed in January 1965. After retiring from the presidency in 1966, Valencia again served as ambassador to Spain.

See alsoColombia, Political Parties: Conservative Party; Gómez Castro, Laureano.


Jonathan Hartlyn, The Politics of Coalition Rule in Colombia (1988), esp. pp. 120-124.

Additional Bibliography

Sáenz Rovner, Eduardo. Colombia años 50: Industriales, política y diplomacia. Bogotá: Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Sede Bogotá, 2002.

Téllez, Edgar, and Alvaro Sánchez. Ruidos de sables. Bogotá, Colombia: Planeta, 2003.

                                              Helen Delpar

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