831.00/10–2045: Telegram

The Ambassador in Venezuela ( Corrigan ) to the Secretary of State

948. As result of new burst of firing at 9 a.m., from La Planta barracks in which wall foot above my wife’s bedroom door was hit I sent Dawson8 to Miraflores to demand from Junta that their men be kept from using Embassy as shooting gallery. Betancourt, President of Junta, gave assurances and apologies as had already been done by Mayor who had just arrived to take command of La Planta. Aside from that flurry and occasional individual shots city was quiet this a.m.

Heavy rifle and machine-gun fire has just broken out in center of city and apparently suburbs toward Avila Mountain range, this seems to be result of infiltration of armed Communists and perhaps National Guardsmen. Handbill of Communist Party calling on people to over-throw [Page 1404] “insurrectioners captained by Lopez Contreras” has been circulating since yesterday. Junta radio has just broadcast order to populace to stay off streets.

Full corrected list of Junta: Romulo Betancourt, Major Carlos Delgado Chalbaud, Captain Mario Vargas, Raul Leoni, Gonzalo Barrios (in charge Government Federal District), Luis Beltran Prieto, Edmundo Fernandez.

Three point programme announced: (a) fair elections (b) reduction in cost of living (c) punishment of thievery in recent governments. Betancourt told Dawson Junta intended to have Medina, some of his higher officials and Lopez Contreras tried by special tribunal for their crimes in office and to call elections for President and Congress “to function under new constitution” in April. None of Junta would be eligible.

Junta claims to have all east and south Venezuela under control and west as far as Barquisimeto and this is confirmed by independent sources. It also claims to have offer of surrender from Jurado, President of Falcon, if safety himself and family guaranteed and that Tachira Merida and Trujillo have come around after some doubt. This is contradicted by fact that Junta radio is still broadcasting appeals to Falcon Zulia and three Andes States to join “national movement on foot.” Maracaibo seems definitely in hands of Medina supporters under President Cuenca and Military Commander. There is evidence that General Lopez Henriquez, Military Commander, Tachira, is still loyal to Medina.

We will, of course, be careful in any contacts we may have to have with Junta to make them on informal personal not official basis.

So far as we can ascertain no Americans have been injured.

Corrigan
  1. Allan Dawson, Counselor of Embassy.