Chapter 2. Country Reports: Western Hemisphere Overview
“Terrorism cannot be ignored in the name of good international relations. On the contrary, multilateralism and diplomacy must lead to collaborative actions among States to overcome this drama and its accomplices like trafficking in arms, illicit drugs, money, asset laundering, and terrorist havens, among others.”
--Alvaro Uribe Velez, President of the Republic of Colombia
Statement to the 64th Session of the UN General Assembly
September 23, 2009
WESTERN HEMISPHERE OVERVIEW
Terrorist attacks within the Western Hemisphere in 2009 were committed primarily by two U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations in Colombia – the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) – and other radical leftist Andean groups elsewhere. The threat of a transnational terrorist attack remained low for most countries in the Western Hemisphere. While the United States and Canada pursued prosecutions against suspected terrorists, there were no known operational cells of either al-Qa’ida- or Hizbollah-related groups in the hemisphere. Ideological sympathizers in South America and the Caribbean, however, continued to provide financial and moral support to these and other terrorist groups in the Middle East and South Asia.
Overall, regional governments took modest steps to improve their counterterrorism capabilities and tighten border security, but corruption, weak government institutions, insufficient interagency cooperation, weak or non-existent legislation, and reluctance to allocate necessary resources limited progress. Countries like Argentina, Colombia, and Mexico undertook serious prevention and preparedness efforts. Others lacked urgency and resolve to address counterterrorism deficiencies. Most countries began to look seriously at possible connections between transnational criminal organizations and terrorist organizations.
In May 2009, 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. Cuba continued to be listed as a state sponsor of terrorism.
Colombia continued vigorous military, law enforcement, intelligence, and economic measures through its “Democratic Security” strategy and especially the “National Consolidation Plan” to defeat and demobilize Colombia’s terrorist groups, including the FARCand the ELN. The FARC continued to carry out asymmetrical attacks on soft targets and carried out several high profile operations, including the kidnapping and execution of the governor of Caqueta. While the number of demobilizations, captures, and kills of FARC members in 2009 were all below 2008 levels, Colombian security forces did capture or kill a number of mid-level FARC leaders, debriefed deserters for information, and continued to reduce the amount of territory where terrorists could freely operate. The military and police also destroyed major caches of weapons and supplies, and reduced the group’s financial resources through counternarcotics and other security operations.
Mexico and Canada were key counterterrorism partners. Cooperation with them was broad and deep, involving all levels of government and virtually all agencies. The Mexican government remained a committed partner in its battle against organized crime and in efforts against terrorist threats. Counterterrorism cooperation between the United States and Canada occurred in a number of established fora, including the terrorism subgroup of the Cross Border Crime Forum, the Shared Border Accord Coordinating Committee, and the Bilateral Consultative Group on Counterterrorism (BCG). The BCG brings together U.S. and Canadian counterterrorism officials from over a dozen agencies to coordinate policy on bioterrorism, information sharing, and joint counterterrorism training on an annual basis.
The political will of Caribbean nations to combat terrorism remained strong, despite limited resources and capabilities. Primary counterterrorism objectives for the Caribbean included: preventing terrorists or terrorist organizations from entering or transiting the Caribbean en route to other countries, particularly the United States; increasing countries’ awareness of the potential threat from terrorists or terrorist organizations; preventing terrorists or terrorist organizations from operating or developing safe havens in the Caribbean; and increasing countries’ capabilities to prevent terrorists from attacking targets of opportunity.
The United States enjoyed solid cooperation on terrorism-related matters from most hemispheric partners, especially at the operational level, and maintained excellent intelligence, law enforcement, and legal assistance relations with most countries. An important regional focus for this cooperation was the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism, which is the only permanent regional multilateral organization focused exclusively on counterterrorism.
The Governments of 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 in the border region where the three countries meet. In the early 1990s, they established a mechanism to address these illicit activities. In 2002, at the invitation of the three countries, 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 terrorist financing activities.
The United States remained concerned that Hizballah and HAMAS sympathizers were raising funds in the Tri-Border Area by participating in illicit activities and soliciting donations from sympathizers in the sizable Middle Eastern communities in the region. There was no corroborated information, however, that these or other Islamic extremist groups had an operational presence in the region.
During 2009, Argentina continued to focus on the challenges of policing its remote northern and northeastern borders – including the tri-border area where Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay meet – against threats including drug and human trafficking, contraband smuggling, and other international crime.
Argentina and the United States cooperated well in analyzing possible terrorist threat information. Argentine security forces received U.S. government training in terrorism investigations, special operations related to terrorist incidents and threats, and in explosive and drug-sniffing dog handling and dog training. In addition, Argentina hosted U.S. government-financed regional training on the role of police commanders in responding to terrorist threats. Argentina takes seriously its responsibility to protect its nuclear technology and materials; it has begun to provide training to other countries on best practices against illicit trade in nuclear materials.
The National Coordination Unit in the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights manages the government’s anti-money laundering and counterterrorist finance efforts, and represents Argentina at the Financial Action Task Force, the Financial Action Task Force of South America, and the Group of Experts of the Inter-American Commission for the Control of the Abuse of Drugs (CICAD) of the Organization of American States’ CICAD Group of Experts.
The Attorney General’s special prosecution unit, set up to handle money laundering and cases, began operations in 2007. That same year, the Argentine Congress criminalized terrorist financing with the enactment of Law 26.268, “Illegal Terrorist Associations and Terrorism Financing.” This statute amended the Penal Code and anti-money laundering law to criminalize terrorist financing and established it as a predicate offense for money laundering. To date, Argentina has not filed any charges under the law. In 2008, the Argentine Central Bank’s Superintendent of Banks began specific anti-money laundering and counterterrorist finance inspections of financial entities and exchange houses. The Argentine government and Central Bank remained committed to freezing assets of terrorist groups identified by the United Nations in Argentine financial institutions.
An Argentine judge in 2006 issued arrest warrants for eight current and former Iranian government officials and one member of Hizballah, who were indicted in the July 18, 1994 terrorist bombing of the Argentine-Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) that killed 85 and injured more than 150 people. Despite Iranian objections, the INTERPOL General Assembly voted in November 2007 to uphold the Executive Committee’s decision and the Red Notices on six were issued. At the 2009 UN General Assembly, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner called on Iran to surrender the suspects to face charges in Argentina. In June, an Argentine judge requested the capture of a Colombian citizen, Samuel Salman El Reda, after the AMIA Special Prosecutor identified him as having helped coordinate the 1994 attack. El Reda had been named previously as a suspect and was presumed to no longer be in Argentina.
In 2009, the Government of Belize began receiving funding through the Merida Initiative. While counterterrorism is not Merida’s primary objective, Merida’s work in Belize continued to improve Belize’s border security. Belize participated in an assessment of its northern and western borders by a team from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. This assessment included training on how to identify suspicious vehicles and individuals, and on the use of contraband detection kits. The United States gave Belize eight of these kits in 2009.
Belize’s borders are extremely porous and there is a significant corruption problem among Immigration and Customs officers, particularly on the western and northern borders. It remained easy to change identity by purchasing stolen passports. Laws governing name changes were extremely lax. The country is sparsely populated and has limited human and technological resources to monitor individuals and groups residing in or transiting through its borders.
The Belize Defense Force (1025 total personnel) has operated a Counterterrorism Platoon for three years to perform operations within Belize and its territorial waters.
The Government of Bolivia cooperated only minimally on counterterrorism. It did not share its counterterrorism information with the U.S. government and we have no information that the Government of Bolivia has active counterterrorism measures. The U.S. government has funds available to provide training opportunities to Bolivian counterterrorism forces, but as is the case with other training opportunities offered by the United States, the Government of Bolivia refused to send anyone on such programs. The Financial Action Task Force has identified Bolivia as a jurisdiction with structural deficiencies in its anti-money laundering/countering terrorist finance (AML/CFT) regime and has agreed with the Government of Bolivia on an action plan to address these deficiencies.
Bolivia continued to expand its relationship with Iran, a state sponsor of terrorism. On November 24, Iranian President Ahmadinejad visited Bolivia as part of a five-nation Latin America tour.
On April 16, a Bolivian National Police SWAT team raided a hotel in the eastern city of Santa Cruz, engaging in a firefight and killing three individuals from Hungary, Ireland, and Romania allegedly connected with a previously-discovered arms cache. Two others, a Hungarian and a Bolivian, were arrested. The Bolivian government alleged that police disrupted a terrorist cell bent on dividing the country, and thwarted a possible presidential assassination attempt. Some opposition members suggested that the incident was staged for political purposes or otherwise manipulated by authorities.
Various individuals affiliated with terrorist groups were reportedly present in Bolivia. There were reports that relatively small numbers of individuals associated with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia were present. Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru members were also believed to be present, as were members of the Shining Path.
The Government of Brazil’s counterterrorism strategy consisted of deterring terrorists from using Brazilian territory to facilitate attacks or raise funds, along with monitoring and suppressing transnational criminal activities that could support terrorist actions. It accomplished this through actions between its law enforcement entities and through cooperation with the United States and other partners in the region. For example, Brazilian authorities worked with other concerned nations to combat the significant and largely unchecked document fraud problem in the country. During the year, multiple regional and international joint operations with U.S. authorities successfully disrupted a number of document vendors and facilitators, as well as related human-trafficking infrastructures.
The Brazilian government investigated potential terrorist financing, document forgery networks, and other illicit activity. Elements of the Brazilian government responsible for combating terrorism, such as the Federal Police, Customs, and the Brazilian Intelligence Agency, worked effectively with their U.S. counterparts and pursued investigative leads provided by U.S. and other intelligence services, law enforcement, and financial agencies regarding terrorist suspects. In July, the head of the Brazilian Federal Police intelligence division stated on the record during a Brazilian Chamber of Deputies hearing, that an individual arrested in April was in fact linked to al-Qa’ida.
Brazil’s intelligence and law enforcement services were concerned that terrorists could exploit Brazilian territory to support and facilitate terrorist attacks, whether domestically or abroad, and have focused their efforts in Sao Paulo and on border areas with Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela.
Brazil’s intelligence and law enforcement forces also worked with regional and international partners. Brazil was actively involved in both Mercosur’s Permanent Working Group on Terrorism (with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Bolivia) and its sub-working group on financial issues, which covers terrorist financing and money laundering issues.
Bilaterally, the U.S. government provided a variety of training courses throughout Brazil in counterterrorism, combating money laundering, detection of travel document fraud, container security, and international organized crime. The United States hosted a Major Crimes Conference that successfully brought together Brazil and neighboring countries’ federal and state law enforcement communities, as well as judges and prosecutors, to share best practices and receive practical training.
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been critical of the FARC’s use of violence and publicly called on the group to end its violence against the Colombian government.
Brazil monitored domestic financial operations and effectively used its financial intelligence unit, the Financial Activities Oversight Council (COAF), to identify possible funding sources for terrorist groups. Through COAF, Brazil has carried out name checks for persons and entities on the UNSCR 1267 and 1373 terrorist finance lists, but it has so far not found any assets, accounts, or property in the names of persons or entities on the UN lists.
The Brazilian government is achieving visible results from recent investments in border and law enforcement infrastructure that were carried out to control the flow of goods through the Tri-Border Area (TBA) of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay, the proceeds of which could be diverted to support terrorist groups. The inspection station at the Friendship Bridge in the TBA, which was completed by the Brazilian customs agency (Receita Federal) in 2007, reduced the smuggling of drugs, weapons, and contraband goods along the border with Paraguay. According to Receita Federal, from January to July 2009, the agency seized more than US$ 400 million in contraband goods, including drugs, weapons, and munitions, an increase of eight percent from 2007. The Federal Police had special maritime police units in Foz de Iguacu and Guaira that patrolled the maritime border areas.
Brazil’s overall commitment to combating terrorism and the illicit activities that could be exploited to facilitate terrorism was undermined by the government’s failure to strengthen its legal counterterrorism framework significantly. While Brazilian law criminalizes terrorist financing when connected to a money laundering offense, it does not criminalize terrorist financing itself as an independent crime. Although the 2005 National Strategy against Money Laundering (ENCLA) created a working group charged with drafting legislation to criminalize terrorism and terrorist financing, the draft legislation was never forwarded from the executive branch to the Brazilian Congress. At year’s end, a long-delayed anti-money laundering bill was pending before the Brazilian Congress.
Canada was under a general threat from international and domestic terrorists, according to the country’s Integrated Threat Assessment Centre’s (ITAC) most recent “Biannual Update on the Threat from Terrorists and Extremists,” published November 10. ITAC emphasized that al-Qa’ida (AQ) “has specifically identified Canada as a target on several occasions,” while also noting that “homegrown Islamist extremists remain a threat to Canada.” Single and multi-issue domestic extremists “maintain the intent and capability to carry out attacks against property in Canada,” according to ITAC.
International terrorists did not attack Canada in 2009. However, Canadian officials continued to investigate a “series of bombings [of gas pipelines] in British Columbia for possible connections to environmental extremism,” according to ITAC. Two bombing attacks in July in British Columbia were the fifth and sixth attacks against energy infrastructure there since October 2008.
In June, the government introduced two new bills in Parliament (C-46 and C-47) that would strengthen law enforcement powers and that have specific counterterrorism implications. Collectively known as the “Investigative Powers for the 21st Century Act,” the bills would amend the Criminal Code and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act. C-46 would give police new powers to obtain Internet and wireless telephone transmission data. C-47 would require telecommunications service providers to retain a law enforcement intercept capability for all new technology they deploy. In March, the government re-introduced bill C-19, which would amend the Anti-Terrorism Bill to restore lapsed powers to hold investigative hearings as well as a form of preventive arrest whereby police may bring an individual before a judge in the early stages of terrorist activity to disrupt a potential terrorist attack, authorities that lapsed in February 2008 but which Parliament did not succeed in renewing before its dissolution in September 2008.
On October 6, Canada’s Federal Court released its written decision authorizing warrants permitting the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to track terrorism suspects electronically overseas. The decision significantly expanded the electronic surveillance powers of Canadian law enforcement and security agencies to monitor suspected “homegrown” extremists. Previously, the Federal Court had argued it lacked jurisdiction to issue warrants for activities taking place outside Canada’s borders.
On December 13, then-Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan announced that Canada was reviewing its national security certificate program following a series of court decisions that struck down certificates or ordered the government to provide more information in open court to defendants. In use since 1978, the security certificate system allows the government to detain non-citizens whom the government deems inadmissible to Canada under security-related provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, pending deportation. On October 15 and December 17, the Federal Court of Canada revoked certificates, respectively, against Moroccan-born Adil Charkaoui and Syrian-born Hassan Almrei, which reduced the number of active certificates in suspected terrorist cases to three.
Canada worked closely with the United States and the UN and other multilateral counterterrorism efforts - including the G8’s Roma-Lyon Group and Counterterrorism Action Group - and in international nonproliferation groups, such as the Proliferation Security Initiative and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. Canada and the United States cooperated bilaterally through the Cross Border Crime Forum sub-group on counterterrorism and the Bilateral Consultative Group on Counterterrorism.
On numerous occasions, Canadian and U.S. officials discussed how to enhance intelligence and information sharing related to counterterrorism and law enforcement efforts. Despite Canada’s strict privacy laws, Canadian Security Intelligence Service Director Richard Fadden argued publicly in October that information sharing is “vitally important to the protection of Canada.”
On April 21, al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) released two Canadian diplomats working for the UN whom the group had kidnapped in December 2008.
On June 4, a Federal Court judge ordered the Canadian government to bring Abousfian Abdelrazik back to Canada from Khartoum, Sudan, where he had been since 2003. Abdelrazik – whom the United States designated in 2006 as a terrorism supporter posing a significant risk to national security and who is also included on the UN Security Council’s al-Qa’ida and Taliban Sanctions Committee's watchlist – returned to Canada on June 24. The Canadian government had refused to issue a passport to Abdelrazik until the issuance of the court order, citing “national security” grounds. The court ruled that the government’s actions violated Adbdelrazik’s freedom of mobility under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the government did not appeal the court’s decision.
On December 9, freelance journalist Amanda Lindhout, whom a criminal group in Mogadishu, Somalia had kidnapped along with an Australian colleague in August 2008, returned to Canada. An Australian businessman claimed publicly that he had paid US$ 600,000 to secure the pair’s release on November 25.
Canadian prosecutors won a series of guilty pleas and convictions in terrorism cases. Most of them related to the disrupted 2006 “Toronto 18” plot, which involved a conspiracy to bomb Parliament Hill, Royal Canadian Mounted Police headquarters, and nuclear power plants.
- On March 12, an Ottawa judge sentenced convicted terrorist Momin Khawaja to ten and one-half years in prison for financing and facilitating terrorism and two criminal code offenses related to building a remote-control device to trigger bombs. Police had arrested Khawaja in 2004, accusing him of conspiring with a British AQ cell in a thwarted London bomb plot in that same year. He is eligible for parole in 2014.
- Saad Khalid, a 23-year-old Toronto-area man, pled guilty on May 4 to one charge of intending to cause an explosion as part of the 2006 “Toronto 18” terrorism plot. On September 3, an Ontario judge imposed a 14-year sentence with seven years credit for time served, making him eligible for parole in 2011. Crown prosecutors originally asked for 18 to 20 years and on September 30 appealed the sentence, which was still pending at year’s end.
- On May 22, Nishanthan Yogakrishnan, who was a minor when police arrested him, received a two and a half year prison sentence and three years of probation for his part in the “Toronto 18” plot. In light of time served, the judge released Yogakrishnan the day of the sentencing. He was the first person convicted under Canada’s terrorism laws.
- On September 22, another “Toronto 18” plotter, Ali Mohamed Dirie, pled guilty to one count of participating in the activities of a terrorist group. Crown prosecutors and defense counsel agreed on a seven-year sentence. On October 2, a judge granted Dirie five years of credit for his pre-trial confinement.
- On September 28, Saad Gaya, 21, pled guilty to trying to cause an explosion for a terrorist group as part of the “Toronto 18” plot. Gaya faced a maximum 10 years in prison;
- On October 1, a Federal court judge in Quebec found Moroccan-born Said Namouh guilty of four terrorism charges, all related to disrupted plots to attack targets in Germany and Austria. At the November 13 sentencing hearing, the prosecution asked for a minimum of 10 years in custody before parole eligibility.
- On October 8, Zakaria Amara, whom prosecutors had described as one of the “Toronto 18” “ringleaders,” pled guilty to two counts: knowingly participating in a terrorist group and intending to cause an explosion for the benefit of a terrorist group. As of December, the judge had yet to set Amara’s sentencing date.
- On November 25, an Ontario court sentenced Justain Dillon to one year in jail for anonymously telephoning Toronto Police with threats to blow up a New Jersey shopping mall in November 2006. Dillon pled guilty to causing a hoax regarding terrorist activity following his April 2008 arrest.
Canadian political leaders in both the ruling Conservative Party and the official Opposition Liberal Party remained firm in their March 2008 decision to withdraw Canadian combat forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2011. Canada has maintained its military presence with a 2,800-person battle group in Kandahar province as part of the International Security Assistance Force’s Regional Command South. Canada continued to provide a Provincial Reconstruction Team for stabilization and development efforts and maintained its role in brokering improved Afghan and Pakistani police and military cooperation to enhance their mutual capacities to secure the border from insurgent and terrorist crossings. At year’s end, Canada had suffered the deaths of 139 soldiers, one diplomat, and two aid workers in Afghanistan. It had suffered the highest proportion of casualties-to-troops deployed of any NATO member in country.
Chilean law enforcement agencies investigated a series of small bomb attacks in Santiago. Officials believed that small groups of anarchists were responsible for more than 60 attacks since 2004, which have targeted government buildings, banks, and health clubs. The bombs were small and crudely built. Most of the attacks took place late at night and did not appear to be designed to kill people. On January 17, the government appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the attacks. On November 3, a small bomb exploded outside a Marriott hotel in the Las Condes neighborhood, injuring one person. A group called the Movimiento Dinamitero Efrain Plaza Olmedo claimed responsibility for the bomb, but no arrests were made in this attack.
Chilean law enforcement agencies confronted sporadic low-level violence related to indigenous land disputes in the Araucania region. The Coordinadora Arauco Malleco (CAM), a group seeking recovery of former Mapuche indigenous lands, sometimes through radical means, claimed responsibility for an October 20 attack in which seven trucks were seized and burned. Several members of the CAM subsequently renounced their citizenship and declared war on the Chilean state. Police arrested approximately 30 CAM members during the year and some were charged under Chile’s counterterrorism law. Critics challenged the use of the counterterrorism law, which was established by the Pinochet government and restricts the rights of alleged criminals.
Chilean officials continued to monitor the northern part of the country, particularly Iquique, for illicit activities, including terrorist financing and money laundering.
Chile participated in several U.S. training courses related to counterterrorism. Chilean law enforcement officials attended FBI training courses on post-blast investigations and fingerprint collections. Chile’s national police, the Carabineros continued to participate in the FBI’s South American Fingerprint Exchange initiative, a biometric exchange program wherein foreign governments provided and exchanged biometric information with the United States on violent criminal offenders. Four Chilean officials attended a U.S.-sponsored counterterrorism assistance course in Buenos Aires.
Chile’s counterterrorist reaction force is the Grupo de Operaciones Policiales Especiales (GOPE), a 300-person unit of the Carabineros. The GOPE participates annually in Exercise Fuerzas Comando, a U.S. Special Operations Command South-sponsored special operations seminar designed to refine the tactics, techniques, and procedures used by counterterrorism forces. Chile’s National Intelligence Agency is a strategic, analytical organization that advises the Government of Chile on a variety of threats, including terrorism.
The Government of Colombia maintained its focus on defeating and demobilizing Colombia’s terrorist groups through the government’s “National Consolidation Plan,” which combines military, intelligence, and police operations including counternarcotics, with efforts to demobilize combatants, and the provision of public services and alternative development programs in rural areas that have historically seen high levels of narcotics trafficking and violence. Efforts primarily targeted the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), along with operations against remaining elements of the demobilized United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) – those few who never demobilized and those who rearmed – and newly emerging criminal organizations (BACRIM or bandas criminals in Spanish).
Colombia increased its international counterterrorism cooperation and training efforts. The threat of extradition to the United States remained a strong weapon against drug traffickers and terrorists. At year’s end, Colombia extradited 186 defendants to the United States in 2009 for prosecution; most were Colombian nationals.
Colombia continued to expand its role as a regional leader in counterterrorism and provided training to several other countries, including on combating terrorist financing. The Colombian government sought enhanced regional counterterrorism cooperation to target terrorist safe havens in vulnerable border areas. Colombia and Mexico significantly increased joint training and operations against drug trafficking organizations operating in both countries.
The Colombian military’s momentum against the FARC slowed somewhat in 2009. Unlike in 2008, the Colombian military did not kill or capture any of the FARC’s Secretariat members. Fewer FARC members deserted in 2009 (2,058 as of December 10) than in 2008 (3,027).
However, Colombian security forces captured or killed a number of mid-level FARC leaders, continued to debrief deserters from the group for detailed information on their respective units, and reduced the amount of territory where terrorists could operate freely. The Colombian military and police also destroyed caches of weapons and supplies, and reduced the group’s financial resources through counternarcotics and other security operations.
Despite the ongoing campaign against the FARC, the group continued a campaign of terrorist attacks, extortion, and kidnappings. The FARC continued narcotrafficking activities, bombed several military and civilian targets in urban areas, and targeted numerous rural outposts, police stations, infrastructure targets, and local political leaders in dozens of attacks.
- On January 14, the FARC attacked a police station in Narino using gas cylinders filled with explosives, killing four children and one adult.
- On January 27, the FARC bombed a Blockbuster video store in the heart of Bogota, killing two people.
- On February 4, the FARC killed 17 civilians in Barbacoas, Narino.
- On May 5, the FARC detonated a bomb in Valledupar, Cesar, near a police station, killing two and injuring 10 civilians.
- On May 20, the FARC bombed two electrical towers in Arauca, causing a blackout in three cities. Some 100,000 people were affected.
- On May 29, the FARC ambushed a Colombian army battalion in La Guajira, approximately two kilometers from the Venezuelan border, killing eight Colombian soldiers.
- On July 19, the FARC attacked a police station in Corinto, Cauca, killing two officers and injuring fifteen civilians.
- On August 25, a FARC bomb in San Vicente del Caguan, Meta, killed two and wounded 19 civilians in the middle of a crowded marketplace.
- On September 17, the FARC attacked a police checkpoint near the Buenaventura port in Valle del Cauca, injuring one civilian and two police officers.
- On November 20, the FARC stopped and burned a passenger bus in Barbacoas, Narino, killing four adults and two children.
- On December 21, the FARC kidnapped and subsequently killed the governor of Colombia’s southern department of Caqueta.
The FARC continued a campaign of intimidation and violence against local leaders and communities. The Colombian Council Members’ Federation reported that as of November 2009, 12 council members had been murdered, two had been kidnapped, and thousands had received threats. The FARC was also blamed for an August 19 attack that destroyed a U.S.-funded justice center in Cauca department. USAID had invested US$ 150,000 in the new justice house, which was designed to provide basic legal and social services to the community. In an August communiqué released in Narino department, the FARC announced it would treat all projects developed under Colombia’s National Consolidation Plan (PNC) as legitimate military targets.
The ELN remained active with approximately 2,000 fighters but with diminished resources and reduced offensive capability. Still, the ELN continued to inflict casualties on the Colombian military through use of land mines and occasional attacks. It continued to fund its operations through narcotics trafficking. The ELN and FARC clashed over territory in northeastern and southern Colombia, although they cooperated in other areas. The ELN continued kidnapping and extortion.
The FARC and ELN in December issued a joint decree claiming the two groups planned to unite to fight the Colombian government. The communiqué claimed leaders of the two groups had met and forged an agreement to focus on cooperating to defeat the government and end U.S. influence in Colombia. Colombian Armed Forces Commander Freddy Padilla dismissed the announcement, pointing out that the two groups’ longstanding ideological differences and ongoing confrontations over drug trafficking made such an alliance unlikely to succeed. Previous efforts to unify the two groups have failed.
The AUC formally remained inactive as the Colombian government continued to process and investigate demobilized AUC members under the Justice and Peace Law (JPL), which offers judicial benefits and reduced prison sentences for qualified demobilizing terrorists. The law requires all participants to confess fully to their crimes as members of a terrorist group and to return all illicit profits. More than 32,000 rank-and-file ex-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. More than 280,000 victims have registered under the JPL through December 2009, although Colombian government efforts to create measures to provide reparations to victims have not been as effective as hoped. Some former paramilitaries continued to engage in criminal activities after demobilization, mostly in drug trafficking.
Colombia kept up its close cooperation with the United States to block terrorists’ assets. Financial institutions closed drug trafficking and terrorism-related accounts on Colombian government orders or in response to designation by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Aerial and manual eradication of illicit drugs in Colombia, which is key to targeting terrorist group finances, destroyed about 153,000 hectares of illegal drug crops as of December 7, thus depriving terrorist groups of potentially huge profits. OFAC carried out several designation actions against the financial assets and networks of narcotics traffickers and narcoterrorists. The FARC was first designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997 and OFAC has frozen assets of the FARC or its members when identified, pursuant to Executive Order 12978 and the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. The OFAC sanctions investigations targeted networks of money exchange businesses in Colombia that laundered narcotics proceeds for the FARC. In 2006, a Washington, D.C. grand jury indicted 50 leaders of the FARC on charges of importing more than US$25 billion worth of cocaine into the United States and other countries. The United States continued to support Colombia in its efforts to decrease the number of kidnappings and to support cyber security related investigations and forensics units.
On October 30, the United States and Colombian governments signed the Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA). The DCA will facilitate effective bilateral cooperation on security matters in Colombia, including narcotics production and trafficking, terrorism, illicit smuggling of all types, and humanitarian and natural disasters. The DCA facilitates U.S. access for these purposes to three Colombian air force bases, located at Palanquero, Apiay, and Malambo. The agreement also permits access to two naval bases and two army installations, and other Colombian military facilities if mutually agreed. All these military installations are, and will remain, under Colombian control. Command and control, administration, and security will continue to be handled by the Colombian armed forces. All activities conducted at or from these Colombian bases by the United States will take place only with the express prior approval of the Colombian government. The presence of U.S. personnel at these facilities would be on an as needed, and as mutually agreed upon, basis.
The Dominican Republic continued to lack the ability to fully control its air, land, and sea borders but is making progress to do so. The Dominican Republic cooperated with U.S. law enforcement agencies under the Sovereign Skies agreement and negotiated a MOU for US$ 10 million to upgrade helicopters and train pilots for counternarcotics operations. In addition, in December 2009, the Dominicans received the first two Brazilian Super Tucano aircraft out of an order of eight that will be used to control its airspace. In another positive step, the Dominican Republic continued to work with the United States to create a nation-wide biometric database base that incorporates and provides timely data from Dominican military, law enforcement, and judicial databases. Biometric equipment was maintained at the headquarters of the Dominican National Police and 16 other key locations, with another 20 sets to be installed. Positive steps were taken last year by the Dominican Republic to strengthen its legal regime and capabilities to combat terrorism.
The National Congress passed the General Counterterrorism Act, thereby creating the legislative framework that defines the behaviors that constitute acts of terrorism and other related acts.
Since the Dominican Republic is a strategic point for international trade and tourism, measures were implemented by the government in coordination with the United States to reinforce customs controls to prevent terrorist organizations from acquiring weapons, weapons delivery systems, and the technologies to manufacture them from persons and institutions located in the country.
The Dominican Republic, in coordination with the United States and other international agencies, organized and/or participated in efforts to strengthen training and international cooperation to combat terrorism. The Dominican Republic hosted a ministerial conference in February that engaged various entities of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in dealing with issues related to illicit drugs, organized crime, and terrorism. This conference concluded with the adoption of the Political Declaration on Combating Illicit Drug Trafficking, Organized Crime and Other Serious Crimes in the Caribbean. The Office of the Attorney General for the Dominican Republic sponsored Specialized Training in the Prevention and Fight against Terrorism and Terrorist Financing. In November, law enforcement and high-level officials from the Dominican Republic took part in an UNODC Terrorism workshop in the Bahamas and examined trends and discussed the legal framework and mechanisms of international cooperation in the fight against terrorism. In March, the Dominican Republic’s counterterrorism unit known as Secretaria de Las Fuerzas Armadas Commando Especial Contra Terrorismo was trained as part of U.S. Southern Command, Special Operations Command-South’s Exercise Fused Response. Fused Response provided real world scenarios that tested the commandos’ ability to perform counterterrorism type missions. In September, the Dominican Republic participated in a U.S.-sponsored military training exercise, PANAMAX. This particular exercise was designed by U.S. Southern Command to address teamwork and to strengthen the Country’s ability to operate jointly against terrorism. As a means to improve border security, members of the specialized Border Security Force were trained by members of the U.S. Border Patrol.
While many land border, ports, and airline hubs remained permeable, the United States assisted the Dominican Republic on various initiatives to improve security, such as the Container Security Initiative. Port Caucedo was identified as a Megaport and its certification was part of the Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism Initiative.
Ecuador’s greatest counterterrorism and security challenge remained the presence of Colombian narcotics, criminal, and terrorist groups in the extremely difficult terrain along the porous 450-mile border with Colombia. The lack of adequate employment opportunities for Ecuadorians and Colombian refugees also made the area vulnerable to narco-terrorist influence and created a contraband economy. To evade Colombian military operations, these groups, principally the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), regularly used Ecuadorian territory for recuperation, medical aid, weapons and explosives procurement, and coca processing. These activities involved Ecuadorian and Colombian refugees in northern Ecuador in direct or indirect ways. Some Ecuadorian officials along the border believed that the FARC’s economic impact allowed it to buy silence and compliance among resident communities in the border area.
Ecuador responded to this threat, although it still faced resource constraints and limited capabilities. The Correa Administration, while still maintaining that the Colombian conflict was mainly Colombia’s problem, stated that it opposed armed encroachments across its borders. Tensions between Ecuador and Colombia rose following the March 2008 Colombian bombing of a FARC camp in Ecuador, which killed the FARC’s number two in command, Raul Reyes, plus 24 Colombians and one Ecuadorian associated with the FARC. However, in September, the two countries embarked on a rapprochement and, in November, assigned charges d’affaires. Although Ecuador-Colombia security mechanisms have been reactivated, the reestablishment of full diplomatic ties would be important to making further progress in disrupting and dismantling FARC-associated narcotics traffickers’ operations in the region.
Ecuador’s security forces continued their operations against FARC training and logistical resupply camps along the northern border. The Ecuadorian military continued to increase the number of troops in the north. The Ecuadorian government also increased its emphasis on protection of national sovereignty against illegal armed incursions and improved efforts to counter the perception that Ecuador was not shouldering its burden in fighting drug traffickers along its northern border.
While Ecuadorian security forces increased their presence, the pace of their operations remained roughly the same. The Ecuadorian military reported that it conducted four counternarcotics operations at the brigade level, 219 battalion-level operations, and 159 patrols that led to the destruction of nine cocaine laboratories, 253 FARC base camps, houses and resupply facilities; the eradication of one hectare of coca; and the confiscation of weapons, communications equipment, and other support equipment.
The Ecuadorian military’s operations netted information on FARC activities and infrastructure both inside and outside of Ecuador, and resulted in the detention of more than 75 narcotics traffickers, the killing of three FARC members, and the wounding of seven others during the year. However, insufficient resources, corruption among members of the military and police, the challenging border region terrain, and a tense bilateral relationship with Colombia since the March 2008 raid made it difficult to thwart cross-border incursions.
Domestic terrorist groups present in Ecuador, although operationally inactive in the last few years, included the Popular Combatants Group, the Revolutionary Militia of the People, the Marxist-Leninist Party of Ecuador, and the Alfarista Liberation Army.
The Ecuadorian government sought to strengthen controls over money laundering through the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), which it established under a 2005 Money Laundering Law. The FIU made some improvements in cooperating with the Anti-Narcotics Police Directorate, the Superintendent of Banks, the courts, and the private banker association to identify suspicious transactions and develop information for the prosecution of cases. An important emphasis of the FIU was to monitor casinos for money laundering activities. The National Police also set up an anti-money laundering unit to carry out investigations into financial crimes.
Ecuador has not criminalized terrorist financing, and the Financial Action Task Force and Financial Action Task Force of South America have encouraged the Ecuadorian government to adopt appropriate counterterrorism financing legislation and regulations. Ecuador is not yet a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence units, as terrorist finance legislation is a requirement for Egmont membership.
Ecuador’s judicial institutions remained weak, susceptible to corruption, and heavily backlogged with pending cases. While the military and police made numerous arrests, the judicial system had a poor record of achieving convictions.
Ecuadorian immigration officials allowed almost all travelers to enter the country for 90 days without a visa, including travelers from countries of concern for terrorism, drug smuggling, and illegal immigration. Ecuador’s 2008 constitutional declaration of the rights of all to migrate eliminated the concept of illegal immigration in the country, and combined with the visa-free policy, removed effective screening to entry to the western hemisphere for travelers of all nationalities. Consequently, official Ecuadorian immigration statistics showed dramatic increases – four-fold or higher – from 2007 to 2009 in the number of entries by travelers from state sponsors of terrorism. Other U.S. government agencies have reported recently on active smuggling rings in Ecuador that focus on moving aliens who may raise terrorism concerns at ports of entry to the United States and Canada.
El Salvador hosts the U.S. government-funded International Law Enforcement Academy, which provided instruction on counterterrorism, transnational crime, alien trafficking, money laundering, and other topics of counterterrorism interest. El Salvador also worked within the regional Central American Integration System to promote effective regional responses to transnational crime and other public security threats.
The Government of El Salvador was vigilant in its efforts to ensure that Salvadoran territory was not used for recruitment, training, or terrorist financing.
The principal Salvadoran counterterrorism entity, the National Civilian Police, worked in close cooperation with the Salvadoran Immigration Service, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Office of State Intelligence, and was well regarded by U.S. counterparts. A 2006 statute established strict criminal liability for engaging in terrorism, while other statutes outlawed money laundering and terrorist financing.
U.S. assistance supported Guatemala’s anti-money laundering, anti-corruption, and border security efforts and Guatemala cooperated with the United States in investigating potential terrorism leads. The U.S. Department of Defense continued to train the Guatemalan military’s counterterrorist unit. In addition to threats posed by transnational narcotics organizations, Guatemala was a major alien smuggling route from Central and South America, which made it a potential transit point for terrorists seeking to gain access to the United States. Corruption, an ineffective criminal justice system, and a lack of resources have limited Guatemala’s ability to combat transnational crime, especially in remote parts of the country. Guatemala’s borders are porous and lack adequate coverage by police or military personnel.
The Financial Investigative Unit, within the Haitian National Police; and the Financial Intelligence Unit, within the Ministry of Justice, cooperated with the United States in anti-money laundering initiatives to improve the ability to detect funds acquired through criminal activity, including funds that could be acquired through terrorist networks. The Haitian government drafted counterterrorism legislation in 2008 but it was not enacted by Parliament in 2009. In addition, the country has accepted the terms of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, but has not formally signed the Convention.
The Honduran government continued to implement steps in accordance with its 2007 National Security Strategy, which included counterterrorism as an objective, and stressed regional and international cooperation. For example, in November, the Honduran Armed Forces (HOAF) and the Honduran National Police (HNP) took steps towards the creation of a Joint Interagency Task Force. This joint task force should improve inter-agency intelligence cooperation and should decrease illicit trafficking and minimize terrorist threats within the country.
Organized crime and illicit trafficking organizations and networks were strong and potentially ripe for exploitation by terrorists intent on entering and attacking the United States. While there was no conclusive evidence that terrorist groups worked with illicit trafficking organizations, the United States continued to assist the HOAF and HNP with their counterterrorism efforts in order to prevent terrorist groups from exploiting illicit trafficking networks. The Honduran military lacked sufficient resources, and the police and judiciary were spread thin, poorly trained, and susceptible to threats and corruption. In the first half of the year, before a coup d’etat took place, the United States continued to provide the HOAF and HNP with training, equipment, and base construction, which dramatically improved their ability to interdict illicit trafficking and protect the country against terrorist threats. In response to the June 28 coup, however, the U.S. government suspended all counterterrorism training pending restoration of the democratic, constitutional order.
There were no known instances of terrorist organizations using Honduras’s financial system to deposit or launder funds. Prior to the coup, Honduran cooperation with the United States on combating terrorist financing was strong. The Honduran Banking and Insurance Commission, instructed by 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, undertook the requested searches for accounts by terrorist entities. There were no amendments to the Executive Order lists after the coup that required notification of the Honduran government.
There was no indication of terrorist groups using illegal immigration networks. Over the past five years, however, smuggling rings have been detected moving people from East Africa (in particular Somalia in 2009), the Middle East, and Southwest Asia to Honduras or through its territory. Nationals of countries without Honduran visa requirements, especially Ecuador and Colombia, were involved in schemes to transit Honduras, often with the United States and Europe as their final destination. Foreign nationals have successfully obtained valid Honduran identity cards and passports under their own or false identities.
The United States and Jamaica cooperated on a variety of counterterrorism-related areas, including the Container Security Initiative; the provision of equipment and training to the Jamaica Defense Force and Constabulary Force; and law enforcement intelligence sharing. In 2007, following his imprisonment in the United Kingdom for inciting murder and for fomenting terrorism and racial hatred, British authorities deported the radical Jamaican-born cleric Sheik Abdullah El-Faisal back to Jamaica. Jamaican and U.S. authorities remained concerned about El-Faisal’s plans, intentions, and influence. At year’s end, El-Faisal was detained in Kenya pending deportation to Jamaica. Kenyan officials arrested El-Faisal for violating his visa terms by preaching in Kenyan mosques.
Jamaica’s entry/exit computer system, controlled by the Passport, Immigration, and Citizenship Agency, had no more storage capacity and thus could only recall two years of entry/exit records; an inability to track inbound and outbound persons beyond those two years remained a vulnerability. Jamaican Customs’ ability to target inbound/outbound/ transiting containers was limited to a paper-based system. All paper files that document entry and exit prior to 2004 were lost in a warehouse fire.
The Mexican government remained highly committed to the fight against organized crime and remained vigilant against domestic and international terrorist threats. No known international terrorist organizations had an operational presence in Mexico and no terrorist incidents targeting U.S. interests and personnel occurred on or originated from Mexican territory. Mexico continued to confront well-armed, organized crime elements in several regions of the country and traditional hot spots for narcotics trafficking saw record levels of violence.
Although incidents of domestic terrorism did not increase over the past year, Mexico received threats from a previously active group and witnessed the emergence of a new element. El Ejercito Popular Revolucionario (EPR) dissolved talks with the government in April and threatened to reemploy violent measures to force a response to its demands for a government investigation into the disappearance of two of its members. In 2009, no acts of terrorism were attributed to the EPR. From May to August, the Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility for attacking banks and commercial sites throughout Mexico City, using propane tank bombs. Three bombs were discovered unexploded, while another three caused property damage but no casualties.
Levels of organized crime and narcotics-related violence rose significantly in places along the U.S. border and in marijuana cultivation regions. Cartels increasingly used military-style terrorist tactics to attack security forces. There was no evidence of ties between Mexican organized crime syndicates and domestic or international terrorist groups. The violence attributed to organized crime groups on the border, however, continued to strain Mexico’s law enforcement capacities, creating potential vulnerabilities that terrorists seeking access to the United States could exploit.
There was no indication that terrorist organizations used Mexico as a conduit for illicit activities. Nevertheless, Mexico’s nascent capacity to counter money laundering suggested a potential vulnerability. The Mexican Attorney General’s Organized Crime Division’s money laundering unit investigated and prosecuted money laundering crimes in Mexico with mixed results. The majority of its investigations were linked to organized crime and drug proceeds. In order to combat the illegal movement of funds, Mexican financial institutions followed international standards advocated by the Financial Action Task Force Recommendations. These institutions also terminated the accounts of individuals and entities identified on international country lists such as the Office of Foreign Asset Control Specially Designated National and Blocked Persons List. Furthermore, Mexican financial institutions follow the Law of Credit Institutions, as ordered by the Mexican Treasury and supervised by the National Bank and Securities Commission. This law requires banks to consult international and country lists of individuals involved in terrorism or other illicit activities and submit a “suspicious activities report” within 24 hours to the Mexican Department of Treasury’s Financial Intelligence Unit on the activities of any individual on that list.
Mexico stepped up efforts to improve interagency coordination as part of its campaign to combat crime and prevent terrorism. It has created a national database designed to promote greater information exchange and overall interoperability across Mexico’s disparate police entities. Tactical Intelligence Operations Units brought together all federal agencies in a state to coordinate intelligence and operations. The United States directly supported programs to help both the Secretariat for Public Security and the Attorney General’s Office train federal investigators and facilitate greater operational coordination and effectiveness.
The United States and Mexico worked together to address a number of challenges in connection with Mexico’s southern and northern borders. The United States deployed two teams to Mexico’s southern border to conduct assessments. Its border with Guatemala and Belize remained very porous and could serve as a potential terrorist transit point. The United States worked with Mexico to address resource requirements and offered some best practices applied at other ports of entry. The two countries agreed to coordinate actions at the northern border ports of entry in order to obstruct the flow of illegal arms and currency. The United States supported the establishment of the Mexico Targeting Center, modeled after the CBP National Targeting Center-Cargo, which should strengthen Mexico’s ability to target suspicious or illicit cargo. The Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) supported targeting efforts, increased information sharing, and enhanced intelligence capabilities in connection with efforts to identify aliens who may raise terrorism concerns at ports of entry. The United States and Mexico also commenced the Joint Security Program for Travelers, a pilot program that promotes exchanges of immigration officials as part of an effort to streamline the APIS referral process and seeks to identify and track suspected terrorists, fugitives, or smugglers.
In June 2008, President Calderon signed into law a number of security and justice reforms. The security reforms granted police greater investigative authorities and facilitated the ability of law enforcement officials to seize the assets of individuals implicated in criminal activity. The justice reforms effected constitutional changes that provide for a presumption of innocence in criminal and civil prosecutions and allow for evidence-based trials promoting greater transparency and more confidence in the judicial system. Although these measures were primarily aimed at organized crime groups, the legislation also supports investigations against domestic or international terrorists. The government has eight years to implement the justice reform legislation. At year’s end implementation had been slow and uneven.
The United States and Mexico worked closely to implement a strong Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA) program; ATA programs provided training for 300 Mexican security officials in 18 courses on matters ranging from VIP protection to digital security and forensics.
Nicaragua made no substantive progress towards establishing a Financial Intelligence Unit or passing the counterterrorism bill first proposed in 2004. Nicaragua’s judiciary remained highly politicized, corrupt, and prone to manipulation by political elites and organized crime and therefore remained a vulnerability that could be exploited by international terrorist groups. President Daniel Ortega’s 2007 decision to grant Iranian and Libyan nationals visa-free entry into Nicaragua remained in effect.
President Ortega maintained close relations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). He also continued to provide safe haven to Doris Torres Bohórquez and Martha Perez Gutiérrez, two suspected FARC associates and survivors of the March 2008 Colombian military operation against the FARC. Both were granted asylum in Nicaragua and welcomed by President Ortega as survivors of “state-sponsored terrorism by Colombia.” On October 12, Nicaragua refused Ecuador’s request to extradite Torres and Perez on the grounds that doing so would violate their human rights. Senior FARC official Nubia Calderon de Trujillo continued to have humanitarian asylum in Nicaragua.
There was no new information in the case of Alberto Bermudez (aka Rene Alberto Gutierrez Pastran, or “Cojo”), the FARC emissary granted a false Nicaraguan identity by Nicaragua’s Supreme Electoral Council (CSE). However, in December, local media reported that the CSE provided official Nicaraguan identity documents for false identities to several suspected drug traffickers, including Amauri Paul (alias Alberto Ruiz Cano), a Colombian criminal who was involved in an attack against Nicaraguan counter-narcotics forces that killed two Nicaraguan Navy personnel.
No known terrorist groups operated openly in Nicaragua; however, both the FARC and the ETA (Basque Fatherland and Liberty) have retired or inactive members residing in Nicaragua.
During 2009, the U.S. Embassy had increasing difficulty obtaining information from or access to civilian officials of the government. In one instance, the government failed to comply with a routine evidence transfer request related to an arms-for-drugs case involving the FARC. Despite this, there were several U.S.-Nicaragua military-to-military counterterrorism-related exchanges during the year.
The presence of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Panama’s remote Darien Region and potential actions against the Panama Canal remained the main terrorist concerns in Panama. The Government of Panama continued to work with the United States in both areas.
A small, stable number of FARC 57th front members operated in Panama’s Darien Province, using the area as a safe haven and drug trafficking base. Darien’s dense jungle, sparse population, and lack of significant infrastructure have historically limited the government’s presence. As the FARC’s drug trafficking in the Darien province increasingly moved inland, new transit routes and logistical supply lines required greater interaction with the local populace, who were often coerced or paid to help. The FARC 57th front was involved in the April 2008 kidnapping of a U.S.-Cuban citizen near Panama City who was held until his release in February 2009. Subsequently, in April, several members of the FARC’s 57th front were charged in New York with conspiring to take a U.S. citizen hostage. The Government of Panama also turned over several FARC members to the United States for prosecution in 2009.
The United States and Panama continued to plan for incidents that could potentially shut down transit through the Panama Canal, one of the most strategically and economically important structures in the world. Panama co-hosted the annual PANAMAX exercise, a multinational security training exercise tailored to the defense of the canal. The exercise replicated real world threats, and included specific exercises designed to counter terrorist attacks. Considered the largest operational and foreign military exercise of its kind, the event included 30 ships, a dozen aircraft, and 4,500 personnel from 20 nations. In addition, Panama continued to provide force protection for U.S. military vessels, including submarines, during “high value transits” of the canal.
Panama’s Ministry of Government and Justice utilized classroom training, tabletop exercises, and field visits to improve overall counterterrorism coordination among the Panamanian National Police (PPF) agencies. Additionally, several PPF counterterrorism units benefited from the fourth year of counterterrorism training funded by the U.S. Southern Command and provided by U.S. Navy Special Warfare South personnel.
Panama is an important regional financial center and has had one of the fastest growing economies in the Western Hemisphere over the past 15 years. However, the factors that have contributed to Panama’s economic growth and sophistication in the banking and commercial sectors – the large number of offshore banks and shell companies, the presence of the world’s second-largest free trade zone, the growth in ports and maritime industries, and the use of the U.S. dollar as the official currency – also provide the infrastructure for significant money laundering activity. While Panama took extensive measures to combat money laundering in the banking system, the Colon Free Trade Zone’s (CFTZ) significant revenue turnover and cash-intensive transactions left the area vulnerable to money laundering and terrorist financing. In 2009, the CFTZ Authority developed and prepared to launch two projects designed to increase transparency and accountability in the zone: an automated transactions system to replace a manual system that limited effective reporting and analysis; and a compulsory money laundering/terrorist financing on-line training module, required for all companies operating in the zone. The Government of Panama was fully cooperative in reviewing terrorist finance lists.
Panama continued to participate in the Container Security Initiative (CSI) at three ports: Balboa, Manzanillo, and the Evergreen Colon Container Terminal, which was installed in 2009. Additionally, the Department of Energy’s Megaports Radiation Portals, which specifically scan for nuclear and other radioactive materials, became functional at the ports of Manzanillo and Balboa, and construction was nearly completed at the ports of Colon and Cristobel.
Although Paraguay was generally cooperative on counterterrorism and law enforcement efforts, a politicized judicial system, corrupt police force, and the absence of counterterrorist financing legislation continued to hamper the country’s counterterrorism efforts. The Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP), a small, leftist guerilla group seeking to destabilize the Paraguayan government, kidnapped rancher Fidel Zavala on October 15 in Concepcion Department. When two police officers discovered Zavala’s vehicle the following day, a car bomb exploded, critically injuring both officers. In April, unidentified individuals placed an improvised explosive device (IED) at the Supreme Court building. Although the device exploded in the building's courtyard, no injuries occurred. After that incident, anonymous callers reported dozens of bomb threats throughout Asuncion. In some cases, police located mock IEDs made to look real. Some of the devices contained trace levels of explosives, others did not. No further explosions or injuries took place.
On July 2, the Paraguayan Congress passed a law that granted the rank of Minister to the Secretariat for the Prevention of Money-Laundering (SEPRELAD) director, who now reports directly to President Fernando Lugo. The new law extends the range of financial institutions under SEPRELAD’s surveillance and provides the tools to investigate institutions suspected of financing terrorism. In August, the Egmont Group lifted sanctions against Paraguay following the new SEPRELAD bill. Separately, on July 20, Paraguay implemented amendments to its current anti-money laundering regulations as part of a revised penal code. A draft counterterrorist finance bill and a draft criminal procedure code were pending in Congress at year’s end.
Paraguay did not exercise effective immigration or customs controls at its porous borders. Efforts to address illicit activity occurring in the Tri-border Area with Argentina and Brazil were uneven due to a lack of resources and, more principally, corruption within customs, the police, the public ministry, and the judicial sector.
Phase I of the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s Threshold Program, largely focused on anti-corruption, enabled Paraguay to issue updated national identity documents and passports beginning on September 21. While the new documents exceeded the standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization, and included fingerprints, machine readable text, and other anti-counterfeiting security measures; fraud involving purchase of the new documents continued. Phase II of the Threshold Program includes assistance to both Paraguayan customs and the National Police. Other U.S. government assistance included FBI training on money-laundering and terrorist financing in September for 35 members of the public ministry, judiciary, SEPRELAD, police, military, and customs.
Peru’s primary counterterrorism concern remained fighting remnants of Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path or SL), a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization that wreaked havoc on the country in the 1980s and 1990s at a cost of more than 69,000 lives. SL elements in the Upper Huallaga River Valley (UHV) sought to regroup and replenish their ranks following significant setbacks in 2007 and 2008. Separately, the rival SL organization in the Apurimac and Ene River Valley (VRAE) maintained its influence in that area. Both factions continued to engage in drug trafficking, and in 2009 carried out more than 100 terrorist acts that killed at least three police officers and 26 civilians.
Although Peru nearly eliminated SL in the 1990s, the organization, now entwined with narcotics trafficking, remained a threat. The two SL organizations combined are believed to have several hundred armed members. While SL possessed less revolutionary zeal than in the past, analysts believed that leaders continued to use Maoist philosophy to justify their illicit activities. Involvement in drug production and trafficking provided SL with funding to conduct operations, improve relations with local communities in remote areas, and to recruit new members. While SL in the UHV worked to recuperate from losses suffered in 2007 and 2008, insufficient government presence in the more remote VRAE allowed the organization there to continue operating.
- On August 1, about 40 SL terrorists attacked a police station in San Jose de Secce, outside the VRAE in the highlands of Ayacucho, killing three police officers and two civilians. Official reports indicated a highly coordinated attack with explosives and military grade weaponry.
- On September 2, SL forces downed a Peruvian air force MI-17 helicopter near the town of Sinaycocha in Junin department, killing the pilot, co-pilot, and one crewman.
The Army’s 2008 offensive in the Vizcatan region, called “Operation Excellence 777,” continued haltingly with the military maintaining a number of small provisional bases established in the area. Confrontations generally consisted of SL members attacking Peruvian patrols or incoming supply helicopters, but in several cases the SL attacked a military base. Several of the significant attacks perpetrated by the VRAE faction occurred in highland areas outside of the VRAE. Some analysts believed the attacks marked SL’s attempts at expansion, while others said they were strictly aimed at protecting the group’s stronghold in the VRAE and controlling drug routes.
Implementation of the government’s Plan VRAE, which called for 2,000 troops and 19 counterterrorism bases under a central command, was still evolving. In August, the Garcia administration named Fernan Valer as the civilian head of Plan VRAE. Plans for new health, education, and infrastructure investment in these isolated communities were not fully implemented, but authorities made some improvements to roadways and rural electrification.
Government efforts to improve interagency cooperation, especially in intelligence, and to strengthen prosecutorial capacity were somewhat successful. Police units specializing in counterterrorism and counternarcotics conducted some joint operations with the Peruvian Army in the UHV where police captured one high-ranking SL terrorist.
President Garcia continued reauthorizing a 60-day state of emergency in parts of four departments where SL operated, suspending some civil liberties, and giving the armed forces additional authority to maintain public order. There was no movement on President Garcia’s 2006 proposal calling for the death penalty for those convicted of acts of terrorism, but, in October, Congress passed a law removing parole and other benefits for convicted terrorists.
SL founder and leader Abimael Guzman and key accomplices remained in prison serving life sentences on charges stemming from crimes committed during the 1980s and 1990s. In September, Guzman’s attorney published a book of Guzman’s handwritten manuscripts as compiled by Guzman’s common-law wife, Elena Iparraguirre, who is also incarcerated for terrorism charges.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) continued to use remote areas along the Colombian-Peruvian border to regroup and make arms purchases. Experts believed the FARC continued to fund coca cultivation and cocaine production among the Peruvian population in border areas.
The Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) has not conducted terrorist activities since the 1996 hostage taking at the Japanese Ambassador’s residence in Lima. Efforts to reconstitute an organizational structure were not in evidence in 2009, though former MRTA members established a political party called the Free Fatherland Party and sought alliances with other political parties.
Suriname’s lead agency for counterterrorism is the Central Intelligence and Security Agency. The Ministry of Justice and Police has a police Counterterrorist Unit and a 50-person “Arrest Team.” At the end of 2007, the Council of Ministers approved a new draft counterterrorism law that defined terrorism as a crime, and provided a framework for more effectively combating terrorism and the financing of terrorism. This draft legislation was approved by the State Council and the President in 2008, and was presented to the National Assembly for discussion. As of 2009, the legislation has not been passed. However, if the legislation is passed, it 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. A draft criminal procedure law was approved by the Council of Ministers in February 2008, which provides 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.
In an effort to enhance its border security capabilities, as well as hamper potential terrorist transit, Suriname began issuing Caribbean Community-compliant machine-readable passports in 2004. 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, and because Suriname has no digitized 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.
Trinidad and Tobago
In September, Trinidad and Tobago acceded to the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism. In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said accession obligated the country to take measures to criminalize the funding of terrorist activities and to identify, detect, seize, or freeze funds used or allocated for terrorist purposes. The government further stated that it was obligated under the convention to prosecute or extradite individuals suspected of unlawful involvement in the financing of terrorism and to cooperate with other states that are parties in the investigation.
In October, Trinidad and Tobago enacted two pieces of legislation and a set of rules that strengthened the government’s ability to combat, deter, and prosecute organized criminal activity, money laundering, and terrorist financing. The laws and regulations established a financial intelligence unit, provided greater authority for the government to pursue the proceeds of crime, and enhanced banking regulations to detect suspicious transactions.
Also in October, the United States provided a report to Trinidad and Tobago that assessed vulnerabilities and recommended improvements to the country’s infrastructure critical to liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports. Trinidad and Tobago remained the largest supplier of LNG to the United States, and the assessment was conducted in 2008 by U.S. government experts under the umbrella of the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism of the Organization of American States. Canada also collaborated in the report, which was referred to the Office of Disaster Preparedness Management for action.
Trinidad and Tobago purchased three 90-meter offshore patrol vessels for delivery over the coming few years. These vessels, along with the expected delivery of helicopters and other patrol vessels, should improve the country’s border security and its capacity to engage in regional security efforts.
Trinidad and Tobago hosted two major international events in its capital Port of Spain, each of which included dozens of world leaders and government ministers. The Summit of the Americas was held in April and involved more than 30 leaders of countries from the Western Hemisphere. The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting was held in November with more than 50 national leaders. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago cooperated with security and counterterrorism units from a variety of nations and regional organizations to provide security for the events, which occurred without incident.
Uruguay was a willing partner of the United States in counterterrorism efforts and improved its ability to fight international crime through legislation, better protection of its borders, and military training. The Government of Uruguay focused its efforts to promote global security through collective action within multinational organizations such as the U.N. and Organization of American States (OAS). Uruguay is a member of the MERCOSUR Permanent Working Group on terrorism, together with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Bolivia. The group facilitates cooperation and information sharing. Uruguay has also been active in a range of international counterterrorism efforts, particularly in the Rio Group and the OAS.
A new money laundering law passed in 2009 further defined money laundering, including as it relates to terrorist financing.
Uruguay’s level of cooperation and intelligence sharing on counterterrorism-related issues improved. The political leadership in the Ministries of Defense and Interior increasingly saw terrorism as a significant issue for Uruguay, and working level officers in law enforcement and security services recognized the importance of conducting pro-active investigations and intelligence sharing with the U.S. government and other Latin American countries.
In May, the United States re-certified Venezuela as “not cooperating fully” with U.S. counterterrorism efforts under Section 40A of the Arms Export and Control Act, as amended. Pursuant to this certification, defense articles and services may not be sold or licensed for export to Venezuela from October 1, 2009 to September 30, 2010. This certification will lapse unless it is renewed by the Secretary of State by May 15, 2010.
President Hugo Chavez persisted in his public criticism of U.S. counterterrorism efforts. In October, he called the United States “the first state sponsor of terrorism” and has repeatedly referred to the United States as a “terrorist nation.” Since Colombia and the United States signed a Defense Cooperation Agreement, Venezuela’s cooperation with the United States on counterterrorism has been reduced to an absolute minimum. President Chavez continued to strengthen Venezuela’s relationship with state sponsor of terrorism Iran. Iran and Venezuela continued weekly Iran Airlines flights connecting Tehran and Damascus with Caracas.
It remained unclear to what extent the Venezuelan government provided support to Colombian groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN). The FARC and ELN reportedly regularly crossed into Venezuelan territory to rest and regroup as well as to extort protection money and kidnap Venezuelans to finance their operations. Colombia on various occasions has accused the Venezuelan Government of harboring and aiding top FARC leaders in Venezuelan territory.
Some weapons and ammunition from official Venezuelan stocks and facilities have turned up in the hands of these groups. In July, Colombia announced that it had recovered five Swedish AT-4 anti-tank missiles from the FARC that were originally sold to Venezuela. Chavez called the Colombian report “a dirty lie.” When Sweden confirmed the 1988 sale of the weapons, Venezuela then claimed the weapons had been stolen by the FARC from a Venezuelan base in 1995. When local journalists showed 1995 news reports that said the rival ELN had carried out the attack, the government claimed the ELN had sold the weapons to their rivals.
In mid-December, local newspapers cited the report of the Ecuadorian “Transparency and Truth Commission on the Angostura Case” that claimed that FARC Secretariat member Iván Márquez has offices in Caracas, where he directs the agenda of the FARC-linked organization, the Continental Bolivarian Coordinator.
On December 4, President Chavez promoted Hugo Carvajal Barrios and Henry de Jesus Rangel Silva to the rank of Venezuelan Major General, a three-star equivalent. Both Carvajal and Rangel had been designated Drug Kingpins by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in 2008 for materially assisting the narcotics trafficking activities of the FARC. Carvajal remained in his position as head of the Directorate of Military Intelligence. Rangel Silva was named Commander of the Guayana Strategic Military Region in August.
There was some limited counterterrorism cooperation between Colombia and Venezuela, however. On April 23, Zulia State police arrested Yainer Esneider Acosta Peña, alleged to be the second in command of the FARC 45th Front. Local authorities transferred Acosta to the Colombian border where he was handed over to face charges of rebellion and terrorism.
Venezuela served as a safe haven for at least one alleged terrorist from a non-Colombian group. On August 5, the Venezuelan Supreme Court denied Spain’s extradition request of suspected ETA member Ignacio Echevarria Landazabal. In April 2008, Echevarria was arrested in Valencia, Venezuela, based on an INTERPOL warrant and was subsequently released.
Self-proclaimed Islamic extremists José Miguel Rojas Espinoza and Teodoro Rafael Darnott remained in prison after being sentenced to 10 years each in 2008 for placing a pair of pipe bombs outside the American Embassy in 2006.
Venezuelan citizenship, identity, and travel documents remained easy to obtain through fraudulent means; thereby making these documents a potentially viable way for terrorists to travel internationally. International authorities remained suspicious of the integrity of the Venezuelan document issuance process.
 In 2008, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control designated Calderon de Trujillo, along with seven other FARC international representatives, as significant narco-traffickers under the Kingpin Act. During 2009, Calderon, Torres, and Perez did not appear publicly in Nicaragua.
 Articles 287-291 of the Terrorism Financing Act No. 14 of May 2007, which entered into force in 2008 by amending Panama’s Criminal Code, set forth provisions for combating terrorism. The act classified terrorism and terrorist financing as independent offenses, with terrorist financing included as a predicate offense to money laundering. Subsequently, in April of 2008 Executive Decree No. 52, referred to as the “New Banking Law,” stated that banks and other supervised entities are obliged to establish policies, procedures, and controls on the prevention of money laundering, terrorist finance, and related crimes.