President Luis Echeverría Álvarez: A Legacy of Human Rights Abuse and Ties to the CIA
Luis Echeverría Álvarez, President of Mexico from 1970 to 1976, died on July 8, 2022, leaving behind a legacy of human rights abuses and close ties to the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Surrounded by his family, Mr. Echeverría died at the age of 100 at his home in Cuernavaca, Mexico.
The funeral was held in Mexico City, but unlike other deceased presidents, Mr Echevería was not given a state funeral and, contrary to tradition, neither the current president nor any other former Mexican leader attended his funeral, which speaks to the legacy of brutality. and the human rights violations it leaves behind.
Mr. Echeverría and Mexico’s Dirty War
Before becoming president, Mr. Echeverría was one of the leading figures in the Mexican Dirty War, the Mexican theater of the Cold War. He consolidated his power through his willingness to engage in violence to crush the budding civil unrest in the country.
As interior minister in the 1960s, Mr. Echeverría was one of the main perpetrators of the Tlatelolco massacre, in which paramilitary forces disguised as civilians – allegedly acting under orders from Mr. Echeverría – shot dead 300 student protesters in Tlatelolco, Mexico. October 2, 1968.
“It was a terrible thing; people were running everywhere, people were falling dead everywhere, people were tripping over dead people,” said a survivor of the massacre.
When Mr. Echeverría assumed the presidency in 1970, the government’s policy toward insurgent movements shifted from control and disarticulation to annihilation.
Faced with another student mobilization in Mexico City on June 10, 1971, Mr. Echeverría would once again deploy paramilitary forces to confront the students, resulting in another massacre.
The events that unfolded that day would become known as “Halconazo”, named after the paramilitary group “Los Halcones” (The Falcons) that the government used to attack leftist student groups.
The Falcons reportedly chased injured students into hospitals, killing them as they were being treated for their injuries. Some sources claim that the paramilitary group killed up to 120 students during the incident.
“When we entered, the small room was cluttered with corpses […] about half of it, there were dead bodies on top of each other, as if they were small animals, lying on top of each other,” said a nurse who treated the wounded that day during testimonies.
Mr. Echeverría and the CIA
After Halconazo, Mr. Echeverría stepped up military operations to quell insurgent movements, a policy viewed fondly by the United States at the height of the Cold War with the Soviet Union.
Mr. Echeverría – who once told President Richard Nixon that Fidel Castro and Cuba were “instruments of penetration into the United States and Mexico” – firmly believed that the United States and Mexico must work together to curb unrest social issues fueled by international communism.
It was his ironclad anti-communist stance that made Mr. Echeverría an ally of the United States, especially the CIA.
During his tenure as Interior Minister, Mr. Echeverría, along with other senior members of Mexico’s political elite, were part of a spy ring established by the CIA from 1956 to 1969 under the codename LITEMPO, according to a National Security Archive report. .
The covert operation aimed to gather intelligence and influence the highest echelons of the Mexican political system.
Mr. Echeverría would even become a close acquaintance of the head of the CIA station in Mexico City, Winston Scott, becoming a paid CIA agent and a guest at Mr. Scott’s dinner parties.
Through this spy network, the Mexican government informed the United States of all civil movements, including the 1968 student movement, which the Mexican government claims was co-opted by socialist forces.
In addition, during this period, the CIA reportedly informed the Mexican government of guerrilla and leftist movements in the country through a daily intelligence report titled “Enemies of the Nation”.
Following the events of Tlatelolco, LITEMPO was quickly disbanded and Mr. Scott retired.
The spy ring ended when Mr. Echeverría took over the presidency.
However, intelligence gathered about revolutionary movements and repressive government tactics persisted into the next decade, at a time when other Latin American leaders were carrying out the same violent measures with the help of the CIA.
In 2006, Mr. Echeverría was tried for genocide related to his involvement in the Tlatelolco massacre and the Halconazo. However, a judge acquitted him of all charges, citing that there was insufficient evidence linking the former president to the massacre.