VENEZUELA: The 24-Hour Coup


At 4 a.m. in Caracas' Miraflores Palace one day last week, the classic challenge of a military usurper faced the moderately leftist government of President Romulo Betancourt. An hour earlier General Jesus Maria Castro Leon, 51, former Defense Minister and a tinkling symbol of Venezuela's top brass, had crossed the Colombian frontier. Proceeding to San Cristobal (pop. 90,000), 385 miles southwest of Caracas, he took over its 500-man garrison from a disloyal colonel and by radio urged other generals to help him "restore the prestige of the armed forces."

The 14 months of Betancourt's constitutional regime have been the...

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