Newspaper and magazine offices are easy targets

The tragic attack on a French magazine points out the vulnerability of publication offices. Such offices have been targets for centuries regardless of the politics involved.

By their very nature, newspaper and magazine offices have to be open to some public access, and the security, if there is any, generally is minimal.

Massive march in Paris

Such was the case at the Daily Journal in Caracas, Venezuela, during the tumultuous presidential term of Rómulo Betancourt in the early 1960s. Young Communists of the Fuerzas Armadas de Revolución Nacional had taken to the hills to battle the democratic government.

The rebels had a lot of help from Castro’s Cuba, which delivered guns and explosives to isolated beaches via submarine.

At the time, the Daily Journal published seven days a week in English from offices in the center of Caracas, ironically on Avenida Fuerzas Armadas.

The Communist rebels had no trouble overpowering the single police guard and violently raced down a long hall into the newspaper’s production shop and editorial department. As they began lining up workers, the senior news editor, Clem Cohen, directed editorial staffers to an emergency exit designed for just such an event.

Staffers looks at him with questioning eyes. The other side of the emergency exit was a brick wall. Someone had built an illegal home adjacent to the newspaper building.

Curiously, most of the production shop workers were Communists, too. They had fought against Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War and fled to Venezuela when their side lost.

That fact must have made an impression on the rebels because they did not kill anyone. Instead, they gave a short revolutionary speech, firebombed the flatbed press and fled.

Their big mistake was killing a passer-by on the sidewalk when he blocked their flight. The dead man was the brother of the governor of Caracas, and that ramped up the police response.

Inside the newspaper, the firebomb flames had burned years of gunk off the antique cast iron and steel flatbed press, and workers reported the machine worked better than before the attack.

Those times produced many similar attacks on companies with U.S. ties and even the U.S. Embassy.

Rebels, mostly former university students, continued their futile attempts to gain control in Venezuela for six more years until a new president, Rafael Caldera engineered a successful attempt to bring them into the political life of the country by offering an amnesty.

Flatbed press worked better after firebombing.

Flatbed press worked better after firebombing.

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