CARACAS, Wednesday April 01, 2009 | Update
While Venezuela was in the midst of the Sierra Nevada corruption scandal that led to political condemnation of former President Carlos Andrés Pérez, 25 ambassadors were held hostage for 61 days by Colombian armed guerrilla group M-19. The siege took place at the Embassy of the Dominican Republic in Bogotá, and the high-profile hostages included Venezuelan Ambassador Virgilio Lovera. In Cuba, over 125,000 people left the island in the Mariel Boatlift
Venezuelan Ambassador at the time, Virgilio Lovera, was among the 25 ambassadors that were held hostage for 61 days by Colombian armed guerrilla group M-19 File Photo: Andrés Mata Foundation
On February 27, 1980, 25 members of Colombian guerrilla group M-19 laid siege of the Dominican Republic Embassy in Bogotá on Colombia's Independence Day. A commando group, led by Rosemberg Pabón, known as Commander One, and Luis Otero Cifuentes, broke into the embassy during a gala attended by a large number of ambassadors and public figures. Among those held hostage was Venezuelan ambassador Virgilio Lovera, the US ambassador and the Papal Nuncio.
The takeover lasted until April 27 when President Turbay Ayala's government allowed the captors to be flown to Cuba. After 61 days of negotiations, the guerrilla released the diplomats.
The kidnappers had demanded USD 50 million, release of political prisoners and freedom for 320 members of their organization.
M-19 began as an insurgent urban movement, sparked on by the alleged electoral fraud of April 19, 1970, in which former dictator Gustavo Rojas Pinilla was defeated. A leftist organization, M-19 gained notoriety from spectacular actions shocking public opinion, including the theft of Simón Bolívar's sword, the kidnapping and execution of union leader José Raquel Mercado and the theft of 5,000 weapons from military premises. Years later, in November of 1985, members of this guerrilla group took over the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, and several civilians, judges and most of the 35 rebels taking part in the military action died.
It was Luis Herrera Campíns' first year as president, and one of the most notorious political events was the Sierra Nevada corruption scandal. A report on alleged irregularities in the purchase of a vessel for Bolivia during the previous government of Carlos Andrés Pérez was submitted to the Chamber of Deputies and, after parliamentary voting, it was decided that there was political liability on the former president but no moral or administrative corruption.
In the United States, a Republican candidate, Ronald Reagan, a former actor and ex governor of California, won the presidential election by an overwhelming margin, defeating President Jimmy Carter, who aspired to a second term in office. Reagan became the fortieth president of the United States and led the country for two consecutive terms.
In Cuba, the biggest desertion in the history of the Cuban Revolution took place as thousands of citizens left for the United States from the port of Mariel on hundreds of ships. Approximately 125,000 Cubans, labeled "marielitos" in reference to the port they used to leave, headed toward Florida throughout a six-month period.
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