Caracas, Venezuela (JFK+50) Fifty-three years ago today, December 16 1961, President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy received a royal welcome from more than 300,000 people lining the streets along their motorcade route here in Caracas.
The Kennedys' reception stood in stark contrast to Vice President Richard M. Nixon's visit in 1958 when angry protesters pounded his car with clubs and pipes.
JFK said during his first visit as President of the United States to Latin America...
"One of the first goals of the new inter-Americanism must be the elimination of...tyranny...until this is a hemisphere of democratic and independent nations from Cape Horn to the Arctic Circle."
The Kennedys in Venezuela
Photo by Cecil Stoughton
President Kennedy's Alliance for Progress or Alianza para el Progreso program was popular in Venezuela.
Through the program, the United States supplied loans and credits for road construction and agricultural and medical initiatives. At the time of the President's visit, 38,000 families had settled on lands in Venezuela made available through the program.
The United States under JFK's leadership had pledged $20 billion to the people of Latin America.
"No real progress is possible unless the benefits of increasing prosperity are shared by the people themselves."
Mrs. Kennedy, who spoke in Spanish to the Venezuelan people, was particularly appreciated for both her fashion and command of the language.*
Mrs. Kennedy Speaks in Spanish
La Morita, Venezuela
JFK Library Photo
*In a classified document released in 1997, the Presidential visit to Venezuela was described as an "outstanding success (which) bolstered (the) prestige of (the) United States in Venezuela and in (the) Americas, especially (the) Caribbean."
According to the Office of the Historian, U.S. State Department, the Alliance was "in essence a Marshall Plan for Latin America." It says that it represented the largest American aid program to the developing nations at that time, but admits that "not all (of) its' lofty goals" were achieved and there was "a general deterioration of US-Latin American relations by the end of the 1960s."
The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is located on the northern coast of South America. The federal presidential republic, comprised of 12 states. today has a population of more than 29 million.
Venezuela, described as one of the most urbanized countries in Latin America today, was one of the first countries of the region to declare independence from Spain. The nation gained full independence in 1830.
Venezuela was a founding member of the United Nations. The capital, Caracas, is also the country's largest city.
The flag of Venezuela is yellow, blue and red. The yellow stands for land wealth, the blue stands for the sea that separates Venezuela from Spain and the red represents the blood shed in achieving independence.
The Flag of Venezuela
"Forging the Alliance--President Kennedy's visits to Venezuela and Colombia, December 1961," Movietonews, United States Information Agency Film, John F. Kennedy Library, Boston.
To see the film click on the link below...