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Thursday, February 2, 2006
Beware the M (or the “M” Theory of Colombian Political Conflict)
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 4:30 pm

Ok, so I am doing some work on the manuscript for my book on Colombian politics, and was lookling up some info on civil-military relations in Colombia, which by Latin American standars are historically quite remarkable with the military being normally subordinated to civilian rule.

There has only been one successful military coup in the twentieth century, that of General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla in 1953-he held office until 1957, and elections returned in 1958.

In the nineteenth century there were four incidences of the military removing the president: 1830, 1854, 1866 and 1900-and here’s where the Power of M comes into play. I noticed a striking pattern in the coups:

in 1830 Mosquera is overthrown by Urdaneta (U knocks out M, and the cycle begins) (M->U)
in 1854 Obando is overthrown by Melo (the revenge by M!) (O->M)
in 1866 Mosquera (a different one) is taken out by Acosta (the vowels are back!) (M->A)
in 1900 Sanclemente is replaced by Marroquín (clearly S had become a vowelista and had to be taken out by M!) (S->M)

Now, the 1953 coup doesn’t follow the M v. the vowel/vowel sympathesizer model, and, as such, it is the outlier in the theory.

Still, it is noteworthy that not a single President of Colombia since the 1958 has had a last name starting with “M” (although a few matronymics, e.g., Alfonso López Michelsen) and there have been no coups.

So, where has the M-ness gone? Well, during the 1970s and 1980s one of the key guerrilla groups in Colombia was the M-19 (now dembolized). Further, I would note that the founder and commander of the FARC’s name is Manuel Marulanda.

Coincidence? I think not.

(Is that theorizin’ or what?)

Update: Commenter B. Minich notes that the current President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe is a vowelista-the first such President since Ospina (1946-1950). And it occurs to me that in the M v. vowelista struggle it is the vowelista’s turn to win. Could that mean that Uribe will actually defeat the FARC and the power of M, or with the fact that the FARC is led by a double-M mean that the stalemate will continue?


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  1. Isn’t the current Columbian President a voweled President? And the leader of FARC is an M?

    We might just see a coup in the 21st century with the power of M!

    Comment by B. Minich, PI — Thursday, February 2, 2006 @ 5:21 pm

  2. EGADS! You’re right, Uribe! hmmm.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Thursday, February 2, 2006 @ 5:36 pm

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