Question: Isn’t it about time to add Venezuela to the U.S. list of State Sponsors of Terrorism?
The following are the eye-opening results of an extensive research report that was conducted by Ray Walser, Ph.D., a Senior Policy Analyst for Latin America in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies that was recently published by The Heritage Foundation, which seems to give us the undisputable answer to this question-You Decide:
State Sponsors of Terrorism: Time to Add Venezuela to the List–Posted On The Heritage Foundation-By Ray Walser, Ph.D. (Backgrounder #2362)-On January 20, 2010:
These are pertinent excerpts from this article:
Abstract: The U.S. officially designates four countries as state sponsors of terrorism–Iran, Syria, Cuba, and Sudan. It is high time to add Venezuela to the list. Far from being merely a populist showman and bully, Hugo Chávez is a reckless leader who collaborates with Colombian narcoterrorists and Islamist terrorists, pals around with brutal Iranian dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is a virulent anti-Semite, and is guided by a relentless anti-Americanism in everything he does. President Obama does not see Venezuela as a threat to U.S. national security. This view is not optimistic–it is dangerous. Heritage Foundation Latin America expert Ray Walser lays out the overwhelming– and disturbing–evidence of the increasing threat that the Chávez regime poses to U.S. security.
Since 1979, the U.S. has maintained a list of nations it judges to be state sponsors of terrorism. The list is a regular reminder of the enduring threat to international peace and security posed by the secretive alliances between non-state terrorist organizations and states run by dangerous leaders ready to employ violence against their enemies. Operating beyond the norms of international laws and in disregard for the shared obligations to work for common security, these “terror list” nations ruthlessly support terrorists as proxies to advance their interests. In the 21st century, terrorism has tragically become a regular means for waging “asymmetrical” warfare against militarily superior enemies or regional rivals. Globalization allows transnational networks to routinely link parties that are committed to terrorism, violence, and criminality, and are a major threat to U.S. security.
As of 2009, the U.S. listed four nations–Syria, Cuba, Sudan, and Iran–as state sponsors of terrorism. A fifth country, Venezuela, merits a place on this list because of its support for acts of terrorism and subversion committed by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and because of its strategic alignment with the other four state sponsors of terrorism, particularly Iran.
The continuing decay of democratic governance in Venezuela, the loss of political checks and balances, and the decline of transparency coupled with the militarization of society and unparalleled concentration of power in the hands of Venezuela’s authoritarian populist president, Hugo Chávez, is converting Caracas into more than a second Havana. Venezuela is emerging as a mecca for anti-U.S. hostility and the gateway for anti-American extremism into the Americas. Under Chávez’s leadership, Venezuela makes its chief international mission the challenging of U.S. interests in the Americas and around the globe.
Since January 2009, the Obama Administration’s attempts to improve relations with the stridently anti-America Chávez have yielded little more than empty gestures. Although ambassadorial relations were restored in June 2009, Chávez has signaled renewed support for the narcoterrorism of the FARC, begun threatening and punishing Colombia for its defense cooperation agreement with the U.S., helped destabilize Honduras by backing former president Manuel Zelaya’s illegal referendum, pushed ahead with major Russian arms acquisitions, and sealed ever closer ties, including joint nuclear ventures, with Iran. Venezuela plays an increasingly prominent role as a primary transit country for cocaine flowing from Colombia to the U.S., Europe, and West Africa. Nevertheless, the Obama Administration, according to the President’s National Security Council adviser on Latin America, Dan Restrepo, does not consider Venezuela to be a challenge to U.S. national security: President Obama “does not see Venezuela as a challenge to U.S. national security. There is no Cold War nor Hot War. Those things belong to the past.”
This view is not optimistic–it is dangerous. The Administration needs to, as a recent bipartisan congressional resolution urges, adopt a genuinely tough-minded approach to dealing with Chávez and Venezuela. The Administration needs to develop a public diplomacy strategy to counter Chavista disinformation and a diplomatic strategy in the Americas that responds to growing threats of political destabilization. It also needs to recognize that under Chávez, Venezuela has become terrorism’s most prominent supporter in the Western Hemisphere. The Obama Administration can begin to correct this policy of drift and inaction by placing Venezuela on the list of state sponsors of terrorism along with Iran.…”
“Drift Is Not a Strategy:
At his press conference following the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago in April, President Obama spoke of his brief encounter with Chávez and spoke in a hopeful tone about improved relations, dismissing the potential security threat posed by Venezuela:
Venezuela is a country whose defense budget is probably 1/600th of the United States’. They own Citgo. It’s unlikely that as a consequence of me shaking hands or having a polite conversation with Mr. Chavez that we are endangering the strategic interests of the United States. I don’t think anybody can find any evidence that that would do so. Even within this imaginative crowd, I think you would be hard-pressed to paint a scenario in which U.S. interests would be damaged as a consequence of us having a more constructive relationship with Venezuela.
Since those remarks in April, it is difficult to uncover a single positive piece of evidence regarding a more “constructive relationship” with Venezuela. The course of U.S.-Venezuelan relations has been scarred by Chávez’s efforts to bring Cuba back into the OAS, without a commitment to democracy, and his encouraging Manuel Zelaya’s populist power bid in Honduras, coupled with reports of Iran-Venezuelan nuclear cooperation and the current crisis between Colombia and Venezuela.
Washington has done nothing to address continued U.S. strategic reliance on oil imports, particularly from Venezuela. A significant body of political and business expertise urges the Obama Administration not to rock the boat, even if Chávez clearly intends to follow a strategy that eventually diverts Venezuelan oil to Iranian, Chinese, and Russian oil companies. U.S. policymakers refuse to address the long-term implications of Chávez’s anti-U.S. oil strategy and argue that a shutting off sales to the U.S. will do more harm to Venezuela than to the U.S. This position counts on the logic of markets and cost-benefit analysis acting as restraints upon a fiery, anti-American decision maker whose disdain for such “bourgeois” approaches is manifest on a daily basis. Such a hopeful policy makes U.S. security contingent on Chávez, putting the U.S. into a defensive and passive position.
Chávez’s continuing ties to the FARC, partnerships with the four state sponsors of terrorism, and strident global anti-Americanism beg a firmer U.S. response. After a year in office, the Obama Administration has yet to demonstrate it commands an effective strategy for responding, let alone countering, either Chávez’s growing domestic illiberalism and repression, or expansive anti-Americanism in Latin America and around the world.
What the U.S. Should Do:
Add Venezuela to the State Sponsors of Terrorism List. Congress should pass a resolution calling for placing Venezuela on the state sponsors of terrorism list and the Obama Administration should promptly proceed with adding Venezuela to the list. While largely symbolic because of existing restrictions on arms sales and technology transfers, it would give the U.S. greater authority to monitor U.S. financial transactions with Venezuela. The U.S. should make sure that the full rigor of the law is applied to Venezuela’s commerce and trade in order to prevent Venezuela from acting as a front for Iran or other terrorism-friendly regimes.
Launch a Real Public Diplomacy Effort Against Chávez. The U.S. is losing the battle against massive disinformation spawned by Chavez. If the Obama Administration wishes to preserve the security of the hemisphere, it must move to more proactive rebuttals with skilled public affairs efforts. Take the U.S. embassy’s Web site in Caracas, http://caracas.usembassy.gov, which fails to post any information that challenges the outlandish assertions made by Chávez regarding U.S. policy in places like Colombia. In brief, the Obama Administration needs to develop an informational campaign to counter Chavista disinformation.
Enhance U.S. Capacity Building to Counter Terrorism and Drug Trafficking in the Americas. The threat posed by Chávez and his allies is far from overt. It lies in the asymmetrical contest that pits the lesser accumulation of threats, such as drug trafficking, arms smuggling, and money laundering, to erode U.S. power and influence. The U.S. must do a better job of collecting, analyzing, and distributing intelligence regarding Chávez and the active threat posed by traditional terrorism and narcoterrorism in the Americas. It should use available intelligence platforms, such as the Joint Interagency Task Force South (JITF-South) at Key West and the new observation locations in Colombia, to monitor Venezuelan support for narcoterrorism and criminal activity.
Improve Security for Friends. The Administration should make clear its commitment to supporting and defending friends, such as Colombia, from either overt aggression and intimidation by Venezuelan military forces or indirect aggression through Venezuelan support for the FARC. Beyond the recent Defense Cooperation Agreement, the U.S. should be prepared to give Colombia a guarantee of political and, if necessary, military support against a threat of unprovoked attack by Chávez and the Venezuelan military. This will help moderate Colombian anxieties and silence those who are beginning to question U.S. readiness to help Colombia resist Chávez’s bullying. Congress should cement the relationship with Colombia by passing long-delayed Free Trade Agreements with Colombia and Panama.
Before the Obama Presidency began, the U.S. had already determined that Venezuela cooperates neither in combating terrorism nor in halting drug trafficking. The U.S. has ceased economic assistance and sales of military equipment to Venezuela. Relations are largely conducted at the commercial level where the U.S.-Venezuelan trade exchange is still robust. It is broad commercial ties that merit closer examination and scrutiny if effective pressure is to be applied to Chávez and to Venezuela in order to modify its international behavior.
Washington is all too familiar with Chávez’s readiness to align himself with all current state sponsors of terrorism and to fan the flames of turmoil in the Middle East and the Americas. He has risen to high stature as an international firebrand and dedicated leader of the anti-Americanism of the 21st century. Placing Venezuela where it belongs, on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, will not resolve every challenge the U.S. faces with regard to Venezuela, but it will send a powerful signal that the American people understand that oil, extremism, terror, and anti-Americanism make a dangerous mixture whether in the Middle East or the Americas.
Ray Walser, Ph.D., is Senior Policy Analyst for Latin America in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.”
Note: This recent articles, CRS reports and transcript seem to overwhelmingly support the above report-You Decide:
The Threat of Terorrism In Latin America–Posted On The Americano.Com- By Eddy Acevedo-On January 7, 2010:
These are pertinent excerpts from this article:
“The recent attempted terrorist attack on an American passenger plane during the holidays has forced U.S. officials to re-evaluate our intelligence priorities. As a result, the growing threat of radical Islamic terrorism in Latin America also requires more attention.
However, due to the war in the Middle East, tracking terrorism in Latin America is not a high priority. Jim Bergman, Drugs Enforcement Agency Director for the Andean Region of South America, recently characterized the current issues as “an unholy alliance between South American narco-terrorists and Islamist extremists.”
Furthermore, SOUTHCOM analysts understand the importance of tracking terrorism in the region because they have better intelligence even though it might not seem as significant when it is funneled up the ladder to Washington. So, is Latin America a good location for terrorist organizations to strengthen their ability to harm Americans? Yes, due to the close proximity to American soil and the inability of our immigration officials to keep track on illegal immigrants coming into the country.
Hezbollah is considered to be one of the largest international terrorist organizations in Latin America. The Argentinean media reports that Hezbollah supporters and Iran were responsible for the bombings of an Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires. Abolghasem Mesbahi was an Iranian intelligence agent who allegedly admitted that in Argentina, former President Carlos Menem supposedly accepted $10 million dollars of bribe money to cover up the connection between Iran and Hezbollah concerning the bombing.
In December of 2006, the Treasury Department announced that nine individuals in Brazil and Paraguay were financing Islamic terrorism and were involved in the AMIA bombing. One of the masterminds behind the September 11 attacks was Khalid Shaikh Mohammad (KSM). Less known, is that in 1995 KSM spent three weeks in Brazil meeting with Muslims in the region and also founded a charity called the Holy Land Foundation to raise funds for Osama bin Laden. According to the U.S. Treasury, the charity is designated as a terrorist supporter and funds were reportedly given to Hamas. KSM went to the region because the tri-border area of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay is a safe haven for radical Islamic terrorists that use the area for smuggling, money laundering, and arms trafficking.
In 2006, the Iranian government opened an embassy in Managua, Nicaragua. Since its opening, Iranians have been accused of crossing the Nicaraguan border to meet with Hondurans and take photos of strategic infrastructures, causing concern to the Honduran government. The growing Iranian influence in Latin America does not just affect one country, but the security of the entire region. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, stated that “Iran is expanding its ties with the likes of Venezuela’s Chavez and the FARC guerillas in Colombia, and using its embassies, government officials, quasi-government entities, and proxies such as Hezbollah to further extend its influence and operations in Latin America.”
Documents obtained from the computer of FARC member Raul Reyes in Ecuador show correspondence between the terrorist organization and Daniel Ortega. Apparently, the documents also show a strong relationship between Ortega and President of Libya Muammar Al Qaddafi. Ortega received financial assistance from Qaddafi when he was in charge of the Sandinistas party in Nicaragua. When Ortega became president in 2006, Qaddafi financed his trip alongside his family to travel to Libya, Venezuela, Iran, and Cuba. In the 1980s, the U.S. Department of State held Qaddafi as one of the biggest supporters of international terrorism. Nicaragua is also the only country in Central America without a Financial Intelligence Unit, a government agency that helps to monitor possible money laundering schemes and prevents terrorist financing activities.
Cuba has remained on the State Department’s list of state sponsor of terrorism since 1982 because it has assisted terrorist organizations by providing safe haven and financial assistance. Cuba also has strong relationships with other state sponsors of terrorism such as Iran, Sudan, and Syria.
Many analysts look at Cuba as a small island that does not have much to offer. However, what they fail to realize is that Cuba has one of the best intelligence operations in the world. Being able to collect great intelligence gives Cuba an advantage over wealthier countries because they can sell that information to Iran, Venezuela, or Syria. In addition, Cuba’s close proximity to Miami makes it an even better hotspot to conduct surveillance on American infrastructure targets.
The State Department included Venezuela on the list of countries not cooperating with antiterrorism efforts for the third year in a row and efforts continue on Capitol Hill to include it as a state sponsor of terrorism. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has become involved and is closely associated with the FARC, as he has advocated taking the FARC off the United States and European terrorism list. One grave national security threat is that in Venezuela, it is still easy to forge citizenship and travel documents making the country a potentially attractive spot for terrorists.
Currently, an Iranian airline started having direct flights into Caracas. Thus, possible terrorists can travel by plane from Iran to Venezuela, from Venezuela to Nicaragua, Nicaragua to Cuba, and essentially make their way closer to the United States. These passengers do not need visas to travel within these countries, so it is difficult to detect and monitor their movements.
So, what can be done to counter any possible attacks? Governments in Latin America must become more involved to stop terrorism. While the Department of State currently provides approximately $9 million dollars in Anti-Terrorism Assistance for training and equipment to Latin American countries, this is not enough. The U.S. should spend more money in training and assisting foreign militaries in counterterrorism operations, while teaching law enforcement officials how to collect and analyze intelligence information.
Corruption and weak institutions in the region make it easier for terrorist organizations to develop and flourish. If minimal attention is given to Latin America now and instead wait until the problem gets worse, it may prove to be too late. Our main goal should be to remain proactive instead of reactive when a possible threat comes our way from Latin America.
Eddy Acevedo currently serves as the Federal Affairs Coordinator of Miami-Dade County’s DC Office. Miami-Dade County is the 9th largest county in the United States and is considered the Gateway to the Americas. Mr. Acevedo advocates for the County’s priorities with Congress and the White House. In 2005, he worked as Senior Legislative Assistant to Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-18), Ranking Member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.”
CRS Report (RS21049) For Congress “Latin America: Terrorism Issues” –By Mark P. Sullivan, Specialist in Latin American Affairs of March 11, 2009:
These are pertinent excerpts from this report:
Since the September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, U.S. attention to terrorism in Latin America has intensified, with an increase in bilateral and regional cooperation.
In its April 2008 Country Reports on Terrorism, the State Department highlighted threats in Colombia and the tri-border area of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. Cuba has remained on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism since 1982, which triggers a number of economic sanctions.
U.S. officials have expressed concerns over the past several years about Venezuela’s lack of cooperation on antiterrorism efforts, its relations with Cuba and Iran, and President Hugo Chávez’s sympathetic statements for Colombian terrorist groups. In May 2008, for the third year in a row, the Department of State, pursuant to Arms Export Control Act, included Venezuela on the annual list of countries not cooperating on antiterrorism efforts.
In the 110th Congress, the House approved H.Con.Res. 188 and H.Con.Res. 385, both condemning the 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association in Buenos Aires, and H.Res. 435, expressing concern over the emerging national security implications of Iran’s efforts to expand its influence in Latin America, and emphasizing the importance of eliminating Hezbollah’s financial network in the tri-border area. The Senate approved S.Con.Res. 53, condemning the hostage-taking of three U.S. citizens for over four years by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
To date in the 111 Congress, one legislative initiative has been introduced, H.R. 375 (Ros-Lehtinen), with the goal of bolstering capacity and cooperation of Western Hemisphere countries to counter current and emerging threats, promoting Western Hemisphere cooperation to prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, and securing universal adherence to agreements regarding nuclear proliferation.
For additional information, see CRS Report R40193, Cuba: Issues for the 111th Congress, and CRS Report RL32488, Venezuela: Political Conditions and U.S. Policy…
Terrorism in Latin America: U.S. Concerns
Over the years, the United States has been concerned about threats to Latin American and Caribbean nations from various terrorist or insurgent groups that have attempted to influence or overthrow elected governments. Although Latin America has not been the focal point in the war on terrorism, countries in the region have struggled with domestic terrorism for decades and international terrorist groups have at times used the region as a battleground to advance their causes.
The State Department’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism highlights U.S. concerns about terrorist threats around the world, including in Latin America.
The April 2008 report states that terrorism in the region was primarily perpetrated by terrorist organizations in Colombia and by the remnants of radical leftist Andean groups. According to the report, “there were no known operational cells of Islamic terrorists” in the region, but it maintained that “pockets of ideological supporters and facilitators in South America and the Caribbean lent financial, logistical, and moral support to terrorist groups in the Middle East.” Overall, however, the report maintained that the threat of a transnational terrorist attack remained low for most countries in the hemisphere.
The report also stated that regional governments “took modest steps to improve their counterterrorism capabilities and tighten border security,” but that progress was limited by “corruption, weak government institutions, ineffective or lack of interagency cooperation, weak or non-existent legislation, and reluctance to allocate sufficient resources.”
The report lauded counterterrorism efforts in Argentina, Panama, Paraguay, Mexico, and El Salvador, and noted that Caribbean and Central American countries took steps to improve their border controls and to secure key infrastructure. It also noted that most hemispheric nations had solid cooperation with the United States on terrorism issues, especially at the operational level, with excellent intelligence, law enforcement, and legal assistance relations.
Colombia has three terrorist groups that have been designated by the Secretary of State as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs): the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN), and remaining elements of the rightist paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). With more than 32,000 members demobilized, the AUC remained inactive as a formal organization, but some AUC renegades continued to engage in criminal activities, mostly drug trafficking, according to the terrorism report. The ELN, which had dwindling memberships and reduced offensive capability, has participated in peace talks with the Colombian government, but no agreements have been reached.
The FARC has been weakened by the government’s military campaign against it, including the killings of several FARC commanders in 2007 and the group’s second in command, Raúl Reyes, during a Colombian government raid on a FARC camp in Ecuador on March 1, 2008. Moreover, in May 2008, the FARC admitted that its long-time leader, Manuel Marulanda, had died of a heart attack in March. Nevertheless, the group has continued terrorist, kidnapping for profit, and narco-trafficking activities, including murders of elected officials and attacks against military and civilian targets in urban and rural areas.
According to the State Department terrorism report, both the FARC and the ELN often crossed into Venezuelan territory for rest and re-supply, and the FARC regularly used Ecuadorian territory for rest, recuperation, re-supply, and training.
On December 19, 2007, the Senate approved S.Con.Res. 53 (Nelson, Bill) condemning the holding of three U.S. citizens by the FARC since February 2003– Thomas Howes, Keith Stansell, and Marc Gonsalves – and calling for their immediate and unconditional release. (Also see CRS Report RL32250, Colombia: Issues for Congress)
The State Department’s terrorism report stated that “it remained unclear to what extent the Venezuelan government provided support to Colombian terrorist organizations,” but information on captured computer files from Colombia’s March 2008 raid of a FARC camp in Ecuador raised questions about alleged support of the FARC by the Venezuelan government of Hugo Chávez.
Since May 2006, the Secretary of State has made an annual determination that Venezuela was not “cooperating fully with United States antiterrorism efforts” pursuant to Section 40A of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA). As a result, the United States imposed an arms embargo on Venezuela, which ended all U.S. commercial arms sales and re-transfers to Venezuela. (Other countries on the Section 40A list include Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Syria, not to be confused with the “state sponsors of terrorism” list under Section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act of 1979.)
According to the terrorism report, President Chávez continued public criticism of U.S. counterterrorism efforts and deepened Venezuelan relationships with Iran and Cuba, and his ideological sympathy for the FARC and ELN, along with high levels of corruption among Venezuelan officials, limited Venezuelan cooperation with Colombia in combating terrorism. In addition, according to the report, Venezuelan citizenship, identity, and travel documents remained easy to obtain, making the country a potentially attractive way-station for terrorists.
U.S. officials and Members of Congress also have expressed concerns about Venezuela’s growing relations with Iran, especially because of Iran’s links with Hezbollah. On June 18, 2008, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced that it was freezing the U.S. assets of two Venezuelans for providing financial and other support to Hezbollah. In the 110th Congress, the House approved H.Res. 435 (Klein) in November 2007, which expressed concern about Iran’s efforts to expand its influence in Latin America, and noted Venezuela’s increasing cooperation with Iran.
Also in the 110th Congress, two resolutions were introduced related to Venezuela and terrorism, but no legislative was action on the measures. H.Res. 1049 (Mack), introduced March 13, 2008, would have called on the Administration to designate Venezuela as a state sponsor of terrorism.
H.Res. 965 (Issa), introduced February 7, 2008, would have called upon the Chávez government to implement measures to deny the use of Venezuelan territory and weapons from being used by terrorist organizations and to resume full cooperation with the United States on counterterrorism measures.
For additional information on Venezuela and terrorism concerns, see CRS Report RL32488, Venezuela: Political Conditions and U.S. Policy….
As in other parts of the world, the United States has assisted Latin American and Caribbean nations over the years in their struggle against terrorist or insurgent groups indigenous to the region. For example, in the 1980s, the United States supported the government of El Salvador with significant economic and military assistance in its struggle against a leftist guerrilla insurgency. In recent years, the United States has employed various policy tools to combat terrorism in the Latin America and Caribbean region, including sanctions, anti-terrorism assistance and training, law enforcement cooperation, and multilateral cooperation through the OAS.
Moreover, given the nexus between terrorism and drug trafficking, one can argue that assistance aimed at combating drug trafficking organizations in the region has also been a means of combating terrorism by cutting off a source of revenue for terrorist organizations. The same argument can be made regarding efforts to combat money laundering in the region.
Although terrorism was not the main focus of U.S. policy toward the region in recent years, attention increased in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
Anti-terrorism assistance has increased along with bilateral and regional cooperation against terrorism. Congress approved the Bush Administration’s request in 2002 to expand the scope of U.S. assistance to Colombia beyond a counter-narcotics focus to also include counterterrorism assistance to the government in its military efforts against drug-financed leftist guerrillas and rightist paramilitaries. Border security with Mexico also became a prominent issue in bilateral relations, with attention focused on the potential transit of terrorists through Mexico to the United States.
The United States has imposed sanctions on three groups in Colombia (ELN, FARC, and AUC) and one group in Peru (SL) designated by the Department of State as FTOs. Official designation of such groups as FTOs triggers a number of sanctions, including visa restrictions and the blocking of any funds of these groups in U.S. financial institutions. The designation also has the effect of increasing public awareness about these terrorist organizations and the concerns that the United States has about them.
As noted above, the United States has included Cuba on its list of state sponsors of terrorism since 1982, pursuant to section 6(j) of the EAA, and both Cuba and Venezuela are currently on the annual Section 40A AECA list of countries that are not cooperating fully with U.S. antiterrorism efforts, lists that trigger a number of sanctions.
Through the Department of State (Diplomatic Security Office, Office of Antiterrorism Assistance), the United States provides Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA) training and equipment to Latin American countries to help improve their capabilities in such areas as airport security management, hostage negotiations, bomb detection and deactivation, and countering terrorism financing. Such training was expanded to Argentina in the aftermath of the two bombings in 1992 and 1994. Assistance was also stepped up in 1997 to Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay in light of increased U.S. concern over illicit activities in the tri-border area of those countries. ATA funding is generally provided through the annual foreign operations appropriations measure under the Nonproliferation, Anti-terrorism, Demining, and Related Programs (NADR) account.
In recent years, ATA for Western Hemisphere countries amounted to $8.9 million in FY2006, $7.3 million in FY2007, and an estimated $8 million in FY2008. For FY2009, the Administration requested $9.3 million in ATA for Latin America, with $2.8 million for Colombia and $3 million for Mexico, and the balance for other countries. Also under the NADR funding account, the United States began providing Terrorist Interdiction Program assistance for several Latin American countries in FY2008. An estimated $1.3 million is being provided to Panama, Brazil, and Nicaragua in FY2008, while the Administration requested $1.2 million for Latin America for FY2009.
The United States also works closely with the governments of the tri-border area—Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay—through the “3+1 regional cooperation mechanism,” which serves as a forum for counterterrorism cooperation and prevention. “
CRS Report for Congress “Latin America: Terrorism Issues”-By Mark P. Sullivan, Specialist in Latin American Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Division (Order Code RS21049)–Updated January 14, 2005:
These are pertinent excerpts from this report:
In the aftermath of the September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C., U.S. attention to terrorism in Latin America intensified, with an increase in bilateral and regional cooperation. Latin American nations strongly condemned the attacks, and took action through the Organization of American States (OAS) to strengthen hemispheric cooperation. In June 2002, OAS members signed an Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism. President Bush submitted the convention to the Senate in November 2002 for its advice and consent, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a public hearing on June 17, 2004. In its annual report on worldwide terrorism, the State Department highlights threats in Colombia, Peru, and the tri-border region of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. The State Department also has designated four terrorist groups (three in Colombia and one in Peru) as Foreign Terrorist Organizations, and Cuba has been listed as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1982.
Terrorism in Latin America: U.S. Concerns:
Over the years, the United States has been concerned about threats to Latin American and Caribbean nations from various terrorist or insurgent groups that have attempted to influence or overthrow elected governments. While Latin America has not been the focal point in the war on terrorism, countries in the region have struggled with domestic terrorism for decades and international terrorist groups have at times used the region as a battleground to advance their causes.
The State Department’s annual report, Patterns of Global Terrorism, highlights U.S. concerns about terrorist threats around the world, including in Latin America. The most recent Patterns report, issued in April 2004, notes that the international terrorist threat in the Western Hemisphere remained low in 2003, compared to other regions of the world. The report describes terrorist activities in the region in 2003, most notably in Colombia, Peru, and the tri-border region of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. The report also examines activity by Cuba, which has been designated by the State Department as a state-sponsor of terrorism since 1982.
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in September 2001, U.S. attention focused on potential links in the region to the Al Qaeda terrorist network, especially in the tri-border region. The Patterns report maintained that although there continued to be reports in 2003 of an al-Qaeda presence in the tri-border region, “these reports remain uncorroborated by intelligence and law-enforcement officials.”
There were increased concerns in 2004 about Al Qaeda threats in Latin America.
Honduras declared a terror alert on August 23, 2004, after receiving information that Al Qaeda reportedly was attempting to recruit Hondurans to attack U.S. and other embassies.1
In June, Honduran officials said that a suspected terrorist cell leader, Adman G. El Shukrijumah had been spotted at an Internet café. In August, El Salvador received threats from an Islamic extremist group to carry out attacks in the country if it did not pull its troops out of Iraq. Some press reports have alleged that Al-Qaeda may be attempting to use a Salvadoran criminal gang, the Mara Salvatrucha, to infiltrate the U.S.-Mexico border, although Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge maintained on September 27, 2004, that there was no indication of such infiltration along the border.2
Colombia remains of paramount concern to the United States because of the threat to democracy posed by three groups that have been designated by the Secretary of State as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs): two leftist guerrilla groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), and a rightist paramilitary group, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). The three groups target elected government officials and civilians with their attacks, with international human rights groups denouncing the massacres, assassinations, political kidnappings, forced displacements, and forced recruitment of minors by all three groups.
While the Patterns report noted that Colombia suffered many large and small domestic terrorist attacks in 2003, it noted that the government’s security strategy provided substantial achievements by decreasing murders by 16% and kidnappings by 30%. The FARC and AUC have been heavily involved in drug trafficking, which has been the key to their growth over past decade. In February 2003, a U.S. civilian contractor and a Colombian national were murdered by the FARC after their plane crashed. The FARC is also holding hostage three U.S. contractors from that plane crash. (For more on Colombia, see CRS Report RL32250, Colombia: Issues for Congress.)….
As in other parts of the world, the United States has assisted Latin American and
Caribbean nations over the years in their struggle against terrorist or insurgent groups indigenous to the region.
For example, in the 1980s, the United States supported the government of El Salvador with significant economic and military assistance in its struggle against a leftist guerrilla insurgency. In recent years, the United States has employed various policy tools to combat terrorism in the Latin America and Caribbean region, including sanctions, anti-terrorism assistance and training, law enforcement cooperation, and multilateral cooperation through the OAS.
Moreover, given the nexus between terrorism and drug trafficking, one can argue that assistance aimed at combating drug trafficking organizations in the region has also been a means of combating terrorism by cutting off a source of revenue for terrorist organizations. The same argument can be made regarding efforts to combat money laundering in the region.
Although terrorism was not the main focus of U.S. policy toward the region in recent years, attention increased in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Anti-terrorism assistance has increased along with bilateral and regional cooperation against terrorism. In 2002, Congress approved the Bush Administration’s request to expand the scope of U.S. assistance to Colombia beyond a counter-narcotics focus to also include counter-terrorism assistance to the government in its military efforts against drug-financed leftist guerrillas and rightist paramilitaries.
As noted above, the United States has imposed sanctions on three groups in Colombia (ELN, FARC, and AUC) and one group in Peru (SL) designated by the Department of State as Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTOs). Official designation of such groups as FTOs triggers a number of sanctions, including visa restrictions and the blocking of any funds of these groups in U.S. financial institutions. The designation also has the effect of increasing public awareness about these terrorist organizations and the concerns that the United States has about them.
Through the Department of State (Diplomatic Security Office, Office of Antiterrorism Assistance), the United States provides Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA) training and equipment to Latin American countries to help improve their capabilities in such areas as airport security management, hostage negotiations, bomb detection and deactivation, and countering terrorism financing. Such training was expanded to Argentina in the aftermath of the two bombings in 1992 and 1994. Assistance was also stepped up in 1997 to Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay in light of increased U.S. concern over illicit activities in the tri-border area of those countries.
ATA funding is generally provided through the annual foreign operations appropriations measure. For FY2001, $4.7 million in ATA training was provided to Western Hemisphere countries. In FY2002, a total of $27.5 million was provided for the region, with $25 million for an anti-kidnapping program in Colombia (appropriated through an FY2002 supplemental appropriations measure, P.L. 107-206) and $2.5 million for the regular Western Hemisphere program. For FY2003, the Administration’s $3.6 million in ATA assistance was provided for the region, with $3.3 million of that for Colombia. For FY2004, an estimated $2.6 million in ATA assistance was provided for the Western Hemisphere, while the Administration requested $5.2 million for FY2005, including $1 million for the tri-border region and $3.9 million for Colombia.
The United States also works closely with the governments of the tri-border region — Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay — through the “3 + 1 regional cooperation mechanism,” which serves as a forum for counterterrorism cooperation and prevention among all four countries.
Money laundering in the region has been a major U.S. concern for some 20 years, largely because of its association with drug traffickers, but terrorist organizations may also be involved in money laundering as a means of hiding their financial assets. The United States works through the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a multilateral anti-money laundering body, to help develop and promote policies to combat money laundering worldwide.
According to the Department of State’s March 2004 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, 13 nations in the region are jurisdictions of primary concern to the United States because of their vulnerability to money laundering. These are Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Brazil, Cayman Islands, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela…
Congressional Action. President Bush submitted the Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism to the Senate on November 12, 2002, for its advice and consent, and the treaty was referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Treaty Doc. 107-18).
The committee held a public hearing on the treaty on June 17, 2004.
The 108th Congress called for two reports from the Administration regarding terrorist activities in Latin America. The FY2005 Ronald W. Reagan National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 108-375), enacted into law October 28, 2004, required a report within 180 days from the Secretary of Defense on the activities of Al Qaeda and associated groups in Latin America and the Caribbean (Section 1047) and a report within 60 days from the Secretary of State regarding any relationships between foreign governments or organizations and terrorist groups in Colombia (Section 1021).
The 108th Congress also expressed concern regarding the continuing investigation into the July 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires. Both the House and the Senate approved similar resolutions — H.Con.Res. 469 (Ros-Lehtinen) and S.Con.Res. 126 (Coleman) — on July 22, 2004, that, among other provisions, urge Argentina to provide resources to investigate all areas of the AMIA case, encourage U.S. law enforcement support, and encourage the establishment of an OAS task force to assist in the investigation.”
Transcript: “Islam and the Global War on Terrorism in Latin America”–Posted On The Pew Forum On Religion & Public Life-By The National Defense University On April 6, 2006:
These are pertinent excerpts from this transcript:
“The Pew Forum co-sponsored a symposium with the National Defense University’s School for National Security Executive Education on “Religion, Conflict and the Global War on Terrorism in Latin America.” A panel entitled “Islam and the Global War on Terrorism in Latin America” featured Col. Curtis Connell, USAF, and Vitoria Peres of Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora/MG, Brazil. The panelists examined Islam in Latin America, including recent U.S. security concerns over the activities of Islamic groups in the Tri-border region of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, and the implications for U.S. security policy in the region.
Other symposium speakers focused on “Christianity and Conflict in Latin America” and “Religion, Security and the Future of Latin America.”
Speakers: Vitoria Peres de Oliveira, Assistant Professor, Department of Religion Sciences, Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora Colonel Curtis C. Connell, Chief of Americas Division, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs
Moderator: David Spencer, Assistant Professor, Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies”
Chavez’ protégé: Barack Hugo Obama–Exclusive Commentary Posted On WND-By Craig R. Smith-On January 25, 2010:
Note: The above articles, CRS Reports and transcript seem to support my recent blog post-You Decide:
The Obama Administration Allows Tariq Ramadan To Travel To The U.S.!
“Food For Thought”
“God Bless & Keep Our USA Safe”