CARACAS, Wednesday April 01, 2009 | Update
Social-Christian leader Rafael Caldera defeated Gonzalo Barrios, Miguel Ángel Burelli Rivas and Luis Beltrán Prieto Figueroa in the presidential election. It was the narrowest victory in the democratic era. That year, an Avensa airplane with 46 passengers and four crewmembers was hijacked during a flight to Maracaibo. The aircraft was taken to Cuba. In Memphis, pastor Martin Luther King was murdered and protests broke loose throughout the United States
For the first time in Venezuelan history, a ruler (Leoni, a leader of AD) handed power over to an opposition leader (Caldera, Copei) File Photo: Andrés Mata Foundation
Many slogans hit the streets and media of the country in 1968: "Caldera means change," "Gonzalo, a great president," "Vote with your head, Burelli for president" or "The only viable choice." In a final sprint that any race track commentator would have described as very narrow, Rafael Caldera (Copei) beat Gonzalo Barrios (AD) by a slim margin of 32,000 votes.
On that occasion, the rift in AD made the partisans' votes diluted between Barrios and Luis Beltrán Prieto Figueroa, who finished fourth but still garnered a significant amount of votes. From a total of 3,720,660 valid votes, Caldera obtained 29.13 percent (1,083,712); Gonzalo Barrios 28.24 percent (1,050,806); Miguel Ángel Burelli 22.22 percent (826,758) and Prieto Figueroa 17.34 percent (719,461).
Caldera had lost two consecutive elections: on December 7, 1958, when he finished third behind Rómulo Betancourt (AD) and Wolfgang Larrazábal (URD, PCV), and on the first of December 1963, when he lost to Raúl Leoni (AD).
His victory was supported by a campaign aimed at overcoming dependence on oil, since 90 percent of domestic income originated from oil exports, and at developing supplementary industries.
Terrible news took the country by storm: an Avensa airplane, with 50 people on board, headed to Maracaibo, was hijacked. While the stewardess served coffee, the hijacker threatened her and forced the crew to change its course and head toward Cuba, where the criminal surrendered to police and military officers. The Minister of Internal Affairs Reinaldo Leandro Mora called it "an act of piracy by Fidel Castro's government and another sign of intervention in Venezuela."
Large strides were taken in developing the petrochemical industry in June with the construction of El Tablazo compound in Zulia state, with joint efforts of state-owned plants and mixed companies.
In Memphis, United States, a bullet struck the neck of Afro-American civil-rights advocate, integrationist leader and pastor Martin Luther King. A promoter of non-violence, he was on visit to take part in a rally in favor of city sanitation workers. His death ignited a series of protests throughout the United States.
In Paris, student rallies in universities gave rise to the renowned French May. What had simply begun as a movement seeking changes in universities extended around the country when the administration of Charles De Gaulle used police force to repress the youth. Some 10 million workers joined in support and made their own claims.
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