February 8, 1976 – 40 years ago this week, news that a devastating earthquake hit Guatemala leaving (as of this newscast) some 12,000 dead and many thousands more injured. It was feared the death-toll could reach twice that high. The earthquake left as many as 200,000 people without homes. Hardest hit were the outlying villages, leveling many to where there was only rubble where adobe houses used to be. The resulting aftershocks further worsened the situation, collapsing buildings already damaged during the initial quake. Compounding the problem was the lack of food and fresh water. The government was working quickly, trying to establish makeshift shelters for the homeless flooding parks and any open spaces deemed safe for the time being.
But there was other news going on – the news from Beijing left many China watchers stunned. Since the death of Premier Zhao Enli, it was widely assumed his successor would be Deng Xaoping. But instead, an obscure vice-Premier, Hua Guofeng who was number 11 in the hierarchy was name as acting Premier. It left many in the West baffled and hard to assess what the longterm affects would be, although some ventured to guess it was all about internal Chinese politics; the war between radical and moderate Communists. The news and the abrupt change came on the heels of another upcoming visit from former President Nixon.
United Nations Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan announced his resignation, based on claims he no longer had the active support of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Moynihan came under attack from the administration for his blunt criticisms of U.S. foreign policy, although some speculated it was really about Moynihan’s desire to run for the Senate from New York during this election year.
And on Capitol hill, Senator Frank Church called for an investigation of the CIA and the FBI over allegations of criminal activity by U.S. agencies. Although Church claimed he made that assertion off the record, it was still under consideration in light of recent developments and the need for a Watergate-style investigation.
And that’s just a small slice of what went on this week – the one which ended on February 8, 1976 and reported by CBS Radio’s World This Week.