Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), whose ignorance of Latin America has been exceeded only by his attempted influence on U.S. policy there, may at last have met his match: himself.
His strange appetite for Latin American leaders of the fascist stripe has come out in the open, and may be his undoing. Not for Helms the brave democratic leaders like Jose Sarney of Brazil and Raul Alfonsin of Argentina. Rather, the senator's tastes run to thuggish caudillos who rule with bullets, the lash and the electrode. Having at the polls in El Salvador lost Roberto d'Aubuisson to democrat Jose Napoleon Duarte, Helms turned his eyes south, and there found the only two remaining Latin dictators worthy of the name--Augusto Pinochet of Chile and Alfredo Stroessner of Paraguay. The only two true anti-communists in Latin America, cried Helms when he was recently in Chile trying to undercut the recent and rather mild U.S. attempts to push Chile again toward the democracy that it once and for so long enjoyed.
True anti-communism for Helms apparently includes putting the opponents of a dictatorship to agonizing death by fire; rather than objecting to the burning of two young people in Chile, Helms wanted the American ambassador recalled for angrily protesting it.