46. Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation Among the Minister-Counselor of the Embassy in Venezuela (Burrows), the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom) in Caracas, and the Deputy Director of the Office of South American Affairs (Sanders) in Washington, May 13, 1958, 2 p.m.1
- Attack on Vice President Nixon and His Party
I telephoned Mr. Burrows at Caracas. The telephone communication was frequently broken off. The following is what I understood him to say.
A large and unfriendly crowd met the Vice President and his party at the airport. There were hisses and boos and no friendly applause.
The automobile trip on the highway to Caracas was uneventful.
The party was to proceed through the city, lay a wreath on the tomb of Bolivar and proceed to the Embassy residence. In the city a short distance from the tomb the cars were stopped by a roadblock and a mob of some 4, 000 people. The mob was made up of ruffians and riffraff and it was in an ugly mood. The mob closed in on the vehicles in which the Vice President and his party were traveling, and the Venezuelan police escort ran. The windows were broken out of the cars in which the Vice President and Mrs. Nixon were riding. Neither of them was hurt. Colonel Walters, who is the Vice President’s interpreter and who was in the same car with the Vice President, was cut around the mouth, and the Foreign Minister,2 who was in the same [Page 227]car, was cut on the arm. The Embassy’s naval attaché,3 who was carrying the wreath, was attacked by the mob, roughed up, and the wreath was destroyed. The cars with the Vice President’s party managed to get through and away from the mob due to the arrival of a few troops who with drawn bayonets opened a way for them.
The Vice President and his party proceeded to the Embassy residence and will remain there.
Mr. Rubottom came on the telephone and the following is what he is understood to have said.
The highest authorities in Washington should be made aware that the situation in which the Vice President finds himself is critical. Everything will be subordinated to his and Mrs. Nixon’s personal security.
There has thus far been a serious lack of protection afforded the Vice President and his party. The Government of Venezuela is reluctant to take a firm stand in the face of mob action. Undoubtedly the attack on the Vice President was organized by the Communists. That attack may have profound consequences on the domestic political scene in Venezuela, but it is difficult to foresee what may develop.
The Vice President plans to remain at the Embassy residence and not keep any of the scheduled appointments unless the Government of Venezuela can assure that order will be maintained. There will be no publication of any possible movements by the Vice President. The Vice President intends to remain in Caracas for approximately the scheduled time and to reach Washington, as previously indicated, at 11:00 a.m. Thursday.4
The Foreign Minister and Ambassador Santaella have called on the Vice President to express their regrets.
Groups of people are gathering and milling about in front of the Embassy residence.
The Government of Venezuela has said that adequate protection will be provided, but that protection has not yet arrived. Mr. Rubottom will call back soon to give us a further report.