On this day in 1958, anti-American demonstrators pelt then-Vice President Richard Nixon’s limousine with rocks in Caracas, Venezuela.
In April 1958, seeking to improve U.S. relations with Latin American countries, President Dwight Eisenhower sent Nixon on a trip to South America. The journey ended up generating more ill will than good. In Peru and Ecuador, protestors accosted Nixon over America’s policy of giving military support to political coups in Central America. The Venezuelan government and the American embassy in Caracas had warned Eisenhower earlier not to send Nixon to Venezuela, where anti-American sentiment ran particularly high—he went anyway.
In his book Six Crises, Nixon recounted that day’s frightening events. With only 12 Secret Service agents for protection, his motorcade encountered hundreds of angry protestors who spit on his car, smashed its windows and rocked it from side to side, threatening to turn it over while chanting Death to Nixon! and Nixon Go Home! The Secret Service radioed for help from the Venezuelan military, which dispatched troops to clear the protestors and escorted the motorcade to safety.
When Eisenhower received word of Nixon’s ordeal, he ordered a U.S. naval squadron to the Venezuelan coast just in case the vice president had to be evacuated by helicopter and spirited away to a waiting ship. However, Nixon was able to fly out of the Caracas airport without incident the next day. He arrived at the Washington airport to the cheers of 15,000 well-wishers, including Eisenhower and his cabinet members.