The crash of falling governments had rudely reminded the U.S. State Department of an unpleasant fact: something was radically wrong with its Latin American policy. In eight weeks, a succession of military coups had toppled three governments, threatened two others; until last week the U.S. had failed to react.

Then from the White House came the first acknowledgement of trouble; a firm order that recognition of the military junta ruling Venezuela must be held up. Meanwhile, U.S. ambassadors in Latin capitals were instructed to ask advice from the governments to which they were...

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