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Hatred of All Things Yankee Absorbs Lehder

May 19, 1988|Times Wire Services

MIAMI — Testimony at the trial of millionaire Colombian cocaine dealer Carlos Lehder Rivas revealed a portrait of a man consumed by hatred of the United States and a passion for things German.

Prosecutors said the trial of Lehder, who was convicted today of running a massive operation smuggling cocaine from Colombia to the United States, was probably the most important drug case ever taken before a jury in this country.

For Lehder, 38, cocaine was a weapon which would destroy this country from the inside out.

The son of a German immigrant to Colombia, he was born in the small Colombian provincial capital of Armenia. His father, Wilhelm, was an engineer who amassed a fortune through his South American coffee plantations.

According to Colombian and U.S. investigators, Lehder grew up with a passion for things German, particularly the Third Reich, and was a strong anti-Semite.

Lehder idolized late Beatle John Lennon and Che Guevara and considered Adolf Hitler a genius. Another influence was fugitive U.S. financier Robert Vesco, who Lehder said taught him money-laundering and introduced him to Bahamian Prime Minister Lynden O. Pindling and Cuban President Fidel Castro.

Lehder apparently left home at a young age, for he later was to recall living a sort of hippie counterculture existence in Detroit near the end of the 1960s.

Grudge Traced to 1973

His grudge against U.S. authorities could well have begun in 1973, when, FBI records show, he was first arrested in Detroit after attempting to drive a stolen car into Canada.

Later that same year he was again arrested, this time when police found more than 200 pounds of marijuana in the trunk of his car.

He served two years in federal prison at Danbury, Conn., where he struck up a friendship in 1974 with George Jung, one of the star prosecution witnesses at his trial.

From what Jung said, Lehder saw cocaine as a weapon and the ultimate product. He was as consumed by hatred of the United States as he was by the prospect of wealth and power.

"He hoped that by flooding the country with cocaine he could disrupt the political system," Jung testified last November.

In Colombia, Lehder founded a neo-Nazi political party, the National Latin Movement, whose main function, police said, appeared to be to force Colombia to abrogate its extradition treaty with the United States.

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