In the 1950s-70s, Venezuela was “one of the wealthiest countries in Latin America and the world’s leading exporter of oil”1. The country’s economic standing made it a key player in the global battle of communism vs. democracy. Rómulo Betancourt, the president and member of the leftist Democratic Action Party (AD), was supported by the United States for his capitalistic and democratic ideologies. Betancourt “pursued policies of agrarian reform, industrial development, and popular participation in government”2 confirming the anti-communist nature of his ideals.
In February of 1948:
Betancourt’s “elected successor, Rómulo Gallegos, was installed…but was deposed in a military coup led by Marcos Pérez Jiménez in November [of 1948]… Pérez Jiménez was overthrown in 1958, and Betancourt returned to Venezuela, made peace with other democratic elements, and was elected president. Harassed by pro-Cuban communists on one side and frightened conservatives on the other, he steered a middle course, passing an agrarian law to expropriate large estates, initiating an ambitious program of public works, and fostering industrial development to prevent complete dependence on petroleum revenues”3. As a result, people flooded Caracas in hopes of finding economic opportunity.
In 1960, the Movement of the Revolutionary Left split from the Democratic Action Party (AD) and started anti-government work4.
Mr. Salazar commented on the effect this split had on society in Caracas saying:
“I came [to the United States] basically because [of] a lot of turmoil [in Venezuela]…Colleges and schools were always closing down, opening up and closing down, a lot of protests going on. My father gave me a choice either: “you get out of here and try to become somebody or you stay here and become nobody.” So I decided to leave. So I ended up in Massachusetts – Lawrence, Massachusetts through the sponsorship of a Cuban friend of my family in Venezuela.”