Vice President Nixon is attacked - HISTORY
Year
1958

Vice President Nixon is attacked

During a goodwill trip through Latin America, Vice President Richard Nixon’s car is attacked by an angry crowd and nearly overturned while traveling through Caracas, Venezuela. The incident was the dramatic highlight of trip characterized by Latin American anger over some of America’s Cold War policies.

By 1958, relations between the United States and Latin America had reached their lowest point in years. Latin Americans complained that the U.S. focus on the Cold War and anticommunism failed to address the pressing economic and political needs of many Latin American nations. In particular, they argued that their countries needed more basic economic assistance, not more arms to repel communism. They also questioned the American support of dictatorial regimes in Latin America simply because those regimes claimed to be anticommunist—for example, the U.S. awarded the Legion of Merit medal to Venezuelan dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez in 1954; Jimenez was overthrown by a military coup early in 1958.

This was the atmosphere into which Vice President Richard Nixon arrived during his goodwill trip through Latin America in April and May 1958. The trip began with some controversy, as Nixon engaged in loud and bitter debates with student groups during his travels through Peru and Uruguay. In Caracas, Venezuela, however, things took a dangerous turn. A large crowd of angry Venezuelans who shouted anti-American slogans stopped Nixon’s motorcade through the capital city. They attacked the car, damaged its body and smashed the windows. Inside the vehicle, Secret Service agents covered the vice president and at least one reportedly pulled out his weapon. Miraculously, they escaped from the crowd and sped away. In Washington, President Eisenhower dispatched U.S. troops to the Caribbean area to rescue Nixon from further threats if necessary. None occurred, and the vice president left Venezuela ahead of schedule.

The riot in Caracas served as a wake-up call to U.S. officials in Washington, alerting them to America’s deteriorating relations with Latin America. In the next few months, the United States increased both its military and economic assistance to the region. However, it was not until communist Fidel Castro’s rise to power in Cuba beginning in 1959 that the United States truly realized the extent of discontent and rebelliousness in Latin America.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Pope John Paul II shot

Near the start of his weekly general audience in Rome’s St. Peter’s Square, Pope John Paul II is shot and seriously wounded while passing through the square in an open car. The assailant, 23-year-old escaped Turkish murderer Mehmet Ali Agca, fired four shots, one of which hit the ...read more

Mary Queen of Scots defeated

At the Battle of Langside, the forces of Mary Queen of Scots are defeated by a confederacy of Scottish Protestants under James Stewart, the regent of her son, King James VI of Scotland. During the battle, which was fought out in the southern suburbs of Glasgow, a cavalry charge ...read more

Jamestown settlers arrive

Some 100 English colonists arrive along the west bank of the James River in Virginia to found Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America. Dispatched from England by the London Company, the colonists had sailed across the Atlantic aboard the Susan ...read more

President Polk declares war on Mexico

On May 13, 1846, the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly votes in favor of President James K. Polk’s request to declare war on Mexico ina dispute over Texas.Under the threat of war, theUnited Stateshad refrained from annexing Texas afterthe latterwon independence from Mexico in 1836. ...read more

Paris peace talks at standstill

Still deadlocked, the Vietnam peace talks in Paris enter their fourth year. The talks had begun with much fanfare in May 1968, but almost immediately were plagued by procedural questions that impeded any meaningful progress. Even the seating arrangement was disputed: South ...read more

First Battle of the Sexes

On May 13, 1973, during the early years of the women’s liberation movement, tennis stars Bobby Riggs and Margaret Court face off in a $10,000 winner-take-all challenge match. The 55-year-old Riggs, a tennis champion from the late 1930s and 40s who was notoriously skeptical of ...read more

Nixon attacked by angry Venezuelans

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. ...read more

The inventor of western swing dies

Bob Wills, one of the most influential musicians in the history of country-western music, is born on a small farm near Kosse, Texas.Born James Robert Wills in 1905, he was trained to be a musician from an early age. His father was a champion fiddle player, and he began giving ...read more

Stevie Wonder comes of age

In 1961, Berry Gordy signed 11-year-old Steveland Hardaway Morris to a contract with Tamla Records. The artist later known as Stevie Wonder and the label later known as Motown would grow up side by side over the course of the 1960s, with Motown coming to define “the Sound of ...read more

Fire breaks out at club in Japan

On this day in 1972, a fire breaks out at the Playtown Cabaret in Osaka, Japan, that kills 118 people. Only 48 people at the trendy nightclub survived the horrific blaze because safety equipment was faulty and safety procedures were not followed. The top floor of Osaka’s Sennichi ...read more

Pope John Paul II is shot

Pope John Paul II is shot and wounded at St. Peter’s Square in Rome, Italy. Turkish terrorist Mehmet Ali Agca, an escaped fugitive already convicted of a previous murder, fired several shots at the religious leader, two of which wounded nearby tourists. Agca was immediately ...read more

A raid is set for MOVE headquarters

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, police begin evacuating people from their Osage Avenue homes in order to prepare for an operation against MOVE, a radical cult group that had assembled a large arsenal. By the end of the confrontation, 11 people were dead and 61 homes had been ...read more

Grant moves on Jackson, Mississippi

Union General Ulysses S. Grant advances toward the Mississippi capital of Jackson during his bold and daring drive to take Vicksburg, the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River. In April, Grant had moved his troops down the Mississippi River and around the Vicksburg ...read more

Autoworkers union head joins Chrysler board

At the annual meeting of the Chrysler Corporation on this day in 1980, stockholders vote to appoint Douglas Fraser, president of the United Automobile Workers (UAW), to one of 20 seats on Chrysler’s board of directors. The vote made Fraser the first union representative ever to ...read more