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Letters

His 1970s experience in Peru offers a lesson for clash raging now in Venezuela

A demonstrator holds takes part in a protest of Venezuelans against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, in Cucuta, Colombia, on the border with Venezuela, on Friday.
A demonstrator holds takes part in a protest of Venezuelans against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, in Cucuta, Colombia, on the border with Venezuela, on Friday.(Luis Robayo/AFP/Getty Images)

Amid a century of overt and covert US intervention in Latin America, I personally witnessed an exceptional case of hands-off policy while living under a leftist, populist military regime in the 1970s (“Don’t intervene in Venezuela,” Stephen Kinzer, Ideas, Feb. 10).

With the support of a Fulbright scholarship, I lived, with my wife and our 1- and 3-year-old daughters, in Peru during 1974 and ’75. A leftist military regime, led by General Juan Francisco Velasco Alvarado, had seized power in 1968 in a bloodless coup. Its aggressively socialist policies of nationalizing major foreign-controlled industries and land redistribution were hailed as the Peruvian National Revolution, while the United States derided the regime as a precursor to a Cuba-like Communist regime.

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To deal with rising opposition among right-wing military and conservative business interests, the Velasco regime suppressed rumblings of a coup d’etat. As tanks rolled through Lima and an evening curfew emptied the streets, my family huddled in our home after dark, nervously anticipating an outbreak of violence, possibly triggered by US intervention, to end Velasco’s rule. It never materialized. Months later, in a largely bloodless coup, a conservative military junta ousted Velasco and appointed General Francisco Morales Bermúdez as president.

While the removal of Velasco halted the experiment in leftist, progressive military rule, it was a telling instance of a relatively nonviolent transition, thanks in part to the absence of US meddling. It is a lesson applicable to today’s struggle in Venezuela. Latin nations’ resolution of conflict, not American coercive or covert intervention, is the only formula for an enduring, peaceful settlement.

Allen L. White

Brookline

The writer is vice president and senior fellow at the Tellus Institute.