During the late 1980's the LaRouchites covertly sought to expand their contacts with the left and attempted to link up with progressive groups over issues such as anti-interventionism, covert action, government domestic repression, civil liberties and Third World debt. Many progressive researchers report that during this period they began to receive telephone calls from LaRouchian operatives suggesting joint work or offering documents or story ideas.
Progressive activists also were targeted. For instance, LaRouche organizers involved themselves in an international anti-interventionist conference held in Panama, and have worked behind the scenes around the issue of U.S. involvement in Panamanian affairs ever since. Although conference organizers say they tried to isolate the LaRouchians at the conference, there is little doubt that the LaRouchians managed to leave the impression with some activists that they were a key component in the alliance against U.S. intervention in Panama.
Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark has become a vocal opponent of U.S. intervention and was a major critic of the U.S. invasion of Panama. Clark has regularly worked in the same anti-intervention projects as the LaRouchians, where their presence would have been difficult not to notice. While there is no evidence (or even a reasonable suspicion) that Clark willingly works with the LaRouchians or shares any of their bigoted views, it is clear the LaRouchians delight in implying that just such a relationship exists between themselves and Clark, especially since Clark agreed to represent the LaRouchians in filing legal appeals flowing out of a series of federal criminal convictions of LaRouchian fundraisers and LaRouche himself.
The ability of the LaRouchites to inject themselves into mainstream debate around the issue of Panama is astonishing. For instance, at the April, 1991 conference of the Latin American Studies Association in Washington, D.C., a panel on Panama included LaRouchian expert Carlos Wesley. Wesley was not the first choice. Two panelists from Panama who were originally scheduled to appear did not receive funding to attend the conference, so panel co-coordinator Donald Bray from California State University in Los Angeles then called a person he respected as an expert on Panama for advice on a last minute replacement. "I called Carlos Russell, a Panamanian who now teaches in the U.S., and who was a former Ambassador to the OAS for a former Panamanian government," explains Bray. "He said `you are not going to believe this, but I am going to recommend a LaRouchite, Carlos Wesley.'" A slightly bemused Bray says he knew Wesley from long ago and knew he was a reporter for LaRouche's Executive Intelligence Review. Still, this was a recommendation from a credible Panamanian source so with some misgivings Bray scheduled Wesley as a panelist.
Wesley was identified as a correspondent for Executive Intelligence Review (EIR) but, according to author Holly Sklar, who attended the session, many in the audience were not aware that EIR was a LaRouche publication. "Of course if we had identified him as a LaRouchian, nobody would have paid any attention to what he said," explained Bray.
The ties between LaRouche and Panama go back several years to when LaRouche intelligence collectors began trading tidbits of information with Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega. Following Noriega's indictment for conspiracy in drug deals, journalist William Branigin, writing in the Washington Post of June 18, 1988, noted that among Noriega's few supporters in the United States was "political extremist Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr., who has praised the general as a leader in the war on drugs."
According to a January, 1990 Associated Press report, LaRouche sent Noriega a cable after his indictment, telling the dictator "I extend to you my apologies for what the government of the United States is doing to the Republic of Panama." LaRouche told Noriega "I reiterate to you what I have stated publicly. That the Reagan administration current policies towards Panama are absolutely an offense to your nation and all of Latin America." This type of rhetoric shows how the LaRouchians can adopt a critique of U.S. foreign policy ostensibly similar to that of the left, while weaving in an apologia converting a drug-running dictator into a drug-fighting humanitarian. LaRouche also has high praise for other dictators, including the late Ferdinand Marcos. The LaRouchians claim Marcos actually won his last election.
Another example of ideological cross-fertilization involves Cecilio Simon, a Panamanian who is an administrator at the University of Panama. Simon spoke along with Ramsey Clark and others at the April 6, 1990 "Voices from Panama "forum held at New York City's Town Hall auditorium. Simon later spoke at the LaRouchian "Fifth International Martin Luther King Tribunal of the Schiller Institute," on June 2, 1990 in Silver Spring, Maryland. These incidents demonstrate how the LaRouchians continue to insert themselves into anti-interventionist work and gain credibility on the left.
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