Lyndon LaRouche's Latin American Connection

"Maybe Hitler's fanatics aren't around anymore. But don't doubt that LaRouche's teams will undertake the same task if given half a chance."

The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 1, 1989

MEXICO CITY--It was a surprising sign to find outside my downtown office. Coarsely scribbled in red paint on a whitewashed wall were the words, Libertad a LaRouche (Freedom to LaRouche). I wondered if anyone passing by understood what that meant, so I asked a few passersby--the LaRouche name drew only blank stares.

Perhaps I, too, would have been in the dark had it not been for a 1987 speaking trip to Lima, Peru. I was invited by a research institute for a series of talks on Mexico's political-economic system. The purpose was to draw parallels between my country's government structure and President Alan Garcia's grand design of a similar one for Peru. Particularly of interest was a comparison of Mexico's 1982 bank nationalization and President Garcia's bungled attempt to nationalize Peru's banks, a fiasco that was still unfolding at the time of the conference.

In the midst of my lecture at Lima's Pacific University, a young man with a heavy northern Mexican accent stood up and began to make some remarks that soon turned into abuse. First he questioned my patriotism. Then he claimed, without offering proof, that the two most prominent men opposed to President Garcia's bank takeover were involved in drug trafficking. These two men were novelist and presidential candidate Mario Vargas Llosa and Hernando de Soto, author of one of the most influential books ever written on Latin America's social, political and economic system, The Other Path.

My hosts at the university, upset at the long-winded harangue, asked me whether I wanted the security forces to expel the extemporaneous speaker and a group of his supporters who surrounded him in a defiant attitude. But I feared a likely violent outcome. Instead, I waited for my cue. When he began ranting that Mexico's state takeover of the banks had been well deserved because these institutions were involved in the laundering of drug money, I joked that cars are often used for the transportation of drugs, but that no one claims this is a reason to expropriate the automobile industry.

I was then able to request questions from other sections of the auditorium, but I could still hear my vitriolic countryman cry out, "You're a demagogue." After the lecture, though, he approached me and gave me an issue of the Executive Intelligence Review, one of Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr.'s primary publications.

Soon I found that LaRouche's activities in Latin America were widespread:

  • His Labor Party in Mexico has been often used to attack the opposition, and a book published by it argued that the right-of-center National Action Party (PAN) is a KGB agency;

  • In a critical 1986 election in Chihuahua, Mexico, LaRouche's Mexican goons passed out slanderous pamphlets about the PAN gubernatorial candidate. One such pamphlet suggested: "A vote for the PAN is a vote for Nazism";

  • Jose I. Blandon, a longtime adviser of Manuel Noriega, claimed in 1988 that the Panamanian strongman had close links with LaRouche;

  • Early in 1989, when the corrupt leaders of Mexico's Oil Workers' Union were jailed, LaRouche's weekly newspaper, The New Federalist, claimed the "attack on the strongest and most militant union in Mexico was carried out on orders from the Anglo-American Liberal Establishment, controlled by the Satan-worshippers of Scottish Rite Freemasonry";

  • And, as I could see for myself in Lima, LaRouche's agents have been busy in Peru supporting President Garcia's policies and harassing the opposition.

  • It may be easy to dismiss LaRouche and his people--perhaps with a joke as I did in Lima--as mere innocuous lunatics. After all, anyone who claims, as he does in his autobiography, to be "the most controversial among the influential international figures of this decade," or the only "original thinker" among "the leading candidates for the U.S. presidency since 1945," or "the leading economist in the world today," is difficult to take seriously. His plans to establish a human colony on Mars, or his claims that Henry Kissinger is the leading member of a conspiracy to control the world, do little to enhance his position as a serious thinker or politician.

    But LaRouche often seems to find the right connection with powerful people at the right time. The Noriega link announced by Mr. Blandon is a case in point. His August 1982 interview with Jose Lopez Portillo, then Mexico's President--a meeting in which he is supposed to have presented a plan for the government's takeover of the nation's banking system ("Operation Juarez") just before Mr. Lopez Portillo actually carried it out--is another example.

    Now that LaRouche is in jail, some prominent Latin politicians have risen up to his defense. claiming that he is the victim of persecution. More than 100 Latin American congressmen signed a statement, published in The Washington Post on April 28, 1989, demanding his release. Not surprisingly, the signatories included a number of members of Mr. Garcia's party, the Popular Revolutionary Alliance of the Americas (APRA), and of the Authentic Party of the Mexican Revolution (PARM), a group often linked to former Mexican President Luis Echeverria and that supported leftist candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas in the 1988 Mexican presidential election. Moreover, the influential leftist Mexican newsweekly Proceso ran, in its May 29, 1989, issue, a heated defense of LaRouche.

    Perhaps no one takes LaRouche's ideas seriously. But his kind of lunacy may not be as innocent as it seems. For political bigwigs enamored of conspiracy theories, and pressed with the need to find goons willing to do dirty jobs for them, his organization is too useful to turn down. Where else could one find someone willing to spread a rumor on the mental illness of a presidential candidate, to claim that the critics of a certain president are drug traffickers, to argue that a conservative party is funded by the KGB, or to disrupt an academic lecture because it runs counter to a government's interests.

    Maybe Hitler's fanatics aren't around anymore. But don't doubt that LaRouche's teams will undertake the same task if given half a chance.

    Mr. Sarmiento, Spanish-language editor of Encyclopedia Britannica Publishers Inc., is also a newspaper columnist and radio commentator based in Mexico.