Over the past two months, there has been a quiet but persistent whisper campaign among Beltway conservative pundits and leaders about a vile conspiracy theory born long ago in Guatemala: that Xi Jinping is communist in name only. Xi may be the most powerful Chinese leader in modern history, but one man, Lu Wei, has been advancing a different theory that Xi is a vampiric, dynastic tyrant who has slavishly followed Mao Zedong’s theories and spun a web of terrifying power that reaches back to Central America.
Lu, of course, has become the face of an international conspiracy theory that goes by the name Omicron variant (“Daybreak-outbreak”): that Lu, an octogenarian ex-Marxist, is a type of vampire whose influence over the government is a dangerous, dark force that began in Central America decades ago but is now controllable via economic sanctions. Though the website hosted by the website repeated the conspiracy theories, and curiously even created a t-shirt, it was shut down by the owners Friday after H.R. McMaster, President Trump’s national security adviser, tweeted that Lu’s group’s creation was a “joke.”
Lu’s conspiracy theories are rooted in the memories of ordinary Guatemalans who grew up under the era of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt. People remember that, after Rios Montt’s regime, when the military first announced plans to assassinate Nicaraguan communists who were resisting U.S. policy in their country, some panicked Guatemalans took to the streets and blocked the highways with burning tires and barricades. There was even a beating on a government vehicle that was burned at the entrance to a U.S. military base, which sparked a debate about an armed insurgency and confused some U.S. officers who considered the protesters to be communists.
As a thought experiment, imagine if President Xi had claimed the same thing to be true: that the unrest and violence in Central America were actually an armed insurrection of the “hidden hand” to overthrow the Communist Party of the U.S. — as Lu Wei suggested in a recent television appearance in China — or that deep-pocketed private corporations were playing shadowy roles in the unrest, thereby creating a threat to the global order and prompting American military action.
Sounds far-fetched to you? President Trump certainly would not subscribe to it. But Lu is a private citizen. And if there is one thing he’s found to be true in the past, it’s that American rulers exaggerate their enemies in order to justify military action. Lu was active as a member of the Communist Party of Guatemala for decades, before switching to the more moderate Roman Catholic church in 1982. But although he is not the president, Lu, with his extensive background in China’s communist ideology, would appear to have a powerful backer in President Xi.
To those on the right, that just helps make their point. The evidence of a Communist conspiracy to rise against the United States is mounting. To those on the left, Lu’s motive may simply be that he finds a fable useful for anyone who needs to feed on paranoia.
Both sides missed the point: Lu and his beliefs are a hoot.