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Evil Hour in Colombia Paperback – October 17, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Colombia's long-drawn-out internal strife between guerrillas, paramilitaries and the state is confusing to many outsiders. The numerous groups fighting for land and power, combined with the presence of powerful narco-traffickers, have created an environment of violent chaos and political conflict. Hylton, a researcher in history at New York University, helps make sense of this disorder in his detailed and concise history of Colombia over the last 150 years. In this short book, he manages to create a full picture of Colombian history and the violence that marks it. At a quick, consistent pace, the book moves through the early causes of radical mobilization in the mid-19th century and the system of repression that emerged in response. Hylton examines the fractured social and political circumstances that spawned the extremist groups as well as the forces, such as the rise of coffee exports after 1880, that have fueled them. He also examines the major role the United States has played in Colombia's history, and how the "war on drugs" was often executed with Washington's broader political and economic goals in mind. By the end of this well-researched book, Hylton clarifies Colombia's endemic violence as a social and political phenomenon. (Nov.)
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As Forrest Hylton argues, the view that violence is inherent to Colombian society ignores...the country's...history of democratic reform. --James Sanders, London Review of Books

A major theme of Hylton's book is to bring ethnicity as well as class into the account of the historical and contemporary violence in Colombia. --Jenny Pearce, Journal of Latin American Studies

“Colombia’s war-without-end has been sustained by US intervention and subsidized by our own ignorance and indifference to the fate of this great country. Evil Hour in Colombia is a brilliant investigation of a complex and tragic history, as well as an eloquent indictment of Washington’s policies.”—Mike Davis

“A corrective to those servants of empire who would have us believe that the main threat facing Latin America today is left-wing populism, Forrest Hylton’s Evil Hour in Colombia describes in alarming detail the real danger to the region: the spread of paramilitarism, which in Colombia has grown beyond its rural death-squads roots to graft itself into the highest branches of government, crime, and society. This book is an exacting portrait of the face of American ‘hard power’ in the Andes, a must read for anyone interested in what awaits the rest of the world if Washington’s power remains unchecked.”—Greg Grandin

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 174 pages
  • Publisher: Verso; 1 edition (October 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844675513
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844675517
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #242,315 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By T. Ballve on April 5, 2007
Format: Paperback
As someone who lives in Colombia, I've spent countless conversations with friends and colleagues talking about this country's civil war. The conversation often turns to whether there will ever be a peaceful end to this nightmare of the longest running civil war in the Western Hemisphere. In trying to find an "out," the intellectual exercise inevitably evolves into a discussion about the "true" origins of the war. Why this war? Why this country?

With this excellent book, I feel like I've come as close as possible to "definitive" answers. The epigraph to Chapter 3, quoting Eric Hobsbawm, briefly sums part of the argument convincingly laid out by Hylton, as to the sources of the war: "I discovered a country (Colombia) in which the failure to make a social revolution had made violence the constant, universal, and omnipresent core of public life." The other part of Hylton's argument explains why "social revolution" in Colombia stumbled, or rather (to continue the metaphor) he describes that it didn't stumble as much as it was tripped.

The author skillfully traces how this caused a violent pendulum swing in Colombian history. In the Introduction, Hylton writes, "One effect of the long-term use of political terror in Colombia and elsewhere has been to erase the memory of the political alternatives to which terror responded." Indeed, one of the most compelling elements of the book is that it rescues from oblivion the recurring moments in the country's history marked by radical-popular mobilization and the consequent--if, sometimes limited--reforms.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By E. Guzman on May 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is an important account of the social conflicts in Colombia during the last 170 years supported by careful

research on such an important topic. It helps to rescue a historical memory that the dominant narrative in that South American country wants to permanently erase. It emphasizes the democratic and consistent resistance of what Hylton calls "subaltern" groups throughout the republican history of Colombia. Although the voices and struggles of the urban and rural working classes have not been emphasized enough in this book, they occupy a prominent place. These struggles have not produced sensationalist and flashy headlines like those of the armed groups, yet they have consistently and heroically helped to organize un-unionized rural and urban workers. Mr. Hylton has been critical of all the armed actors in this conflict and rightly provides a general context to better understand their actions. While it is true that leftists in Colombia have emphasized, to their own detriment the call to arms, there has also been a Left that has consistently called for the self-organization of the urban and rural working class. Indeed, most of the armed groups have in a sectarian fashion ridiculed the organization of the urban working class. The narrative of violence has been tragically overemphasized by a Left (perhaps because of the feudal nature of the recent past and the weakness of working class traditions in a semi feudal society) that needs to respect all minorities and their democratic traditions as Mr. Hylton very well documents in his book. His narrative gives us an overview and a general context that complements those of anthropologist Taussig and journalist Molano.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Lesley Gill on January 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
Evil Hour in Colombia unravels the complicated dynamic of Colombia's decades long civil war, and it is must reading for anyone interested in understanding the violent social and political landscape of this war-torn country. Speared headed by newly rich drug lords and their paramilitary henchmen, Colombia has experienced a massive counter-agrarian reform, and it has the second largest internally displaced population in the world. Moreover, an impunity-powered campaign of terror against trade unionists, human rights activists, journalists, and peasant, indigenous and Afro-Colombian leaders have left thousands dead and the perpetrators -mostly among the right-wing security forces and allied government security forces--free to continue terrorizing and dispossessing innocent people. The book demonstrates how, in recent years, the right-wing government of Colombian president Álvaro Uribe Vélez, flush with massive infusions of U.S. military assistance and support from the Bush administration, has transformed the country into a model counterinsurgent "democracy," where regular elections accompany widespread state terror, and where officially imposed impunity legitimizes the violent concentration of wealth and power. As a result, Colombia in the early 21st century is evolving into a neoliberal paradise with a growing supply of dispossessed workers, unaccountable security forces available to suppress opposition, and a government opposed to redistributive policies and supportive of a vicious brand of unregulated capitalism. Yet the roots of the human tragedy unfolding in Colombia go much deeper than the present moment.Read more ›
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