Chapter 2 -- Country Reports: Western Hemisphere Overview
“With persistence and transparency, Colombia will overcome terrorism, which is financed by illicit drugs…To fight them (terrorists), we deepen democracy instead of restricting it, protect liberties instead of suppressing them, stimulate dissent instead of silencing it. Our fight against terrorism is observed by national and international critics, who can be in the country and say what they please without any restriction. Our democratic practice gives us the political authority to say that those who take up arms, financed by illicit drugs, are not insurgents against oppression but terrorists against liberty.”
–Mr. Alvaro Uribe Velez, President of Colombia
Statement, 62nd UN General Assembly, New York
September 27, 2007
Regionally based Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) in Colombia, and remnants of radical leftist Andean groups were the primary perpetrators of terrorist acts in the Western Hemisphere. With the exception of the United States and Canada, where some prosecutions of suspected terrorists were underway, there were no known operational cells of Islamic terrorists in the hemisphere, although pockets of ideological sympathizers in South America and the Caribbean lent financial and moral support to terrorist groups in the Middle East.
In May 2007, Venezuela was re-certified as "not cooperating fully" with U.S. antiterrorism efforts under Section 40A of the Arms Export and Control Act, as amended. Rampant corruption with the Venezuelan government and military, ideological ties with the FARC, and lax counternarcotics policies have fueled a permissive operating environment for drug traffickers and an increase in drug trafficking to Europe, Africa, and the United States. Cuba remained a state sponsor of terrorism.
On November 9, 2006, an Argentine judge issued arrest warrants for eight current and former Iranian government officials and one member of Hizballah for their alleged role in the July 18, 1994 terrorist bombing of the Argentine-Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) that killed 85 and injured over 150 people. On March 13, 2007, INTERPOL's Executive Committee unanimously decided to issue international “wanted” notices ("Red Notices") for five of the Iranians (including the former Minister of Intelligence and Security, Ali Fallahijan, and the commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Qods force) and the one Lebanese national (Imad Mugniyah, recently deceased). The Government of Iran appealed that decision. On November 7, INTERPOL's General Assembly voted (78 for, 14 against, 26 abstentions) to uphold the Executive Committee's March 13 decision and the “Red Notices” were issued.
The threat of a transnational terrorist attack remained low for most countries in the hemisphere. Overall, governments took modest steps to improve their counterterrorism capabilities and tighten border security, but corruption, weak government institutions, ineffective or lack of interagency cooperation, weak or non-existent legislation, and reluctance to allocate sufficient resources limited progress. Some countries, like Argentina, Panama, Paraguay, Mexico, and El Salvador, made serious prevention and preparedness efforts. Others lacked urgency and resolve to address deficiencies in their counterterrorism posture. Caribbean and Central American nations, recognizing their vulnerability to attack or transit by terrorists, took steps to improve their border controls and to secure key infrastructure, especially air and maritime ports. The CARICOM nations have an on-going relationship with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for the review of passengers traveling in the region which enables the United States to screen passengers against the terrorist screening database and review them for other suspected travel patterns. Most countries began to look seriously at possible connections between transnational criminal organizations and terrorist organizations. Colombia maintained and strengthened its “democratic security” strategy, directly confronting the convergence of threats from terrorism, newly emerging criminal groups, narcotics trafficking organizations, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The Colombian government was increasingly successful in attacking mid-level FARC commanders engaged in narcotics trafficking and terrorist activities. The September 3 and October 25 deaths of commanders Tomas Medina Caracas “El Negro Acacio,” and Gustavo Rueda Diaz, “Martin Caballero,” respectively, represented serious blows.
In May, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation uncovered a plot by two Guyanese, one Trinidadian, and one U.S. citizen to destroy a fuel pipeline at New York's JFK airport. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago cooperated in the effort to locate and detain those involved in the plot. Of the four suspects, three were arrested in Trinidad, where they remained in custody awaiting a judicial decision on their extradition to the United States The fourth suspect remained in detention in the United States.
The United States enjoyed solid cooperation on terror-related matters from most hemispheric partners, especially at the operational level, and maintained excellent intelligence, law enforcement, and legal assistance relations with most countries. The hemisphere boasts the OAS Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism, which is the only permanent regional multilateral organization focused exclusively on counterterrorism.
Mexico and Canada were key partners in the War on Terror and U.S. homeland security. Cooperation with them was broad and deep, involving all levels of government and virtually all agencies, in several initiatives. Recognizing the threat from terrorist transit, the Mexican government worked with the United States to enhance aviation, border, maritime, and transportation security, to secure critical infrastructure, and to combat terrorism financing. United States- Canadian counterterrorism cooperation took place in a number of established forums, including the terrorism subgroup of the Cross Border Crime Forum, the Shared Border Accord Coordinating Committee, and the Bilateral Consultative Group (BCG). The BCG brings together USG and Canadian counterterrorism officials from over a dozen agencies, on an annual basis, to coordinate policy on bioterrorism, information sharing, and joint counterterrorism training. Both Canada and Mexico have arrangements with the United States for the exchange of terrorist screening information, pursuant to Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD) No. 6.
The United States remained fully committed to supporting the Government of Colombia in its efforts to defeat Colombian-based Foreign Terrorist Organizations. President Alvaro Uribe continued vigorous law enforcement, intelligence, military, and economic measures against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN), and remaining elements of the former United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) who have not demobilized or who have gravitated to newly-formed criminal groups. The Colombian government also increased its efforts with neighboring countries to thwart terrorist expansion, investigate terrorist activities inside and outside Colombia, seize assets, secure hostage release, and bring terrorists to justice. Colombia provided antiterrorism training to nations in the region.
Colombia's neighbors had varied reactions to the threat from Colombian based terrorists. While none condemned the terrorists or designated the groups for domestic purposes, they responded for the most part, positively to Colombian requests to arrest specific fugitives. Brazil and Peru improved cross-border cooperation with Colombia, which was often instituted at the local rather than national level. Ecuador demonstrated a willingness to militarily confront encroaching foreign narcoterrorists, while security forces in Brazil and Peru generally sought to avoid military confrontations with them. Forces in Peru pursued reemerging domestic terrorist groups aggressively. It remained unclear to what extent the Government of Venezuela provided support to Colombian terrorists. However, weapons and ammunition, some from official Venezuelan stocks and facilities, have turned up in the hands of Colombian terrorist organizations. Neither the Venezuelan nor Colombian governments systematically policed the 1400-mile Venezuelan-Colombian border to prevent the movement of groups of armed men or to interdict arms flows to narcoterrorists.
The Governments of the Tri-Border Area (TBA), Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, have long been concerned with arms and drugs smuggling, document fraud, money laundering, and the manufacture and movement of contraband goods through this region. In the early 1990s, they established a mechanism to address these illicit activities. In 2002, at their invitation, the United States joined them in what became the "3+1 Group on Tri-Border Area Security" to improve the capabilities of the three to address cross-border crime and thwart money laundering and potential terrorist financing activities. The United States remained concerned that Hizballah and HAMAS sympathizers were raising funds in the TBA by participating in illicit activities and soliciting donations from sympathizers within the sizable Muslim communities in the region. There was no corroborated information, however, that these or other Islamic extremist groups had an operational presence in the TBA.
Argentina cooperated well with the United States at the operational level, and addressed many of the legal and institutional weaknesses that previously hindered its counterterrorism efforts. In 2006 and 2007, the National Coordination Unit in the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights became fully functional, managing the government's anti-money laundering and counterterrorism finance efforts and representing Argentina to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Financial Action Task Force of South America (GAFISUD). The Attorney General's special investigative unit set up to handle money laundering and terrorism finance cases began operations this year. The Central Bank's specialized anti-money laundering and counterterrorism finance examination program was awaiting final authorization and was not operational at year’s end. The Argentine government and Central Bank remained committed to freezing assets of terrorist groups identified by the United Nations if they were detected in Argentine financial institutions.
A noteworthy event was the Argentine Congress' passage in June of legislation penalizing the financing of terrorism ("Illegal Terrorist Associations and Terrorism Financing"), which brought Argentina into greater compliance with FATF standards. The law, which entered into effect in mid-July, amended the Penal Code (Law No. 25.246 "Cover-Up and Laundering of Assets Act") to criminalize acts of terror, terrorism financing, and money laundering for the purpose of financing terrorism. The new law provided a legal foundation for the financial intelligence unit (FIU), Central Bank, and other regulatory and law enforcement bodies to investigate and prosecute such crimes. Argentina joined Chile, Colombia, and Uruguay as the only countries in South America to have laws against financing terrorism. On September 11, the Argentine President signed into force the National Anti-Money Laundering and Counterterrorism Finance Agenda. The Agenda will serve as a road map to implement the existing money laundering and terrorism finance laws and regulations. The Agenda's 20 objectives focus on closing legal/regulatory loopholes and improving interagency cooperation. The next challenge is for Argentine law enforcement and regulatory institutions, including the Central Bank and FIU, to implement the National Agenda and aggressively enforce the newly strengthened and expanded legal, regulatory, and administrative measures available to them to combat financial crimes.
On November 9, 2006, an Argentine judge issued arrest warrants for eight current and former Iranian government officials and one member of Hizballah, that were indicted in the July 18, 1994 terrorist bombing of the Argentine-Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) that killed 85 and injured over 150 people. On March 13, 2007, the INTERPOL Executive Committee decided unanimously to issue international “wanted” notices ("Red Notices") for five of the Iranians (including the former Minister of Intelligence and Security, Ali Fallahijan, and the commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Qods force) and the one Lebanese national (Imad Mugniyah, recently deceased). The Government of Iran appealed the Executive Committee’s decision and requested that the INTERPOL General Assembly decide the matter. On November 7, the INTERPOL General Assembly voted (78 for, 14 against, 26 abstentions) to uphold the Executive Committee's March 13 decision and the Red Notices were issued.
The Government of Belize cooperated with the United States by sharing information and providing assistance to the extent that its limited resources allowed. The U.S. Embassy enjoyed a close and cooperative relationship with counterparts in the police force, particularly the Special Branch, immigration, customs, and prison officials. The Government of Belize cooperated with U.S. law enforcement agencies to capture AQ associate Earnest James Umaama and return him to Washington State. The Belize Defense Force (880 total personnel) established a Counterterrorism Platoon to perform operations within Belize and its territorial waters.
With political instability, a weak and fluctuating legal framework, increasing coca cultivation, and the opening of diplomatic relations with Iran, Bolivia showed new potential as a possible site for terrorist activity. Supporters and actors from the National Liberation Army (ELN), the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), the Paraguayan Free Fatherland Party (PPL), and the Shining Path were thought to be present in Bolivia.
In December, following 16 months of deliberations within a Constituent Assembly, President Morales’ Movement to Socialism (MAS) party approved a new draft constitution with little input from the political opposition. The government's actions divided the country with five out of nine departmental governors calling the new constitution illegal and illegitimate. Opposition departments (states) may hold autonomy votes in May and June. Bolivia's uncertain political and economic climate, and an increase in coca production, could lead to increased trafficking of illicit goods and money across Bolivia's borders.
In September, the Bolivian government announced the opening of diplomatic and commercial relations with Iran. The September 27 agreement pledged $1.1 billion in Iranian assistance to Bolivia over five years. In addition, Bolivia received continued medical and intelligence support from Cuba, with which it has had a close relationship since 2006. The Bolivian government's ineffective anti-money laundering regime failed to comply with international norms. In July, the Egmont Group suspended Bolivia's membership when it did not criminalize the financing of terrorism.
In October, the Peruvian government requested the extradition of Walter Chavez, a close advisor to the Bolivian government. In 1990, Chavez was arrested in Peru for alleged illegal activities and involvement with the MRTA, and was released on bail and disappeared before turning up in Bolivia in 1992. The Bolivian government vowed to defend and protect Chavez, arguing that he was a political refugee protected by international agreements.
Elements of the Brazilian government continued counterterrorism cooperation, which included investigating potential terrorism financing, document forgery networks, and other illicit activity. Operationally, elements of the Brazilian government responsible for combating terrorism, such as the Federal Police, Customs, and the Brazilian Intelligence Agency, diligently worked with their U.S. counterparts to pursue investigative leads provided by U.S. intelligence, law enforcement, and financial agencies regarding terrorist suspects.
Brazil was increasingly capable of monitoring domestic financial operations and effectively utilized its financial intelligence unit, the Financial Activities Oversight Council (COAF), to identify possible funding sources for terrorist groups. COAF carried out name checks for persons and entities on the UNSCR 1267 Committee’s Consolidated List, but has not found any assets, accounts, or property in the names of persons or entities on the lists. COAF partnered with Customs to create a database called the Electronic Declaration of Cash Carriage (EDPV), which will assist in monitoring individuals who transfer funds abroad. Although the system is a prototype and is still being tested, Brazilian law enforcement officials were encouraged by initial results. The government recognized the connection between cash couriers and terrorism, and took the necessary steps to receive guidance from the Financial Action of South American (GAFISUD) and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). At year’s end, there was a bill before the Minister of Justice for approval that would increase training and the budget to counter illicit cash/drug smuggling regimes in Brazil.
Two key counterterrorism-related legislative initiatives continued to languish. Neither the antiterrorism nor the anti-money laundering bills, which have been pending since 2005, were introduced in Congress. If passed, the bills would criminalize terrorism and associated activities, and facilitate greater law enforcement access to financial and banking records during investigations, criminalize illicit enrichment, allow administrative freezing of assets, and facilitate prosecutions of money laundering cases by amending the legal definition of money laundering and making it an autonomous offense.
Brazil and the United States agreed to expand the Container Security Initiative (CSI) in Santos. The USG provided a variety of training courses in Brazil in combating money laundering, airport interdiction, container security, and maritime security. Brazilian authorities received seminars and courses on security and worked closely with U.S. law enforcement agencies to prepare for the 2007 Pan American Games.
The Government of Brazil continued to invest in border and law enforcement infrastructure with a view to gradually controlling the flow of goods, both legal and illegal, through the Tri-Border Area (TBA), the proceeds of which could be diverted to support terror groups. Tougher controls at the Brazilian Customs inspection station at the Friendship Bridge in the TBA enabled the government to crack down on contraband crossing the bridge, though law enforcement officials expected that traffickers would respond to the tougher controls by trying to move their goods clandestinely across the border elsewhere via boat. In 2007, a Joint Intelligence Center was built in the TBA in an effort to combat transborder criminal organizations with its neighbors.
The United States and Canada collaborated extensively on a broad array of counterterrorism initiatives that spanned virtually all agencies and every level of government. Canada continued stabilization and reconstruction operations in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan and led G8 efforts to improve border security to cut the flow of insurgents and terrorists into Afghanistan from Pakistan. The Canadian government submitted additional counterterrorism legislation and revised security certificate legislation to Parliament to strengthen the country’s legal tools to combat terrorism. Through its Counterterrorism Capacity-building Program, Canada continued to implement a major effort to assist in training and technical assistance to partner nations in terrorism financing, legislation, and border management. This year marked the tenth anniversary of the exchange of terrorist screening information between the United States and Canada.
In June 2006, Canadian law enforcement officials charged 18 individuals, all Canadian citizens or residents, with planning terror attacks in Canada. Among them, fourteen adults continued to face charges, three youths have had charges against them stayed or dropped, and a fourth youth was released on bail. Four of the fourteen adults charged were released on bail, subject to conditions. Only six of the fourteen faced the most serious charges of planning to storm Parliament Hill and take politicians hostage, and to bomb targets such as a Canadian Forces base and government offices in Toronto and Ottawa. The rest of the group faced lesser charges, including participation in alleged terrorist training and charges related to terrorist financing. This case, and that of Momin Khawaja, who was accused of conspiring with a British AQ cell in a thwarted plot to bomb targets in London in 2004, will be the first cases tried under Canada’s 2001 Anti-Terrorism Act.
In October 2007, the Government of Canada introduced two important pieces of legislation, both of which were under debate in Parliament. One bill proposed to amend provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to allow for continued application of “security certificates,” which have been in use for several decades as a way to detain, pending deportation, foreign nationals deemed to be a security threat. In February, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that the government’s use of secret evidence in certificate proceedings and procedures for detention review were unconstitutional and gave the government until February 23, 2008 to amend the Act. The proposed legislation would provide for cleared “special advocates” to challenge the evidence on behalf of the accused and for an initial judicial review of detainees in the first 48 hours of arrest and at six-month intervals. Six individuals are still subject to security certificates; five of whom were released from detention on conditions and one who is in custody. The bill remained in the House of Commons upon its adjournment on December 13.
The second key bill is part of a mandatory review of the Anti-Terrorism Act. Two provisions of the Act – investigative hearings that would permit police to apply for an order requiring a witness to appear before a judge and answer questions; and preventive arrest, whereby peace officers may bring an individual before a judge in the early stages of terrorist activity to disrupt a potential terrorist attack – were subject to sunset clauses and lapsed in February. The Canadian government was committed to reinstating these provisions as part of its overall counterterrorism strategy and introduced the measures after an earlier motion to extend them was defeated in the House of Commons in February. In October, the government reintroduced the legislation first in the Senate, where it remained as of its adjournment in December.
In an effort to improve emergency management in the event of a disaster (such as a major terrorist attack), the Canadian parliament passed a bill in June that clarified responsibilities and lines of authority during an emergency. The bill also included a special provision “that the Minister may develop joint emergency management plans with the relevant USG authorities and, in accordance with those plans, coordinate Canada’s response to emergencies in the United States and provide assistance in response to those emergencies.”
United States-Canadian counterterrorism cooperation took place in a number of established forums, including the terrorism sub-group of the Cross Border Crime Forum, the Shared Border Accord Coordinating Committee, and the Bilateral Consultative Group (BCG). The BCG brings together U.S. and Canadian counterterrorism officials from over a dozen agencies, on an annual basis, to coordinate policy on bioterrorism, to share information, and for joint counterterrorism training. The United States and Canada continued to work on mechanisms to accommodate Canadian concerns about information sharing in the wake of a 2002 case in which a Canadian-Syrian citizen and terror suspect was removed from New York to Syria, where he claimed to have been tortured and subsequently received formal compensation from the Government of Canada.
In Afghanistan, Canada stood firm in fighting the insurgency in Kandahar province, where it provided a 2500-person battle group to ISAF Regional Command South and a Provincial Reconstruction Team for stabilization and development efforts. Canada also was leading a major initiative to improve cross border coordination between Afghan and Pakistani authorities, police, and military, and to enhance the capacities of the units that work to secure the border from insurgent and terrorist crossings. In October, Canada led two border assessment missions and held a Joint Border Management Workshop with Afghan and Pakistani experts in Dubai. To date, Canada has suffered 73 soldiers and one diplomat killed in Afghanistan, the highest proportion of casualties to troops deployed for any NATO member.
Canada also helped key countries address terrorism and terrorism financing with its Counterterrorism Capacity-building Program, a $15 million a year program to provide training, advice, and technical assistance to counterpart agencies. Through this program, Canada provided assistance to several countries in the Caribbean to draft new counterterrorism legislation, intelligence training for border officials on the Afghan-Pakistani border, and financial intelligence training to officials in India. Through its Cross Cultural Roundtable and Muslim Outreach program, Canada has been actively seeking to engage its citizens in a dialogue on a broad range of national security issues, including terrorism. The Muslim Communities Working Group in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is also engaged in efforts abroad to enhance Canada’s relationships with the countries of the Muslim world, focusing on the promotion of democratic governance, pluralism, and human rights. In November, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade led an effort to compare approaches and lessons learned among international partners on outreach to Muslim communities.
The Government of Canada extended its Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) Research and Technology Initiative (CRTI), which aimed to bring people and knowledge from the Canadian and U.S. scientific, technology, intelligence, responder, and policy communities together in an integrated fashion to pursue new technologies and approaches to counterterrorism. Canada also worked with the United States under the 1995 Canada/U.S. Counterterrorism Research and Development Agreement to manage a robust joint program on counterterrorism research and development.
In late 2006, the Canadian government passed legislation that amended the Proceeds of Crime and Terrorist Financing Act to make Canada's anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing regime consistent with new Financial Action Task Force (FATF) standards. It allowed Canada to enter into Memorandums of Understanding with international and third country law enforcement organizations to strengthen information sharing and to create penalties to improve compliance with the act. The bill also created a registration regime for money service businesses, expanding the number of reporting actions required to implement compliance, to include dealers in precious metals and stones and the real estate industry, and created an administrative and monetary penalties regime that could better enforce compliance.
Chilean law enforcement actively cooperated in international terrorism investigations and with the United States to monitor and combat terrorist financing. Law Enforcement officials monitored possible links between extremists in Chile's Iquique Free Trade Zone and those in the Tri-Border Area, as trade links between these two areas are increasing. Chile's National Intelligence Agency remained mostly an analytical body, relying on law enforcement and investigative agencies for the vast majority of collection and operations.
Chile endorsed both the Proliferation Security Initiative (March) and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (May). In June, representatives from Chile's Foreign Relations Ministry and the two national police forces (the uniformed Carabiñeros and the Investigative Police) attended the FBI-sponsored Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism Law Enforcement Conference in Miami. Chile was an active member of APEC's Counterterrorism Task Force.
Chileans requested FBI support on two domestic terrorism cases. Coordinadora Arauco Melleca (CAM), is a violent Mapuche Indian group in southern Chile that has burnt fields and attacked police while fighting for land it claims belongs to it. CAM appeared to have begun organizing itself more like a guerilla group; attacks late in the year demonstrated increased planning and a more professional use of weapons and tactics. Walter Wendelin, a representative of the Spain-based Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) political branch, traveled to Chile to meet with CAM members. Chilean police were monitoring for possible contacts between Mapuche groups and armed political movements in Latin America.
Grupo de Operaciones Policiales Especiales (GOPE), a 300-person unit of the Carabiñeros police force, served as the nation's primary counterterrorist reaction force. The force was well-trained and participates annually in Exercise Fuerzas Comando, a U.S. Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH)-sponsored special operations seminar designed to refine the tactics, techniques, and procedures used by Special Operations counterterrorism forces. A GOPE commander attended a conference in Paraguay this year on "Combating Radical Ideology," sponsored by the Counterterrorism Fellowship Program (CTFP).
The Government of Colombia, facing domestic terrorist threats, continued vigorous law enforcement, intelligence, military, and economic measures against three designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations within Colombia: the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN), and remaining elements of the former United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). Colombia increased its counterterrorism efforts in the region to counter terrorist groups’ operations, investigate terrorist activities inside and outside Colombia, seize assets, and bring terrorists to justice.
Colombia continued to expand its role as regional leader in counterterrorism, and provided some training to numerous countries. Leveraging experience gained from U.S. training, Colombia reached out to countries across the region to create AMERIPOL (a regional police cooperation institution similar to INTERPOL), which will allow more efficient coordination on counterterrorism and law enforcement issues in the region. The Colombian government continued to seek enhanced regional counterterrorism cooperation to target terrorist safe havens in vulnerable border areas, and provided counterterrorism training to officials from partner countries across the region. Colombia and Mexico significantly increased joint training and operations against narco-terrorist organizations operating in both countries.
The United States-Colombia extradition relationship remained the most successful such effort in the world. The Colombian government cooperated fully with U.S. efforts to recover U.S. citizen kidnapping victims, including three kidnapped by the FARC in February 2003 – Thomas Howes, Keith Stansell, and Marc Gonsalves – and remained open to third-party proposals for a hostage-prisoner exchange.
In November, President Alvaro Uribe agreed to a request of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba, to act as intermediaries for a possible “humanitarian exchange” of FARC-held hostages for FARC prisoners in Colombian jails. The Colombian government-sanctioned effort ended in November after Chavez and Cordoba repeatedly failed to adhere to Colombia’s guidelines. Nevertheless, Chavez continued his efforts to gain the release of hostages including a failed effort at year’s end involving the promised release of three Colombian hostages (Clara Rojas, her son Emmanuel, and Consuelo Gonzales de Perdomo) to an international delegation that included former-Argentine President Nestor Kirchner. The Government of Colombia revealed that the FARC had turned over Emmanuel to a sympathizer, who had in turn placed the child in Colombian social services. Confusion over Emmanuel’s whereabouts coupled with FARC allegations that the Colombian military was operating in the area led the FARC to temporarily call off the release. The FARC, under intense public pressure, eventually turned over Rojas and Gonzales to President Chavez.
In December, the Colombian government intercepted three FARC operatives with video tapes showing twelve hostages, including Howes, Stansell, and Gonsalves, and former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, who holds dual Colombian-French citizenship. French President Nicolas Sarkozy remained active in renewed efforts for the hostages’ release, calling on leaders across the region to take up the cause.
In December, President Uribe announced a proposal to establish an “encounter zone” to negotiate an exchange that would be mediated by the Catholic Church. Though previous mediation attempts by the Church were unsuccessful, and the Colombian government had attempted a similar proposal in 2005, international pressure to free the hostages further increased. At year’s end, the FARC has not responded President Uribe’s offer.
The Uribe Administration maintained its focus on defeating and demobilizing Colombia's terrorist groups through its "democratic security" policy, which combined military, intelligence, police operations, efforts to demobilize combatants, and the provision of public services in rural areas. Colombian security forces captured or killed a number of mid-level FARC leaders, debriefed terrorist group deserters for detailed information on their terrorist cells, and reduced the amount of territory where terrorists could freely operate. The September 3 and October 25 deaths of commanders Tomas Medina Caracas “El Negro Acacio,” and Gustavo Rueda Diaz, “Martin Caballero,” respectively, represented serious blows to the FARC. Medina was a key figure in overseeing the FARC’s drug trafficking and weapons procurement activities. Rueda led FARC fronts in the Caribbean coast, and was responsible for the 2003 kidnapping of current Foreign Minister Fernando Araujo, who escaped FARC custody during a military assault on his captors and was recovered in January 2007.
Colombia continued its close cooperation with the United States to block terrorists' assets. Financial institutions closed drug trafficking and terrorism-related accounts on Colombian government orders. Aerial and manual eradication of illicit drugs in Colombia, key to targeting terrorist group finances, covered about 220,000 hectares of illegal drug crops, thus depriving terrorist groups of potentially huge profits. At the same time, the Treasury Department through the Office of Foreign Assets Control pursued and blocked the assets of narcotics traffickers and terrorists it had placed on its Specially Designated Nationals List.
Colombia implemented a new law that defined and criminalized direct and indirect financing of terrorism for both national and international terrorist groups, in accordance with recommendations of both the Financial Action Task Force of South America (GAFISUD) and the Egmont Group. The new law authorized Colombia's Financial Intelligence Unit (UIAF) to freeze terrorists' assets immediately after their designation. Banks were held responsible for their client base and must immediately inform UIAF of any accounts held by newly designated terrorists. Banks also had to screen new clients against current lists of designated terrorists before they would be allowed to provide prospective clients with services. (Previously, banks were not legally required to comply with these regulations, although many had done so on a voluntary basis.)
The threat of extradition to the United States remained a strong weapon against drug traffickers and terrorists. Colombia extradited 164 defendants to the United States for prosecution, the vast majority Colombian nationals, surpassing its previous record. At the end of the year, the Uribe administration had extradited 581 individuals to the United States. Ex-FARC senior member Anayibe Rojas Valderrama, “Sonia,” was sentenced in July to more than 16 years in prison for drug trafficking. AUC members Davinson Gomez Ocampo and Hector Rodriguez Acevedo were convicted of drug trafficking and providing material support to a terrorist organization, respectively. The Uribe administration suspended six extraditions of alleged-AUC members, who continued cooperating with the paramilitary peace process under the Colombian Justice and Peace Law. The United States continued to seek their extraditions.
Despite the ongoing military campaign against it, the FARC continued tactical-level terrorist, kidnapping for profit and narcotrafficking activities, and launched several bombings against military and civilian targets in urban areas. It also targeted numerous rural outposts, infrastructure targets, and political adversaries in dozens of attacks. Examples of the FARC's 2007 terrorist activity included the following:
- In January, six people, including a child, were killed in a bomb attack in Buenaventura;
- In March, a bomb attack killed six people and injured over ten in Buenaventura;
- In March, a car bomb attack attempted but failed to assassinate Neiva Mayor Cielo Gonzalez.
- In April, a bomb detonated in front of the Cali police headquarters, killed one person, injured more than thirty, and destroyed the building.
- In June, eleven department legislators from Valle del Cauca held hostage since 2003 were murdered while in FARC custody;
- In October, a grenade attack at a campaign headquarters in Puerto Asís killed two people and injured six others.
- In December, the FARC again attempted but failed to assassinate Neiva Mayor Cielo Gonzalez in a rocket attack.
The Colombian government continued to seek the extradition of three Irish Republican Army (IRA) members, who were first acquitted and then sentenced after the prosecution appealed, to 17 years in prison for training the FARC on bomb tactics. The three fled Colombia while on bail and resurfaced in Ireland in August 2005. Colombia’s extradition request remained under review before the Irish courts and the three fugitives remained at large.
The Government of Colombia and the ELN continued peace talks, but no agreements were reached. The ELN remained in the field, but with ever-limited resources, a dwindling membership, and reduced offensive capability. The ELN and FARC clashed over territory in northeastern Colombia, which further weakened the ELN.
Demobilized AUC members continued to be processed and investigated under the Justice and Peace Law, which offered judicial benefits and reduced prison sentences for qualifying demobilizing terrorists.1 The law requires all participants to confess fully their crimes as members of a terrorist group and to return all illicit profits. More than 32,000 rank-in-file AUC members who did not commit serious crimes have demobilized, and many were receiving benefits through the government’s reintegration program, including psychosocial attention, education, healthcare, and career development opportunities. Over 80,000 victims have registered under the JPL, and the Colombian government was working on measures to provide reparations. Some AUC renegades continued to engage in criminal activities after demobilization, mostly in drug trafficking, but the AUC as a formal organization remained inactive.
The Dominican Armed Forces have a counterterrorism unit, but were unable to conduct complex special operations-type missions to counter terror. Despite good intentions, the Dominican government displayed a persistent inability to control its air, land, and sea borders. While many seaports and airports were considered permeable, three facilities, Caucedo, Haina, and La Romana, were certified by the International Maritime Organization as being compliant with the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code. In September, a new border control unit, the Cuerpo Especializado Fronterizo (CESFRONT), was deployed along the border with Haiti. Despite start-up problems, there was increased optimism that the unit will become increasingly productive in controlling the border with time, experience, and proper funding.
The United States has provided assistance in both training and equipment. A particularly large donation was four interceptor “go fast” boats from U.S. SOUTHCOM under the “Enduring Friendship” program. These boats will be used to intercept vessels carrying arms, narcotics, and individuals who were attempting to transit the territorial waters of the Dominican Republic. Another significant donation was the provision of biometric equipment to the Dominican government.
Ecuador's greatest counterterrorism and security challenge remained the presence of Colombian narcoterrorists on its Northern Border. In order to evade Colombian military operations, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) regularly used Ecuadorian territory for rest, recuperation, resupply, and training, thereby involving significant numbers of Ecuadorians in direct or indirect ways. The Government of Ecuador faced challenges in patrolling a porous 400-mile border, and the lack of adequate licit employment opportunities for Ecuadorians in the region have made the area vulnerable to narcoterrorist influence. Ecuadorian officials along the border believed the FARC’s economic impact allowed it to buy silence and compliance.
Ecuador’s response to this threat historically has been uneven, but it has improved of late. The government shifted troops to the border region, continued efforts to improve military-to-military information sharing with Colombia, and launched a domestic Northern Border development agenda in concert with international donors to spur economic development in the area. The Correa Administration, while maintaining the country’s traditional neutrality with respect to the Colombian conflict, has firmly opposed armed encroachments of any kind across its borders. It has publicly expressed its desire to eliminate FARC presence within Ecuadorian territory. Despite some notable successes in this effort, insufficient resources and the challenging border region terrain have made it difficult to thwart cross-border incursions.
Despite constraints on their resources and limited capabilities, Ecuador’s security forces conducted effective operations against FARC training and logistical resupply camps along the Northern Border. The Ecuadorian military significantly increased the number of operations along Ecuador’s Northern border, especially at the end of the year. The Ecuadorian military destroyed FARC training, rest, and resupply camps; and confiscated weapons, communications equipment, explosives, explosives manufacturing equipment, and other support equipment. These operations also netted valuable information on FARC activities and infrastructure in and outside of Ecuador. Ecuadorian forces discovered and destroyed three cocaine producing laboratories and eradicated coca plants in at least two locations.
Ecuadorian police suspected several small and relatively minor Ecuadorian groups of domestic subversion and involvement in terrorism. A handful of other radical groups, including a radical self-proclaimed vestigial faction of the Alfaro Vive Carajo organization, were reputed to have ties with and support from Colombian narcoterrorists. As recently as June, Ecuadorian security forces conducted operations against this faction of the Alfaro Vive Carajo organization in an attempt to minimize their capacity to conduct subversive, disruptive, or terrorist activities.
The Ecuadorian legislature passed a landmark anti-money laundering law in 2005, criminalizing the laundering of illicit funds from any source, penalizing the undeclared entry of more than 10,000 USD in cash, and establishing a Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) under the Superintendent of Banks. There was one major case in process as of December 2007.
Ecuador’s judicial institutions remained weak, susceptible to corruption, and heavily backlogged with pending cases. While the military and police have made numerous arrests, the judicial system had a poor record of achieving convictions. The Government of Ecuador established a Ministry of Justice on November 15 to reform the penal code and improve the prison system.
El Salvador, the only Western Hemisphere country with troops serving alongside U.S. forces in Iraq, continued its support for the Coalition by dispatching a ninth contingent of troops to Iraq and approving a tenth rotation that will arrive in Iraq in early 2008. El Salvador also hosted a U.S. Department of Defense “Forward Operating Location” (FOL) at Comalapa International Airport, and a USG-funded International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA).
The Government of El Salvador cooperated closely with the United States on counterterrorism efforts and took active steps to protect U.S. interests and citizens. The CA-4 agreement, recently implemented among El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, allowed for the inspection-free movement of citizens among these countries, and reduced overall inspection at land crossings. The agreement has raised concerns, however, that its implementation could possibly facilitate easier international movement of terrorists.
The National Civilian Police was well regarded by U.S. and international observers alike, and coordinated its work with the Immigration Service, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Office of State Intelligence.
In July, the Government of El Salvador used the 2006 terrorism statute2 to file charges against several individuals who had taken part in a violent demonstration protesting the visit of Salvadoran President Tony Saca to the town of Suchitoto. This in turn led to numerous Salvadoran and U.S.-based non-governmental organizations alleging that the government was using the statute to suppress political opposition, and was guilty of backsliding on human rights. Given the violent nature of the demonstrations, in which several protestors blocked roads, set fire to debris, threw stones at the Presidential motorcade, and allegedly fired shots at a police helicopter, the government’s decision to prosecute the protestors under the statute served to further blur the distinction between full-blown acts of terrorism and violent political protest subject to ordinary criminal sanction.
Guatemala continued to strengthen its anti-money laundering and terrorist financing regime since its 2004 removal from the Financial Action Task Force list of Non-Cooperative Countries. With U.S. assistance, Guatemala formed an interagency money laundering task force with representation from the Financial Intelligence Unit, the Guatemalan tax authority, and the Public Ministry (prosecutor’s office). There was no credible evidence of terrorist financing in Guatemala.
In May/June, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Defense, Guatemala inaugurated its first military counterterrorist unit. The Guatemalan Counterterrorist unit, primarily tasked with counterterrorism operations, also had counternarcotics operations and border enforcement capabilities.
Severe resource constraints, corruption, and an ineffective criminal justice system hampered efforts against transnational crime threats such as drug trafficking and alien smuggling, especially in remote areas of the country. Guatemala’s northern and western borders with Mexico lacked effective coverage by police or military personnel, and controls of its southern and eastern borders with El Salvador have been relaxed as part of the Central American integration process. Nevertheless, Guatemalan civil aviation and port authorities provided strong cooperation to U.S. requests for assistance in investigating potential terrorism leads. The Guatemalan government was working to enhance overall maritime, aviation security, and counterterrorism capabilities to remain in compliance with rising international standards.
Honduran cooperation with the United States on counterterrorism finance issues remained strong. The Honduran Banking and Insurance Commission, through instruction from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, promptly sent freeze orders to the entire regulated financial sector every time the United States amended Executive Order lists. Financial entities, particularly the commercial banks, promptly undertook the requested searches for accounts by terrorist entities. No terrorist-related funds have been found to date in the Honduran financial system. The Honduran Congress was considering a change to the criminal code that would criminalize terrorist financing. While terrorism is a crime, terrorist financing is not listed as a separate crime.
There was a trend in Honduras towards closer regional intelligence cooperation with neighboring countries; this cooperation was aimed principally at organized crime, but it could potentially protect the country from terrorist threats. In September, the Honduran government announced the adoption of a National Security Strategy, which included counterterrorism as an objective, and stressed regional and international cooperation.
The United States assisted the Honduran Armed Forces (HOAF) with its counterterrorism efforts by providing training and equipment. With U.S. assistance, the Honduran Armed Forces created a Joint Task Force.
There was no indication of illegal immigration networks being used by terrorist groups. Over the past five years, however, smuggling rings were detected moving people from East Africa, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia to or through Honduras. There was an increase in the number of boats arriving on the north coast with people from all over the world seeking to enter the United States illegally via Guatemala and Mexico. Nationals of countries without Honduran visa requirements were involved in schemes to transit Honduras, often with the United States and Europe as their final destination. The Honduran government's ability to combat transnational crime was limited by sparsely populated and isolated jungle regions, limited resources, corruption, and poor control of the north coast and eastern border.
Since entering office in December 2006, President Calderón's Administration has demonstrated an unprecedented commitment to improve national security, which included taking a leadership role to improve the region’s response to the threat posed by transnational crime. Moreover, the Mexican government has resolved to strengthen law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation with the United States. The already strong relationships existing between U.S. and Mexican law enforcement agencies improved further. Mexico worked with the United States to secure critical infrastructure, combat terrorism financing, and enhance aviation, border, maritime, and transportation security.
Although the July and September attacks on oil and gas pipelines by a guerrilla group called the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) raised the specter of domestic terrorism, Mexico primarily represented a terrorist transit threat and our bilateral efforts focused squarely on minimizing that threat. The Mexican government made steady progress on counterterrorism and alien smuggling in 2007. It restructured and strengthened the institutions directly responsible for fighting organized crime, and developed tools under the framework of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) to address national security threats more effectively.
Information sharing on counterterrorism issues in the first year of the Calderón Administration was strong. We will continue working with Mexico to improve existing information sharing initiatives. In particular, we will continue to support digitalization of the government’s information-gathering procedures to build a database of usable biometric information and to strengthen our ability to analyze accurately the information provided by Mexico. In 2007, Mexico signed an arrangement pursuant to Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD) No. 6, with the United States, for the exchange of terrorist screening information.
The continued exploitation of smuggling channels traversing the U.S.-Mexico border and the lack of enforcement along Mexico's border with Guatemala remained strategic concerns. The Government of Mexico acknowledged and responded thoughtfully to U.S. concerns regarding terrorist transit and the smuggling of aliens who may raise terrorism concerns. Mexico passed a federal law against human trafficking, which will aid in pursuing criminal proceedings against traffickers and smugglers. In a recent case, Mexican authorities provided substantial support to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in arresting a third country national wanted in the United States for alien smuggling.
One setback in United States-Mexico counterterrorism cooperation was a change in detention procedures. In 2005 and 2006, Mexico's Immigration Service (INM) maintained a policy of housing all detained aliens who may raise terrorism concerns in their detention facility near Mexico City. In March 2007, however, the INM began releasing such detainees from their point of arrest, thus hindering information sharing and the USG’s ability to track the movement of these aliens.
Nevertheless, cooperation between Mexico and the United States was strong overall, especially in investigating individuals suspected of cooperation with alien smugglers. A particularly effective mechanism was the Operation Against Smugglers Initiative on Safety and Security (OASISS), which allowed Mexican and U.S. law enforcement officials to share real-time information regarding ongoing alien smuggling investigations on a regular basis. OASISS, which is operational in the United States in all four states along the southwest border, and in most of Mexico's northern Border States, enhanced the ability of both governments to prosecute alien smugglers and human traffickers who otherwise might elude justice. The program provided a model for bilateral information sharing in a variety of law enforcement and security areas. An essential next step will be to expand OASISS to all of Mexico's northern border states. At the same time, the United States will need to continue to support Mexican efforts to identify smuggling organizations operating along Mexico's southern border that may raise terrorist concerns.
The U.S.-Mexico Border Security and Public Safety Working Group, formed in March 2006, became another important tool for bilateral cooperation; it established protocols between both governments to respond cooperatively at a local level to critical incidents and emergencies along the border. The success of the pilot sites led to the expansion and formalization of the program. These protocols are now in place along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. The United States was able to develop further its border security relationship with the Mexican government under President Calderón, through training programs, which focused on using non-intrusive inspection equipment, detecting weapons of mass destruction, and identifying fraudulent documents.
Mexico coordinated with the United States on the information sharing of air passenger data and the use of its Integrated System for Migratory Operations (SIOM). In addition, the United States and Mexican governments agreed to share, on a case by case basis, biometric data for comparison to the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS).
In mid-2006, Mexico and the United States began negotiations on programs designed to deter terrorists from using Mexico's seaports to ship illicit materials, detect nuclear or radioactive materials if shipped via sea cargo, and to interdict harmful material before it could be used against the United States or one of our allies. The cooperative effort will include installation of specialized equipment to screen cargo containers for nuclear or other radioactive materials. If anything were detected, the equipment would alert Mexican port officials of the need to further examine the cargo and take appropriate action.
In the area of money laundering, the United States developed strong working relationships with the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Attorney General's Office (PGR), and its companion unit in the Mexican Treasury (Hacienda), to combat money laundering, terrorist financing, and narcotics trafficking.
On June 28, President Calderón signed legislation into law outlawing terrorist financing and associated money laundering. The new law established international terrorism and terror financing as serious criminal offenses, as called for in UN resolution 1373, and provided for up to 40-year prison sentences. The measure also incorporated several non-finance related provisions, including jail sentences for individuals who cover up the identities of terrorists and for those who recruit people to commit terrorist acts. The law was a significant step forward in suppressing those who plan, facilitate, finance, or commit terrorist acts, although it lacked some important provisions, such as assets forfeiture measures.
The Mexican Navy and Army continued to expand counterterrorism capabilities. The Mexican Navy improved control over ports of entry by deploying a newly constituted infantry force. The Navy was also looking to expand its still incomplete control over Mexico's vast maritime zone by better integrating radar, patrol craft, sea going vessels, air platforms, and land based platforms. If undertaken, such enhancements to Mexico's maritime air surveillance will allow the Navy to protect more effectively key national strategic facilities, including those related to oil production in the Bay of Campeche.
It remained difficult to assess the Mexican Army's counterterrorism capabilities due to the institution's closed nature. There have been improvements in U.S.-Mexico military-to-military cooperation in the past year, but the United States and Mexican armed forces had limited counterterrorism interoperability.
In January, Daniel Ortega was inaugurated as the elected President of Nicaragua. Ortega reestablished formal diplomatic ties with Iran, which now has a resident, accredited Ambassador in the capital, and aggressively sought to expand relations with Cuba and Venezuela. In November, the government relaxed visa requirements for all travelers from Iran, permitting visa-free entry. As a member of the Central American Four (CA4), with Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, Nicaragua shared common immigration and customs policies with its CA4 partners. The Nicaraguan government’s recent decision to grant visa-free entry for Iranians created consternation among the other CA4 members.
Nicaragua is the only Central American nation without a Financial Intelligence Unit. A counterterrorism bill, first proposed in 2004, remained moribund in the National Assembly. The new Penal Code, however, included language that specifically penalized terrorism financing and used an international definition of money laundering. The judicial system remained a vulnerability that could be exploited by international terrorist groups, because it was highly politicized, corrupt, and prone to manipulation by political elites and organized crime.
President Ortega has made several public statements supporting Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, including his September address to the UN General Assembly in New York. Ortega’s statements questioned the authority of the UN, NATO, and other international actors to prevent any nation (namely Iran) from its “right” to develop nuclear weapons.
The Panama Canal remained Panama's most important economic asset. An act of terrorism that would close off the Canal would severely affect the economies of Panama, the United States, and other countries that rely heavily on the Canal for commerce. The Panamanian government continued to review the structure of its Public Forces and conducted exercises to ensure its ability to protect the Canal and residents of Panama against a possible terrorist act.
Panama's highly developed commercial transport sector and shared border with Colombia made it a transshipment point for arms, drugs, and smuggling of illegal aliens. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) continued to be active in Panama's Darien Province and although they committed no significant terrorist acts, Panama's Public Forces (PPF) closely monitored its activities. Panama created a dedicated border patrol force for both the Colombian and Costa Rican borders, and took the first steps toward creating a stand-alone border protection force with its own command and headquarters under direction of the Panamanian National Police (PNP).
Panama provided enhanced force protection for U.S. military vessels, including submarines, during "high value transits" of the Canal; U.S. officials praised Panama's level of support and security. The Ministry of Government and Justice used classroom training, tabletop exercises, and field visits to improve coordination among the PPF agencies. Panama was the sponsor and host of the annual PANAMAX exercise, a multinational civil and military forces training exercise tailored to the defense of the Panama Canal. The exercise replicated real world threats to the Canal in order to develop appropriate responses and guarantee safe passage through the waterway. Seventeen nations, including the United States, participated. On the margins of PANAMAX, Panama, for the first time, hosted a tabletop exercise specifically designed to examine its ability to address asymmetric threats.
Panama worked closely with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to sign a Container Security Initiative agreement and to launch its activities, beginning with two operational scanners at two ports. Panamanian Public Force Counterterrorism units continued to benefit from the second year of SOUTHCOM-funded training provided by Navy Special Warfare South personnel.
In February, Panama hosted the General Assembly of the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE) multilateral conference. Subsequently, Panama headed this committee, whose work focused primarily on infrastructure security.
Panama is an international offshore banking center. While the government has taken extensive measures to combat money laundering in the banking system, the Colon Free Trade Zone served as a vehicle for illicit finance. Panama's Foreign Ministry, Council for Public Security and National Defense, Financial Analysis Unit, and the Superintendent of Banks were fully cooperative in reviewing terrorism finance lists.
Paraguay was very cooperative in counterterrorism and law enforcement efforts, but its judicial system was hampered by a lack of strong anti-money laundering and counterterrorism legislation. On December 20, Paraguay's Congress passed improved anti-money laundering legislation as part of a major overhaul of the penal code; this statute will improve Paraguay's ability to effectively obstruct and prosecute money laundering and terrorist financing, particularly in Ciudad del Este. Counterterrorism legislation, introduced but not passed, will be critical to keep Paraguay current with its international obligations. The Congress Legal Reform Commission was also working on a criminal procedural code reform bill that would facilitate prosecution of money laundering and terrorism and modernize Paraguay's criminal justice system.
Paraguay did not exercise effective immigration or customs controls at its borders. Efforts to address illicit activity occurring in the Tri-Border Area were uneven due to a lack of resources and, more principally, corruption within customs, the police, and the judicial sector. Despite expanded cooperation with other government entities and significant USG assistance over the past several years, Paraguay's Secretariat for the Prevention of Money Laundering (SEPRELAD) did not demonstrate the ability to monitor and detect money laundering in the first half of the year. However, with a change in leadership in August, SEPRELAD made significant progress. In November it secured approval of important insurance and credit union regulations, and paid a portion of its past dues to the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America (GAFISUD), preserving its membership in that organization. Paraguay still lacked terrorist finance legislation, however, and without it, the Egmont Group, which facilitates information exchange among Financial Intelligence Units, will likely suspend Paraguay.
Despite pending constitutional appeals, the tax evasion case against Kassem Hijazi, a suspected Hizballah money launderer connected to 113 businesses, is at the trial stage. In a judicially suspect move, Hijazi's case was separated from related charges against forty-three defendants. The court excluded key evidence and summarily absolved all forty-three defendants in August. An appellate court reduced the 2006 sentence of suspected terrorist fundraiser Hatim Ahmad Barakat from six to three years.
The United States assisted Paraguay with training for judges, prosecutors, and police in bulk cash smuggling, document fraud, terrorist financing; and investigating, preventing, and prosecuting individuals involved in money laundering. Under the Millennium Challenge Account Threshold Program3, the U.S. assisted Paraguay with training for judges, prosecutors, and police in investigation techniques that are critical to money laundering and terrorist finance cases. In December, Paraguay was invited to submit a proposal for a second phase Threshold program.
Peru's topmost counterterrorism concern remained preventing the reemergence of Sendero Luminoso (SL or Shining Path), a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization that devastated the country in the 1980s and 1990s. In 2007, SL remnants engaged in narcotrafficking and killed 11 police officers, 20 civilians, and one member of the military. SL in the Upper Huallaga River Valley (UHV) suffered significant setbacks with the arrests of several of their key members. Meanwhile, the SL organization in the Apurimac and Ene River Valley (VRAE) retained its control over the area.
Although the Peruvian government nearly eliminated SL in the 1990s, the organization, now entwined with narcotics trafficking, reemerged and remained a threat. Estimated to include up to several hundred armed combatants, SL conducted 80 terrorist acts in remote coca-growing areas this year. The reemergent SL is shorter on revolutionary zeal than it was in the past, but reports suggested it was attempting to rebuild support in the university system, where it exercised considerable influence in the 1980s. Meanwhile, involvement in drug production and trafficking provided SL with substantial funding to conduct operations, improve relations with local communities in remote areas, and to recruit new members. While the government made significant progress against SL in the UHV, insufficient government presence and ineffective security capabilities in the more remote VRAE allowed the SL to operate practically unhindered.
For example, on June 14, a SL ambush near Tocache in the UHV resulted in the deaths of a local anti-drug prosecutor and the three police officers protecting him. Two other police officers were seriously injured in the attack. On December 24, an estimated 20 heavily armed persons attacked a PNP patrol, killing two officers and wounding one near the town of Huanta in the Ayacucho region. Over 70 anti-personnel mines caused one death and 22 injuries, mostly to eradication workers in illegal coca plantations in the San Martin region. Authorities suspected SL remnants in the UHV were responsible.
The "Huallaga Police Front" counterterrorism campaign in the UHV, initiated by then-President Toledo in 2006, was largely inactive. Implementation of the Garcia government's "Plan VRAE,” which called for 2,000 troops and 19 counterterrorism bases operated under a central command, was slow because of the lack of an operational security plan. Plans for new health, education, and infrastructure investment in isolated communities where the state lacks presence were implemented spottily, if at all. The government's efforts to strengthen prosecutorial capacity and to improve interagency cooperation, especially in intelligence, were marginally successful. Police units specializing in counterterrorism and counternarcotics conducted some joint operations with the Peruvian Army in the Upper Huallaga Valley. There was no movement on President Garcia's 2006 proposal calling for the death penalty for those convicted of acts of terrorism.
President Garcia repeatedly reauthorized a 60-day state of emergency in parts of Peru's five departments where SL operated, which suspended some civil liberties and gave the armed forces additional authority to maintain public order.
In August, two Huallaga Front (PNP/Peruvian Army) operations captured 28 SL suspects, including two believed to be bodyguards of UHV SL Committee head “Artemio". Also apprehended were a number of suspected participants in the June ambush near Tocache that killed a prosecutor and three police.
During a November 27 PNP operation, Epifanio Espiritu Acosta, known as "Comrade JL,” third in the UHV organization and leader of its forces on the western side of the Huallaga River, was killed. Eight suspects were captured including the organization's ideological chief, "Comrade Julian,” as well as the head of personal security for the group's leader. UHV-SL leader "Comrade Artemio," is a top priority target of continuing PNP security operations.
Media and other sources continued to report that former SL members released from prison were rejoining leftist civic groups and political movements, and perhaps recruiting new members into the organization. SL founder and leader Abimael Guzman and key accomplices remained in prison facing charges stemming from crimes committed during the 1980s and 1990s.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) continued to use remote areas along the Colombian/Peruvian border for rest and to make arms purchases. There were reports that the FARC was funding coca cultivation and cocaine production among the Peruvian population in border areas.
Suriname's lead agency for counterterrorism was the Central Intelligence and Security Agency (CIVD). The Ministry of Justice and Police (MOJP) had a police Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU) and a 70-person “Arrest Team" (A-Team). At the end of the year, the Council of Ministers approved a new counterterrorism law that defined terrorism as a crime, and provided a framework for more effectively combating terrorism and the financing of terrorism. This legislation should bring Surinamese law in line with various international treaties dealing with terrorism and could help pave the way for Surinamese membership in the Egmont Group. The draft law will be presented to the State Council and the President for their approval, after which it will be presented to the National Assembly. A criminal procedure law is expected to be approved by the Council of Ministers, which will provide the implementing legislation for the new counterterrorism law, as well as special investigative tools to assist law enforcement authorities in detecting and investigating terrorist activities.
Suriname began issuing Caribbean Community (CARICOM)-compliant machine-readable passports in 2004, yet there were still numerous valid old passports in circulation, which could easily be tampered with in order to assume a false identity to travel across borders. An unknown number of blank old-style passports remained unaccounted for. The United States provided watch lists of known terrorists to Surinamese police, but if any terrorists were present, the likelihood of apprehending them would be low because of the lack of border and immigration control by police and other Surinamese government officials, and because Suriname has no system for registering and monitoring visitors. According to police sources, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has conducted arms-for-drugs operations with criminal organizations in Suriname. In December, the Minister of Justice and Police told the media that his Ministry had received information that international criminal organizations were planning attacks in Suriname. According to the Minister, there were arrests over a two-week period late in the year, and investigations had pointed to involvement of the FARC and unspecified African crime organizations. As of late December, no further information was available on those allegations and no attacks had occurred.
In May, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) uncovered a plot by two Guyanese, one Trinidadian, and one U.S. citizen to destroy a fuel pipeline at New York's JFK airport. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago supported the FBI effort to locate and detain those involved in the plot. Of the four suspects, three were arrested in Trinidad, where they remained in custody awaiting a judicial decision on their extradition to the United States
Imam Yasin Abu Bakr of Jamaat al Muslimeen (JAM) became the first person to be prosecuted under the 2005 Anti-Terrorism Act after delivering a seditious sermon in late 2005. Abu Bakr has a loyal following that was consumed with issues related to Trinidad and Tobago. His rhetoric has yet to become an international threat. His current trial continued to be delayed based on claims that Bakr would not receive a fair trial because of the publicity that still surrounded the JAM's 1990 attempted coup.
In February, Trinidad and Tobago implemented the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) in preparation for the 2007 Cricket World Cup. Under the system, regional and international aircraft and vessels must submit Advance Passenger Information prior to arrival in and upon departure from any of the ten Member States. The system utilized a number of watch lists, including INTERPOL's Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) database, to check every passenger arriving in the region or traveling throughout the region by air or by sea.
Recognizing Trinidad and Tobago's role as the United States' largest supplier of liquefied natural gas and as guarantor of energy security in the Caribbean region, the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security provided the government with technical assistance to conduct a vulnerability assessment of critical infrastructure in its energy sector under the umbrella of the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (OAS/CICTE). In October and December, following preparatory meetings between officials of these agencies and participants in Trinidad and Tobago's public/private Energy Sector Security Initiative, a team of USG experts carried out an assessment and prepared a report for the government with recommendations on how best to improve and prioritize critical infrastructure protection efforts.
The level of cooperation and intelligence sharing on counterterrorism related issues greatly improved in 2007, especially at the working level where officers in law enforcement and security services recognized the importance of conducting proactive investigations, sharing intelligence with the United States, and working cooperatively with its regional partners. The Government of Uruguay generally cooperated with the United States and international institutions on counterterrorism efforts, but has not devoted great resources to the effort. Uruguayan banking and law enforcement agencies professed to search for financial assets, individuals, and groups with links to terrorism, but discovered neither terrorist assets in Uruguayan financial institutions nor terrorist operatives in Uruguay.
While Uruguay supported the fight against international terrorism in principle, it has been hesitant for many years to permit joint military training on its soil. Part of the reluctance to engage in robust security cooperation can be explained by the painful experiences endured during a thirteen-year period of military dictatorship when security forces ruthlessly conducted a campaign against violent insurgents. Instead, the Government of Uruguay focused its participation on efforts to promote global security through collective action within multinational organizations such as the UN and OAS.
Uruguay provided the greatest number of UN peacekeepers, in per capita terms, of any UN member state. Although these efforts are not specifically focused on counterterrorism, Uruguay believed that using its diplomatic and military resources to fight global instability served to address the conditions that terrorists exploit, such as political, economic, and social instability.
Uruguay is a member of the MERCOSUR Permanent Working Group on Terrorism, together with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Bolivia. The group facilitated cooperation and information sharing among countries combating terrorism. The focus was expanding from the Tri-border region of Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil, to include the Uruguayan-Brazilian border, although with limited tangible results. Uruguay was also active in a range of international counterterrorism efforts, particularly in the Rio Group and the OAS.
In May 2007, Venezuela was re-certified as "not cooperating fully" with U.S. antiterrorism efforts under Section 40A of the Arms Export and Control Act, as amended (the “Act”). Pursuant to this certification, defense articles and services may not be sold or licensed for export to Venezuela from October 1, 2007 to September 30, 2008. This certification will lapse unless it is renewed by the Secretary of State by May 15, 2008.
President Hugo Chavez persisted in his public criticism of U.S. counterterrorism efforts and deepened Venezuelan relationships with state sponsors of terrorism Iran and Cuba. Chavez's ideological sympathy for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), along with high levels of corruption among Venezuelan officials, limited Venezuelan cooperation with Colombia in combating terrorism. FARC and ELN units regularly crossed into Venezuelan territory to rest and regroup.
It remained unclear to what extent the Venezuelan government provided support to Colombian terrorist organizations. However, limited amounts of weapons and ammunition, some from official Venezuelan stocks and facilities, have turned up in the hands of Colombian terrorist organizations. The Venezuelan government did not systematically police the 1,400-mile Venezuelan-Colombian border to prevent the movement of groups of armed terrorists or to interdict arms or the flow of narcotics.
In another case, the trial began on February 22 for two self-proclaimed Islamic extremists that were arrested in October 2006 for placing a pair of pipe bombs outside the American Embassy in Caracas. At year’s end, the Venezuelan government continued to prosecute both persons, and they remained in police custody.
In March, Iran and Venezuela began weekly Iran Airlines flights connecting Tehran and Damascus with Caracas. Passengers on these flights were not subject to immigration and customs controls at Simon Bolivar International Airport. On June 1, one of the JFK Airport bombing subjects, Abdul Kadir, was arrested at the airport in Port of Spain, Trinidad, on board a flight destined for Caracas, Venezuela. He had an onward ticket to Tehran. Venezuelan citizenship, identity, and travel documents remained easy to obtain, making Venezuela a potentially attractive way station for terrorists. International authorities remained suspicious of the integrity of Venezuelan documents and their issuance process.
1 Since 2002, more than 31,000 rank-in-file AUC members demobilized under the Justice and Peace Law, which offered judicial benefits and reduced prison sentences for qualifying demobilizing terrorists. As part of the Justice and Peace Law (JPL) process, the Colombian Prosecutor's office is taking what will be hundreds of sworn confessions from ex-AUC members, that have revealed the location of the graves of almost 1,200 paramilitary victims and provided information on 3,600 of the AUC’s crimes.
2 The Salvadoran Legislative Assembly passed a new counterterrorism law in September 2006, which featured new sentencing requirements for certain terrorist-related crimes, but failed to distinguish terrorism from regular crime. Rather than define terrorism as politically motivated violence, the new legislation listed some 27 specific acts that would constitute terrorism. The various acts are punishable by a maximum sentence of 86 1/2 years in prison (in the case of aggravating circumstances). One of the more controversial provisions of the law provided for 25-30 years in prison for armed occupation of public buildings, a tactic favored by some militant groups affiliated with the opposition FMLN party.
3 Paraguay qualified in 2006 for participation in the $35 million Millennium Challenge Account Threshold Program to address corruption problems of impunity and economic informality.