The Cult Leader meets the Kleptocrat-in-Chief

Appearances can be deceiving--and indeed were very deceiving when Lyndon LaRouche became the economics tutor for Mexican President Jose Lopez Portillo

[The following is adapted from one of the footnotes by Dennis King that accompany lyndonlarouchewatch's translation of the 1996 Darrin Wood article, "Lyndon LaRouche and the Chiapas paramilitaries." To read the article and the rest of King's in-depth footnotes about LaRouche in Mexico, click here.]

Lyndon LaRouche's May 1982 audience with Mexican President Jose Lopez Portillo appears to have been something more than a courtesy visit. LaRouche's economic and political proposals had been circulating among top PRI leaders for years, and he apparently came away from the meeting with the idea that Lopez Portillo wanted him to develop a definitive plan of action. The result was Operation Juarez, a policy study which was first published on Aug. 2, 1982 and quickly circulated both to the Mexican government and to elites throughout Latin America. This document, which attracted much attention, urged the nations of the region to stand up to the IMF, nationalize their banking structures, and jointly use the threat of the "debt bomb" (the repudiation of the huge amounts they owed to First World banks) in order to negotiate a new world order.

That same month, responding to a capital-flight crisis, Lopez Portillo suspended international debt payments. And, as described by R.T. Naylor in Hot Money and the Politics of Debt (1987), he

ordered troops into the banks to prevent documents from being removed or destroyed, cut telex lines between branches, had guards posted at the homes of the top bank executives, and then made his Sept. 1 State of the Nation address in the House of Assembly, in which he imposed general exchange controls and nationalized the banking system.

In October, Lopez Portillo (having temporarily diverted the Mexican public's attention away from his regime's record of corruption) addressed the UN General Assembly in a speech that was not unreasonable in its content but bore an occasional eery resemblance--in its choice of rhetoric--to one of LaRouche's rants. For instance, the Mexican leader warned of the "beginning of a new medieval Dark Age," boasted of how Mexico had begun to "strengthen the dirigist role of the State," and concluded, "Not only is the heritage of civilization at stake, but also the very survival...of the human species." (Click here for text of speech.)

The LaRouchians would later complain that Lopez Portillo's version of Operation Juarez came a cropper because the leaders of other major nations in the region, such as Brazil and Argentina, failed to recognize the potential of such financial Bolivarism. However, there was a bit more to the story than that--Lopez Portillo, far from challenging the international banks, was actually taking steps to ensure they would get paid promptly. Naylor, an economics professor at McGill University, notes that it was clear at the time to the Wall Street Journal and others that the PRI was using the nationalization "farce" to "whip up nationalist fervor in order to get popular support prior to implementing a harsh IMF austerity package when the country was already crushed by debt and depression." And through what mechanisms would the debts to the North American banks get paid?

[W]hen Mexico imposed foreign-exchange controls, it also established priorities for the use of foreign exchange. First on the list came the servicing of public-sector debt. Once the domestic banks were nationalized, their debts to international banks also became a public-sector obligation, sharing first claims on the available supplies of foreign exchange. A spokesman for the Bank of America, the institution with the largest single "exposure," i.e., with the most to lose, in Mexico, declared, "The decision announced by President Lopez Portillo has the merit of putting the Mexican state clearly behind its banking system."

LaRouche would continue over the years to lavish praise on Lopez Portillo--who left office in late 1982 and would end up the most reviled ex-President in Mexico's history. It is possible that the NCLC leader, who is poorly informed on economics, never understood what had really happened--that his organization's proposal had been used as a cover in achieving the opposite of what he had fantasized about. (Although the policy study bears LaRouche's name, the coherent portions of it had largely been crafted by his in-house economist, who would later leave the organization and, after reestablishing a normal life, become for awhile the global head of debt research at the investment banking subsidiary of...Bank of America!

According to reports in EIR (and I have no reason to doubt the facts it presents on this point), Lopez Portillo reciprocated LaRouche's praise, especially after becoming partially paralyzed and developing other serious ailments in the 1990s. He appeared with Helga Zepp-LaRouche before the Mexican Society of Geography and Statistics in 1998, where he said it "is now necessary for the world to listen to the wise words of Lyndon LaRouche" (click here). The following year, he issued a call for U.S. citizens to give LaRouche their "timely recognition and support" in the 2000 elections (click here). In 2002, he sent a speech to be read at a conference of LaRouche's MSIA in Guadalajara (addressed also in absentia by LaRouche and Argentina's imprisoned carapintada hero Col. Seineldin), saying he was sorry that LaRouche, like himself, could not be personally present to "enlighten us with his expert teaching" (click here). When Lopez Portillo died in 2004, members of the Mexican wing of the LaRouche Youth Movement showed up at the wake to sing "Oh, Freedom," thus demonstrating, according to EIR, that "the nationalist fighting spirit of Don Jose Lopez Portillo would continue to live on in us."

Magical realism?

After Helga Zepp-LaRouche delivered her "keynote" address before the Mexican Society of Geography and Statistics, Dec. 1, 1998, the former Mexican President made the following comments according to EIR:

I congratulate Dona Helga for these words, which impressed me, especially because first they trapped me in the Apocalypse, but then she showed me the staircase by which we can get to a promised land. Many thanks, Dona Helga.

Dona Helga--and here I wish to congratulate her husband, Lyndon LaRouche--is a kind of Xihuacoatl, of that economic thinker of modern days. Xihuacoatl, as you all know, was the female serpent who was a member of the Aztec government, which was based on duality, on Omeyoca, the second place. This is reflected in the government which had, also, as everyone knows, a Tlatuani, and parallel, a Xihuacoatl, who went out to fight when necessary, and it is now necessary for the world to listen to the wise words of Lyndon LaRouche. Now it is through the voice of his wife, that we have had the privilege of listening to him.

Was Lopez Portillo perhaps speaking with the forked tongue of the serpent of satire? I will defer on this point to people who knew this highly intelligent man personally in the final decade of his life. I do know, however, that the LaRouche organization had officially branded the Aztecs as hideously evil and satanic. I presume that this attitude underwent a subtle reframing after Dec. 1,1998.