Chapter 2. Country Reports: Western Hemisphere Overview
The countries in Latin America have porous borders, limited law enforcement capability, and established smuggling routes. Transnational criminal organizations continued to pose a more significant threat to the region than terrorism, and most countries made efforts to investigate possible connections with terrorist organizations. Corruption, weak government institutions, insufficient interagency cooperation, weak or non-existent legislation, and a lack of resources remained the primary causes for the lack of significant progress on countering terrorism in some countries in the Western Hemisphere.
The primary terrorist threats in the Western Hemisphere come from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), which continued to commit the majority of terrorist attacks in the region. Peace negotiations between the FARC and the Government of Colombia continued throughout the year in Cuba. In 2015, the Colombian government continued exploratory peace talks with the ELN, although formal peace negotiations had not started by year’s end, and the group continued its terrorist activities. Peru’s Shining Path (SL) terrorist group remained active, but with reduced strength. SL’s ability to conduct coordinated attacks and its membership both continued to decline with successful Peruvian military operations.
The Tri-Border Areas of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay remained an important regional nexus of arms, narcotics, pirated goods, human smuggling, counterfeiting, and money laundering – all potential funding sources for terrorist organizations.
More than 100 individuals from South America and the Caribbean, some also taking family members, have left the region to fight with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). South America and the Caribbean also served as areas of financial and ideological support for ISIL and other terrorist groups in the Middle East and South Asia. In addition, Hizballah continued to maintain a presence in the region, with members, facilitators, and supporters engaging in activity in support of the organization. This included efforts to build Hizballah’s infrastructure in South America and fundraising, both through licit and illicit means.
The United States collaborated with both Canada and Mexico to protect our shared borders through regular exchanges of intelligence and other information.
On December 17, 2014, the President announced sweeping changes to U.S. policy on Cuba, which included a review of the status of Cuba as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. On May 29, 2015, Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism was rescinded.
Overview: Argentina maintained capabilities for confronting terrorism at the federal level, and directed efforts to address border security challenges along its remote northern and northeastern borders, which include the Tri-Border Area where Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay meet, an area where terrorism financing occurs. Senior Argentine officials made statements condemning violence wrought by ISIL and urging action to alleviate humanitarian suffering in Syria and Iraq. It is possible small numbers of Argentine citizens may have sought to travel to Syria and Iraq to join ISIL. U.S. law enforcement and security cooperation with Argentina focused on information sharing as well as some training funded by the Antiterrorism Assistance program.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Argentina’s Antiterrorism Law of 2007, modified in 2011, serves as a supplement to the criminal code for the prosecution of terrorism cases. Multiple security agencies maintained specialized law enforcement units that have substantial capabilities to respond to terrorist incidents. One of those agencies underwent a wide-scale replacement of personnel and reorganization in the first part of the year that degraded its counterterrorism capabilities. The Argentine government’s Security Ministry chaired meetings of the Internal Security Council to coordinate between federal and provincial security institutions. The outgoing administration took steps to implement the transition of the criminal justice system from an inquisitorial to an accusatorial model.
The investigation into the 1994 terrorist bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people encountered difficulties. Outgoing President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner defended a “truth commission” agreed on between Argentina and Iran in January 2013 against a prosecutor’s legal filing claiming the president had in fact subverted the investigation. The prosecutor was discovered dead in his apartment in January, and his filing was later dismissed by a judge. The outgoing president maintained that the talks with Iran were intended to clarify Iran’s alleged role in the bombing, for which several former Iranian cabinet-level officials have outstanding INTERPOL Red Notices. On December 10, Mauricio Macri assumed the presidency of Argentina. The Macri administration issued a press release stating that the Argentine government was “firmly determined” to maintain INTERPOL Red Notices issued against the one Lebanese and five Iranian suspects in the case.
An Argentine court declared the agreement between Iran and Argentina unconstitutional in May 2014. As a superior court reviewed the decision in June, the outgoing government used a controversial new law to remove a judge from the panel and appoint a temporary judge in his place. The Argentine-Jewish community and the U.S. government expressed skepticism regarding the Argentina-Iran dialogue, and indeed it failed to advance the investigation. In December, the incoming Macri administration announced it would cease the executive’s challenge of judicial decisions against the pact. The same month, the administration appointed a state secretary with Cabinet rank to carry forward the investigation of the 1994 attack.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Argentina is a member of the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America (GAFILAT), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Its financial intelligence unit, Unidad de Informacion Financiera (UIF), is a member of the Egmont Group. During 2014, the last period for which data is available, the UIF identified seven possible instances of terrorism financing. Two were submitted to the Attorney General’s Office, and the remaining five were under investigation. These cases involve the capture of 11 terrorist fugitives, all from the last military dictatorship, and eight resolutions to freeze assets. At the close of 2015, the Federal Prosecutor in charge of Economic Crimes identified a new potential terrorism-financing case regarding a Syrian national involved in a number of suspicious transactions in the Tri-Border Area (with Brazil and Paraguay). That case was proceeding through the justice system at year’s end.
While the Government of Argentina has established the legal authorities and structures necessary to identify and pursue terrorism financing, results in the form of targets identified, assets seized, and cases prosecuted have been minimal. In December, the new administration appointed a new head of the UIF and considered proposals to create a special counsel reporting directly to the government to combat money laundering and terrorism financing, establish an inter-agency anti-money laundering/counterterrorism financing task force, and develop a new national risk-based strategy founded on a revised national risk analysis. Such measures, if implemented effectively, could help the country move closer to international standards and improve program effectiveness.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: //2009-2017.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
International and Regional Cooperation: Argentina participated in the OAS Inter-American Committee against Terrorism and the Southern Common Market Special Forum on Terrorism. Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay coordinated law enforcement efforts in the Tri-Border Area via their Trilateral Tri-Border Area Command.
Overview: The Brazilian government continued to support counterterrorism activities, which included third-country technical assistance for controlling sensitive technologies, assessing and mitigating potential terrorist threats in advance of major events, and investigating fraudulent travel documents. Operationally, Brazilian security forces worked with U.S. officials to pursue investigative leads provided by United States and other intelligence services, law enforcement, and financial agencies regarding terrorist suspects.
The Brazilian Federal Police (DPF) – Brazil’s lead counterterrorism agency – worked closely with the U.S. government and other nations’ law enforcement entities to assess and mitigate potential terrorist threats, especially leading up to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Cooperation was strong and continuous, particularly dealing with crisis management, emergency response, and planning exercises to build response capacity in case of a terrorist attack. The DPF Anti-Terrorism Division was created specifically to address threats of radicalization and to counter violent extremism.
Brazil continued to implement its 2013 policy on provision of humanitarian assistance for Syria, including the issuance of more refugee visas to Syrians than any other country in Latin America. President Dilma Rousseff strongly condemned the November 13 attacks in Paris, calling for “coordinated action” by the international community against ISIL. Some commentators contrasted this pronouncement with her 2014 U.N. General Assembly speech criticizing the approach in Iraq and Syria. Asked about the potential terrorist threat posed to the 2016 Summer Olympics, Rousseff reiterated that Brazil is an unlikely target but called for comprehensive counterterrorism legislation, then pending before Congress, to be passed quickly.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Brazil’s 1980 National Security Law criminalizes “terrorist acts” but does not clearly define terrorism, which hinders prosecution of potential terrorists and other counterterrorism efforts. On February 24, Congress passed a bill (PLC 101/2015) that will criminalize both terrorism and terrorism financing. The bill has the President’s support.
Brazil has three law enforcement agencies with counterterrorism responsibilities, ranging from the investigation of terrorism to interdiction and response. The lead counterterrorism agency, with responsibility for investigating any terrorist-related threats or groups, is the Brazilian Federal Police’s Anti-Terrorism Division (DPF DAT). In addition, the state-level Military Police Departments, through their respective Police Special Operations Battalions (BOPE), and the state-level Civil Police Departments, through their respective Divisions of Special Operations (DOE), also work on counterterrorism issues. Brazil’s Intelligence Agency (ABIN) also monitors terrorist threats. Coordination between civilian security and law enforcement agencies and the Brazilian military is hindered by inter-service rivalries; interagency cooperation and coordination would benefit from consolidated and automatic information sharing.
All of Brazil’s law enforcement agencies with counterterrorism responsibilities have benefitted from U.S. capacity-building training. In 2015, the U.S. Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program delivered courses to security and law enforcement personnel covering topics such as Critical Incident Management, Airport Security Management, and Fraudulent Document Recognition – all with the goal of enhancing investigative capabilities, building border security capabilities, and supporting Brazil’s efforts to prevent terrorist attacks at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Training courses had the added benefit of bringing together disparate agencies, which enhanced Brazilian interagency communication.
Brazilian authorities continued to work with other concerned nations – particularly the United States – in combating document fraud. Since 2009, multiple regional and international joint operations successfully disrupted a number of document vendors and facilitators, as well as related human-smuggling networks. The Department of State provided comprehensive and ongoing anti-fraud training to airline and border police units through its Investigations Program (ARSO-I). Since program inception in 2008, ARSO-I has trained thousands of airline personnel and Brazilian Immigration officials at virtually every international port of entry. In addition, since 2008 DHS Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have trained Brazilian airline employees on identifying fraudulent documents.
The U.S.-Brazil Container Security Initiative (CSI) in Santos, which began in 2005, continued to operate throughout 2015. The CSI promotes secure containerized cargo – shipped to the United States – by co-locating DHS CBP personnel overseas with Brazilian customs administrators, to target, detect, and inspect high-risk cargo while facilitating the movement of legitimate trade. CBP’s International Affairs and Field Operations Offices conduct joint workshops with Brazil to bolster supply chain security and port security. Similarly, the National Civil Aviation Agency, DPF, and Brazilian Customs (RFB) continued to work with DHS’ Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to make modifications to Brazil’s National Cargo Security Program (NCSP) to gain TSA recognition of commensurability for cargo security procedures, training, and operations at Brazil’s international airports.
Brazil shares vast international borders with 10 different countries. Many of its borders – especially those with Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela – are porous. Illegal immigration to Brazil is a growing problem, with Brazil often serving as a country-of-transit for final destination in the United States. Brazilian states maintain individual criminal records databases, and information sharing is unwieldy. Biometric information is not collected from visitors. A 2013 law requires the collection of Passenger Name Record data, and it is being gradually implemented. Brazil does not maintain its own terrorist watchlist, though it collaborates with other nations.
In a high-profile December case, Rio de Janeiro's Civil Police unit uncovered a fraudulent document ring that had provided authentic Brazilian birth certificates to 70 Syrian nationals, at least 20 of whom subsequently obtained Brazilian passports. U.S. Mission Brazil is cooperating with the Brazilian authorities in its investigation.
The Brazilian Army continues to implement an Integrated Border Monitoring System to monitor the country’s borders using a combination of soldiers, cameras, sensors, and satellites. The strategic initiative is underway in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul as a preliminary pilot project, with intention to cover the entire Brazilian border by 2021.
Pending comprehensive counterterrorism legislation is intended to help Brazil address the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters, through implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) 2170, 2178, 2199 and the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime.
In September 2015, the DPF’s Operation Mendacity arrested members of a money laundering group accused of illegally moving more than $10 million in the last five years. Press reports state the group had social media ties to the Islamic State and were potentially financing terrorist activities.
The DPF and the justice system face resource constraints when enforcing immigration law and supervising airport security.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Brazil is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America, a FATF-style regional body (FSRB). Its financial intelligence unit, the Council for Financial Activities Control (COAF), is a member of the Egmont Group. Brazil monitors domestic financial operations and uses the COAF to identify possible funding sources for terrorist groups.
On October 16, President Rousseff signed Law #13.170, which provides procedures for freezing assets relating to UNSCRs and for information provided through bilateral cooperation, closing a longstanding gap in Brazil’s ability to confront terrorism financing. Legislation (PLC 101/2015) to criminalize terrorism financing in a manner consistent with international standards, established by the FATF, has passed Congress and awaited President Rousseff’s signature at the end of 2015.
Through the COAF, which is a largely independent entity within the Finance Ministry, Brazil has implemented the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime, but it has not reported any assets, accounts, or property in the names of persons or entities. The Government of Brazil has generally responded to U.S. efforts to identify and block terrorist-related funds.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: //2009-2017.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
International and Regional Cooperation: Brazil participates in regional counterterrorism fora, including the OAS and its Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE); the Union of South American Nations (Unasul); and the working group on terrorism and sub-working group on financial issues in the Southern Common Market (Mercosul).
Brazil is working with a range of international law enforcement partners in its security plan for the 2016 Summer Olympics, through two Centers for International Police Cooperation (CCPI) that will be stood up for the event. In Brasilia, the CCPI will include three foreign law enforcement officials for each of the 55 invited countries.
The Brazilian government continued to invest in border and law enforcement infrastructure and has undertaken initiatives with its neighboring countries to control the flow of goods – legal and illegal – through the Tri-Border Area of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay.
Overview: Canada played a significant role in international efforts to detect, disrupt, prevent, and punish acts of terrorism in 2015. Canada and the United States maintained a close, cooperative counterterrorism partnership, and worked together on key bilateral homeland security programs such as the Beyond the Border initiative and the Cross Border Crime Forum. Canada made major contributions to the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and the Global Initiative to Counter Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT), and Canadian diplomacy supported global efforts to prevent and counter violent extremism, and promote the rule of law overseas. Canada implemented UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) 2178 and 2199; the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida (AQ) sanctions regime; monitored financial flows to counter terrorism financing; and implemented GCTF good practices on foreign terrorist fighters.
Traveling abroad to commit acts of terrorism is a violation of Canadian federal law. Current enforcement measures to prevent this include the denial of passport applications or the revocation of valid passports of Canadian citizens who are suspected of either traveling abroad or aspiring to travel abroad in order to commit acts of terrorism and also the maintenance of a watchlist of individuals (both citizens and non-citizen residents) flagged for potential involvement with extremist organizations.
Canada has made important contributions to the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL in 2015, including the assignment of combat and surveillance aircrafts, an aerial tanker, support personnel to the region, as well as Canadian Special Forces advisers to advise and train the Peshmerga in Iraq. Canada has also provided significant humanitarian assistance to communities impacted by ISIL atrocities, and is a member of the Counter ISIL Finance Group. Although the new government has withdrawn its fighter aircraft from the counter-ISIL combat mission, it will increase its support to the Coalition in other ways. Canadian law enforcement and security services are additionally working to prevent the flow of foreign terrorist fighters to Iraq and Syria.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Canada’s legal system is well-suited to adjudicate counterterrorism cases. The legal framework includes significant penalties for committing terrorist acts, conspiring to commit terrorist acts, financing terrorism, and traveling abroad to engage in terrorism.
- In April, the government passed Bill C-44, Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act, which went into effect on April 23. The bill amends the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act to enable the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to investigate threats to the security of Canada more effectively; clarify the CSIS mandate; confirm CSIS authority to conduct investigations abroad and to obtain Federal Court warrants to carry out those investigations; protect the identity of CSIS human sources from disclosure; protect the identity of CSIS employees engaging in covert activities; and expedite implementation of citizenship revocation measures to strip citizenship from dual nationals convicted of terrorist offenses.
- Also in April, the government passed Bill C-32, Victims’ Bill of Rights Act, to create statutory rights for victims of crime. These include: the ability to access information about the status of investigations, criminal proceedings, and reviews of offenders subject to the corrections process; the protection of victims from intimidation, retaliation, and identity disclosure; the enablement of victims’ participation in the judicial process; and the provision of financial restitution to victims. Bill C-32 went into effect in July.
- In June, the government passed Bill C-51, Anti-terrorism Act, 2015, which amends the criminal code for offenses related to terrorism. The Bill enacts the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, which authorizes federal government departments and institutions to share personal data of individuals in the context of activities related to national security; enacts the Secure Air Travel Act to establish a no-fly list of persons who may pose a threat to transportation security or who may travel by air for the purpose of committing a terrorism offense; authorizes air carriers to deny boarding to persons so listed; establishes rules for the collection, use and disclosure of information to administer and enforce the list; and provides recourse and appeal procedures for persons denied travel. Bill C-51 authorizes judges to issue peace bonds (orders from a criminal court that require a person to keep the peace and be on good behavior for a period of time), revoke passports, and prohibit personal travel in specified geographic areas in order to disrupt suspected terrorist activity. The bill creates the new offense of knowingly advocating or promoting the commission of terrorism, allows judges to order the seizure or deletion of terrorist propaganda, and provides enhanced protection for witnesses, particularly in the context of security or criminal intelligence. The bill expands CSIS authority to operate outside Canada (subject to judicial warrant) and creates new accountability and reporting requirements. Bill C-51 went into effect in August. The Trudeau government has pledged to modify Bill C-51 – in line with Liberal Party campaign promises and unsuccessful attempts to amend the original bill – that would more precisely define the government’s expanded authority and introduce more safeguards against possible abuses of that authority.
- In June, the government also passed Bill S-4, Digital Privacy Act, which establishes rules for how private sector businesses collect, use, and disclose the personal information of clients and permits internet service providers to share subscriber data with third parties and law enforcement.
Canada has advanced law enforcement capabilities. While Canadian law enforcement and homeland security entities share legally available terrorism-related information with the United States and other investigative counterparts in a timely, proactive fashion, the United States continues to engage with Canada on methods to facilitate the sharing of additional information that is not covered by our current agreements. Prosecutors work in close cooperation with specialized law enforcement units that maintain advanced investigative techniques, crisis response capabilities, and border security capacity. Canadian federal law enforcement entities such as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have clearly demarcated counterterrorism missions and have effective working relationships with their provincial and municipal counterparts as well as with those elements of the Canadian Armed Forces that have counterterrorism roles.
Canada has an extensive border security network and uses travel document security technology, terrorist-screening watchlists, biographic and biometric screening capabilities at ports of entry, information sharing between host government entities and other countries, and collection of advance Passenger Name Record (PNR) information on commercial flights to safeguard its borders. Canada and the United States enjoy extensive border security collaboration under the auspices of the Beyond the Border initiative as well as within the framework of the Cross Border Crime Forum and other ongoing law enforcement exchanges. Canadian security forces are very capable and effectively patrol the country’s land and maritime borders.
Significant law enforcement actions against terrorists and terrorist groups are as follows:
- On January 9, police charged Canadian citizens Carlos Larmond and Ashton Larmond with participating in the activity of a terrorist group and conspiracy to participate in terrorist activity. Police also charged Carlos Larmond with planning to leave the country to participate in terrorist activity.
- On January 23, authorities extradited Iraqi-born Canadian citizen Sayfildin (Sayf) Tahir Sharif (also known as Faruq Khalil Muhammad Isa) to the United States after the Canadian Supreme Court declined to hear his appeal. Sharif faces charges of conspiracy to murder Americans abroad, of aiding and abetting the murder of U.S. nationals abroad, and provision of material support to terrorist conduct.
- On February 3, police charged Awso Peshdary with participation in a terrorist group and facilitating terrorist activity by funding the travel of individuals for the purpose of terrorism. Peshdary is the first individual charged in Canada for terrorist recruitment.
- On April 20, police charged Sabrine Djermane and El Mahdi Jamali with building or possessing an explosive substance, facilitating terrorist activity, and attempting to leave the country for the purposes of participating in terrorist activity.
- On May 7, an Edmonton judge ordered that Omar Khadr (a Canadian citizen who pled guilty in 2010 before a United States military tribunal to various offenses, including murder in violation of the law of war and received an eight year sentence) be freed on bail. Khadr was repatriated to Canada from Guantanamo Bay in September 2012. Khadr continued to appeal his U.S. conviction.
- On June 2, a British Columbia court found Canadian citizens John Stewart Nuttall and Amanda Marie Korody guilty of conspiring to explode pressure-cooker explosive devices among crowds on the grounds of the British Columbia Legislature in 2013. Police alleged the pair were self-radicalized and inspired by AQ ideology on the Internet, but acted independently with no support from outside the country. The court stayed registration of the convictions and sentencing pending the outcome of a judicial hearing of a claim of police entrapment and abuse of process. The hearing continued as of December.
- On June 11, police arrested Somali-born Ali Omar Ader upon his arrival in Canada for participation in the hostage-taking and confinement in Somalia of Canadian freelance journalist Amanda Lindhout in 2008.
- On July 13, police charged Jordanian-born Othman Hamdan with six counts of counselling acts of violence on behalf of a terrorist organization. Hamdan arrived in Canada from the United States in 2002 and obtained refugee status.
- In August, the Canada Border Services Agency began proceedings to deport Algerian national Mohamed Harkat after the Supreme Court accepted evidence in 2014 that he was an al-AQ sleeper agent and upheld an immigration security certificate against him. Harkat remained under supervision in the community, subject to conditions.
- On September 23, an Ontario court sentenced Chiheb Esseghaier, a Tunisian national, and Raed Jaser, a Palestinian national, to life in prison for conspiracy to commit murder and participation in a terrorist group for plotting to derail a VIA Rail passenger train between Toronto and New York City. They received additional sentences for lesser charges and will be eligible for parole after 10 years. Both have stated their intention to appeal the convictions.
- In September, authorities deported Pakistani nationals Jahanzeb Malik and Mohammed Aqeeq Ansari to Pakistan. Both men were permanent residents of Canada, but lost that status when the Immigration and Refugee Board ruled they had engaged in alleged terrorist activity in separate incidents and constituted a danger to public security. Malik allegedly had considered the United States Consulate in Toronto as a potential target.
- In September, the government revoked the citizenship of Zakaria Amar, a dual Canadian/Jordanian citizen serving a life sentence for planning terrorist attacks in Ontario in 2006 as part of the “Toronto 18” group.
- On December 17, a Montreal teenager was found guilty of committing a robbery in association with a terrorist organization and planning to leave Canada to participate in the activities of a terrorist group abroad. The teen had engaged in Twitter conversations with violent extremist sympathizer Martin Coutoure-Rouleau, who fatally rammed a Canadian Armed Forces official in October 2014.
- At various times throughout the year, police charged a number of individuals – including Farah Shirdon, Khadar Khalib, and John Maguire – in absentia with offenses related to participation in terrorism activity outside the country. Also during the year in a series of incidents, police issued peace bonds to individuals they suspected of planning to engage in terrorist activity or intending to leave the country for the purposes of terrorist activity.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Canada is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, and is a supporting nation of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force. Its financial intelligence unit, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), is a member of the Egmont Group. Canada is also an observer in the Council of Europe’s Select Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America. Canada has rigorous detection and monitoring processes in place to identify money laundering and terrorism financing activities. FINTRAC is responsible for detecting, preventing and deterring money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities. Canada implements UNSCR 1373 and the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime; criminalizes terrorism financing in accordance with international standards; freezes and confiscates terrorist assets without delay; monitors and regulates money/value transfer and other remittance services; requires collection of data for wire transfers; obligates non-profits to file suspicious transaction reports and monitors them to prevent either misuse or terrorism financing; and routinely distributes UN sanctions lists to financial institutions. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: //2009-2017.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: The RCMP National Security Community Outreach program promotes interaction and relationship-building with at-risk communities. The Department of Public Safety’s Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security fosters dialogue on national security issues between the government and community leaders, including diaspora groups. Both of these initiatives are part of Canada’s national Counterterrorism Strategy, which seeks specifically to reduce the risk of individuals succumbing to violent extremism and radicalization. All levels of government – federal, provincial, and municipal – continued to work with non-governmental partners and concerned communities to counter violent extremism through preventative programming and community outreach.
International and Regional Cooperation: Canada prioritizes collaboration with international partners to counter terrorism and regularly seeks opportunities to lead. Canada is a founding member of the GCTF and is active in numerous international fora dealing with counterterrorism, including the OSCE, the UN, the G-7, APEC, ASEAN and the ASEAN Regional Forum, the Commonwealth, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Maritime Organization, and the OAS. Canada makes major contributions to the GCTF and the GICNT, while Canadian diplomacy supports global efforts to prevent radicalization to violence, counter violent extremism, and promote the rule of law overseas. As part of the GCTF, Canada co-chairs the Sahel Capacity-Building Working Group with Algeria.
Global Affairs Canada maintains a Counterterrorism Capacity Building Program which provides training, funding, equipment, and technical and legal assistance to partner nations to enable them to prevent and respond to a broad spectrum of terrorist activity. Examples of activities supported by Canadian counterterrorism assistance include: border security; transportation security; legislative, regulatory and legal policy development; human rights training; law enforcement, security, military and intelligence training; chemical/biological/radiological/nuclear and explosives terrorism prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery; detection and prevention of terrorism financing; cyber security; and the protection of critical infrastructure.
Overview: In 2015, Colombia experienced overall decreased terrorist activity according to Defense Ministry statistics, due in large part to a unilateral ceasefire declared by Colombia’s largest terrorist organization, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Although the government and the FARC reached tentative, partial agreements on land reform, political participation, drug trafficking, and victims’ rights (including transitional justice), no overall bilateral peace agreement had been concluded by the end of the year. The government continued exploratory talks with the other major terrorist organization in Colombia, the National Liberation Army (ELN), although formal peace negotiations had not started by year’s end. U.S.-Colombian counterterrorism cooperation remained strong.
The Colombian government continued its military pressure against insurgents in 2015, although it gradually reduced military actions over the course of the year, including certain periods when it suspended aerial bombardments against FARC targets. That suspension remained in place at year’s end. In response to the FARC observation of a unilateral ceasefire starting on December 20, 2014, President Santos announced on March 10 that the armed forces would refrain from bombing FARC guerrilla camps. However, following a FARC attack in Cauca department on April 15 that killed 11 soldiers and wounded 20 others, Santos ordered the military to resume aerial strikes against the FARC. The FARC lifted its self-imposed unilateral ceasefire on May 22 and initiated a wave of attacks against security forces and infrastructure for the next two months. The FARC then resumed its unilateral ceasefire on July 20, and it remained in place through the end of the year. On July 25, Santos again suspended aerial bombardments of FARC camps as a de-escalation measure. On September 23, the government and the FARC jointly announced their intention to sign a peace agreement by March 23, 2016. Meanwhile, Santos ordered the military to intensify strikes against the ELN in response to an October 26 ELN attack on a military foot patrol escorting election workers and ballots, which resulted in the death of 11 soldiers and one police officer and the capture of two soldiers (who were released several weeks later). In 2015, the number of members of Foreign Terrorist Organizations – including the FARC and ELN – killed in combat, captured, and demobilized, decreased compared to the previous year. In 2015, the number of civilian deaths from conflicts with guerilla organizations decreased compared to the previous year.
While Colombia has openly condemned ISIL and its objectives, Colombia is not a member of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL.
2015 Terrorist Incidents: The FARC and ELN focused on low-cost, high-impact asymmetric attacks, as they did in 2014. The most common forms of terrorist activity were the launching of mortars at police stations or the military, explosive devices placed near roads and paths, sniper attacks, roadblocks, and ambushes. In 2015, Colombian government statistics showed a decrease in attacks from 2014. Terrorist attacks on infrastructure – including oil pipelines and energy towers – also decreased in 2015 compared to 2014, according to Defense Ministry statistics. Security forces and government buildings were the most common terrorist targets, although civilian casualties also occurred throughout the year. Attacks were most common along the Venezuelan border in the departments of Arauca, Norte de Santander, and La Guajira; in the southwestern departments of Nariño and Cauca; and in the northwestern department of Antioquia. Among the terrorist attacks recorded in 2015, several were notable for their severity or significant press coverage:
- Throughout the year, the ELN continued to place bombs throughout the country, including in Bogota. From February 2 through March 12, the ELN planted IEDs around Bogota, two targeting the police and one targeting a political party headquarters. Police arrested the Bogota-based criminal gang members the ELN had contracted to plant the devices, who admitted that planning was underway for additional attacks against police targets. On July 2-3, ELN pamphlets were found at the scenes of IEDs and pamphlet bomb explosions during evening rush hour at several locations in downtown Bogota, which caused minor injuries. Police arrested 15 ELN members/supporters, including two captured with bombs and pamphlets, although they were released by the court weeks later.
- Throughout the year, the ELN continued its kidnapping activities. Among others, the ELN kidnapped a Dutch citizen in Norte de Santander department in January (released in February), seized two hostages at a road checkpoint for ransom in Choco department on February 11, and kidnapped four geologists preparing to carry out studies on mining for the Colombian Geological Service in Norte de Santander department on February 24.
- Throughout May and June, FARC bombings of electricity towers and police stations in Norte de Santander, Valle del Cauca, and Nariño departments left almost a million people without power for several days. These attacks included a June 1 FARC attack on electrical infrastructure in the poverty-stricken city of Buenaventura on the Pacific coast that left approximately 400,000 Colombians without power, a June 2 FARC attack on electrical pylons in the southwestern city of Tumaco that left approximately 200,000 people without electricity, followed by another attack on Tumaco on June 20 affecting 260,000 people.
- On June 7, the FARC forced 19 oil tankers to dump their contents (estimated at 222,000 gallons of crude oil) on a roadway near Puerto Asis, Putumayo department, which caused a massive oil spill and a significant environmental hazard.
- Beginning June 8, FARC guerrillas conducted strikes against oil pipelines, hitting the Transandino Pipeline five times and bombing the Caño Limon-Covenas Pipeline on June 17 and July 1. Environment Minister Gabriel Vallejo characterized the spills caused by the Transandino attack as “the worst oil spill in Colombia in the last 10 years.”
- On October 26 in Boyaca department, an ELN attack on a military foot patrol escorting election workers and ballots resulted in the death of 11 soldiers and one police officer and the capture of two soldiers. The captured soldiers were released on November 16.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The investigation and prosecution of terrorism cases in Colombia is governed by Section 906 of Colombia’s Criminal Code. The purpose of Section 906 is to develop an evidence-based system of justice where cases are tried before a judge based on testimonial, physical, or documentary evidence with a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard of proof. Most terrorism cases are prosecuted under traditional legal statutes that are used for narcotics trafficking and organized crime, such as conspiracy and illegal possession of firearms authorized for exclusive use of the security forces. There are some specialized statutes that the Attorney General Office’s specialized Counterterrorism Unit uses, such as “rebellion” under Section 467 of Colombia’s Criminal Code, which criminalize “those who, through armed conflict, seek to overthrow the Constitutionally-enacted government of Colombia.” Other specialized statutes in the Criminal Code covering terrorism and related crimes include Articles 144, 340, and 343 – which criminalize terrorism, acts of terrorism, and participation in a terrorist organization; terrorism financing is a crime under Article 345.
The Attorney General Office’s specialized Counterterrorism Unit has prosecutors assigned at the national level in Bogota, and in regions of conflict throughout the country. The unit has developed a great deal of expertise in investigating and prosecuting acts of terrorism and insurgency with the Attorney General’s own Technical Criminal Investigative Body, Colombia’s National Police (CNP), and the country’s military forces. The Attorney General’s Office also has specialized prosecutors embedded with CNP anti-kidnapping and anti-extortion “GAULA” units throughout the country to handle kidnapping-for-ransom and extortion cases in real-time. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) assisted the National Judicial Police Council – presided over by the Attorney General and including members of the CNP and other agencies with investigative authority – in establishing a Standards and Training Commission to develop minimum standards for investigators, forensic experts, and criminal analysts. Colombia also worked on securing international accreditation for its forensic laboratories.
The CNP has specialized counterterrorism units in the Intelligence, Anti-Kidnapping, and Judicial Police Directorates, all with advanced investigation techniques and crisis response capabilities. Law enforcement units display clear and effective command and control within each organization. These specialized law enforcement units are properly equipped and supported with relevant training. Counterterrorism missions are demarcated to a limited extent between law enforcement and military units. Colombia’s contemporary military and law enforcement units have an improved record of accountability and respect for human rights. There is room for improvement in interagency cooperation and sharing of terrorism-related information. No single agency has jurisdiction over all terrorism-related investigations and post-incident response, sometimes resulting in poor information sharing and cooperation.
In 2015, Colombian authorities continued to operate military task forces to enhance coordination in combating terrorism. The CNP managed fusion centers to ensure all operational missions coordinate intelligence, investigations, and operations under the command of regional police commanders. Additionally, the National Police Intelligence Directorate continued to operate a 24-hour Citizen Security Center tasked with detecting, deterring, and responding to terrorist attacks, among other crimes.
Colombian border security remained an area of vulnerability. Law enforcement officers faced the challenge of working in areas with porous borders and difficult topography plagued by the presence of illegal armed groups and illicit drug cultivation and trafficking. The CNP lacked the manpower to enforce uniform policies for vehicle or passenger inspections at land border crossings. Biometric and biographic screening was conducted only at international airports. The Colombian government does not use advance Passenger Name Records. Of a total force of 180,000 officers, the CNP has only 1,500 officers assigned to Customs Enforcement (air, land, and seaports and borders) duties.
Colombia remained a key transit point for the smuggling of third-country nationals who may seek to enter the United States illegally. Porous borders with Ecuador and Venezuela facilitate the movements of third-country nationals through Colombia, and existing maritime narcotics smuggling routes facilitate their onward movement to Central America. While Colombian Immigration regularly detains third-country nationals who have entered the country illegally, the entity lacks both the personnel and enforcement authority to adequately respond to this threat, and the financial resources to repatriate citizens to their home countries via air. The Attorney General’s Office is currently investigating corruption by airport officials suspected of letting criminals travel with forged documents. At the end of 2015, five Colombian Immigration officials were facing corruption charges.
Colombia continued cooperation and information sharing with the Panamanian National Border Service, while improved relations with neighboring Ecuador led to some increased cooperation on law enforcement issues. However, starting in August, Venezuela closed the majority of its border with Colombia, deported more than 1,900 Colombians and deployed extra troops in the border region. In addition, more than 20,000 Colombians “self-deported” from Venezuela. Colombia and Venezuela have since agreed to improve coordinated security and law enforcement efforts, including expanding the Bi-National Joint Command and Control Center to include a Bi-National Center for Fighting Transnational Organized Crime, increasing troops along the border, and considering proposals for maritime and fluvial cooperation. However, the border closures remained in place at the end of the year.
Colombian authorities captured, killed, or arrested several high-profile perpetrators of terrorist acts in 2015:
- In January, the military captured Carlos Andres Bustos Cortez (alias Richard), the second in command of the FARC’s Teofilo Forero mobile column in central-southwest Colombia, accused of engineering terrorist attacks against police stations, buses, shops, and electrical infrastructure.
- In March, the CNP worked with the Attorney General’s Office and military to capture five members of a criminal organization the ELN had reportedly hired to place and detonate explosives in Bogota.
- On May 21, a Colombian military aerial bombardment targeting the FARC’s 29th Front killed 26 FARC fighters in Cauca department, the biggest blow to the FARC in a single attack in several years.
- In October, Colombian authorities arrested Jairo Alirio Puerta Peña (alias Omar or Cuñado), a FARC member allegedly linked to massacres in Bojaya, Choco department in 2002 and Pueblo Bello, Antioquia department that left hundreds of civilians dead, as well as an attack on a helicopter that killed a number of soldiers in 2000.
- In December, Colombia’s Supreme Court approved the extradition to the United States of FARC member Octavio Orrego (alias Sebastián) for kidnapping the three Americans in 2003 and killing another American five years later. President Santos denied the extradition, however, based on the ongoing peace negotiations with the FARC.
While kidnappings have declined in recent years, they remained a threat, especially in rural and insurgent-affected portions of Colombia. Organized extortion networks inhibited economic growth, displaced civilians, and subverted the rule of law where they were active, and the alleged failure of victims to accede to extortion demands was regularly cited as the cause for terrorist attacks. The CNP Anti-Kidnapping and Anti-Extortion Directorate have an international kidnapping unit to address kidnappings involving foreign nationals.
Law enforcement cooperation between Colombia and the United States remained strong. Evidence sharing and joint law enforcement operations occurred in a fluid and efficient manner.
Colombia continued to participate in the Department’s Antiterrorism Assistance program. The program provided instruction and resources to assist Colombia in building advanced, self-sustaining CNP capabilities to secure borders from terrorist transit, to investigate terrorists and terrorist incidents, and to protect critical infrastructure. Colombia continued to establish itself as a regional provider of law enforcement and counterterrorism training, particularly with regard to anti-kidnapping efforts and dignitary protection.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Colombia is a member of the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America, a FATF-style regional body. Colombia stands out as a regional leader in the fight against terrorism financing, and has become a key part of a regional financial intelligence unit initiative aimed at strengthening information sharing among Latin American countries. Colombia’s financial intelligence unit, Unidad de Informacion y Analisis Financiero, is a member of the Egmont Group, a global association of financial intelligence units. On April 15-16, more than 90 prosecutors and investigators from the Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Panama, Paraguay, and the United States met in Cartagena for the first U.S. Department of Justice Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance, and Training (OPDAT) Regional Counterterrorism Workshop focused on safeguarding the financial system in Latin America from abuse by terrorist organizations, including Hizballah, FARC, and ELN. A second OPDAT Regional Counterterrorism Workshop focusing on Terrorism Financing in Free Trade Zones in Latin America took place in Panama City, Panama in late October, with participation from seven countries, including Colombia. On November 13, OPDAT hosted a one-day seminar on Terrorism Financing and Terrorism-Related Money Laundering in Barranquilla, attended by approximately 42 Colombian prosecutors and investigators.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: //2009-2017.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: Colombia employed a strong and modern multi-agency approach to countering radicalization to violence and violent extremism, with a focus on encouraging individual members and entire units of the FARC and ELN to demobilize and reintegrate into society. In 2015, the number of FARC and ELN members who demobilized decreased slightly. The demobilization and reintegration programs provide medical care, psychological counseling, education benefits, technical training, and job placement assistance for demobilized combatants. In order to receive benefits, demobilized combatants must check in monthly with program managers. Recidivism rates were estimated at between seven and 20 percent.
The Colombian armed forces and police employed a number of fixed and mobile radio transmitters to broadcast strategic messaging to individuals considering leaving the FARC or ELN. Such messaging was also seen in print, television, and alternative media. The Colombian military and police employed the same media forms to counter FARC and ELN recruitment efforts. Additionally, the Ministry of Defense organized highly publicized festivals and social events with celebrity participation to discourage the recruitment of vulnerable youth. Moreover, with international community support, the government’s Inter-Institutional Committee for the Prevention of Recruitment of Children supported numerous recruitment prevention initiatives all over the country reaching more than 500,000 children at high risk. The Committee also worked with mayors to include prevention of recruitment activities in their development plans.
International and Regional Cooperation: Colombia is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum and is actively involved in the UN, OAS and its Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism, the Pacific Alliance, and the Union of South American Nations. The CNP operates an INTERPOL office of approximately 70 analysts, agents, and support staff. Colombia also led the creation of the American Police Community (Ameripol) in 2007, and helped found the Latin American and Caribbean Community of Police Intelligence in 2005, whose Technical Secretariat is based in Bogota.
Colombia is becoming a leader in providing security training and assistance to other countries in the region. The CNP and military continued to operate schools that train security personnel from around the region. In 2015, Colombia conducted 118 security trainings for more than 2,864 non-Colombian individuals – a significant increase over 2014 – on citizen security, crime prevention and monitoring, military and police capacity building, anti-kidnapping, anti-extortion, hostage negotiation, and cybersecurity training. Colombia also provided judicial training to regional judges and prosecutors handling drug trafficking and terrorism cases, offered basic and advanced helicopter training to pilots from countries throughout Latin America, and maintained its elite Lancero and Jungla Special Forces courses open to students from other countries.
Overview: The United States rescinded Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism on May 29, 2015. The governments agreed to establish a bilateral law enforcement dialogue with technical working groups that would address cooperation regarding various law enforcement matters including counterterrorism, counter-narcotics, human smuggling, border control, and financial crime issues in the wake of re-establishing diplomatic relations on July 20.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Cuban law specifically criminalizes terrorism. There is not a comprehensive counterterrorism framework, but the criminal code does address terrorism. Law enforcement and border security have a strong presence and effectively deter and respond to security threats. Cuban officials also have a strong search and rescue/disaster response capacity, which could prove particularly useful in responding to an attack. Cuban border security, screening, and tracking of travelers are strong.
The United States and Cuba held the first round of expanded law enforcement discussions in November. Senior law enforcement officials from across the interagency met with their Cuban counterparts to discuss a broad range of issues, including the recently approved information sharing protocol via INTERPOL and the creation of a number of technical working groups including a group that will address counterterrorism issues.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Cuba is a member of the Financial Action Task on Latin America (GAFILAT), a FATF-style regional body. Its financial intelligence unit, Dirección General de Investigación de Operaciones Financieras, is a member of the Egmont Group. Cuba's last mutual evaluation took place in late 2014. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: //2009-2017.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
International and Regional Cooperation: Cuba is not an active member of the OAS, nor a member of NATO, or the OSCE.
Overview: Cooperation between the Mexican and U.S. governments on counterterrorism remained strong in 2015. In the wake of the Paris attacks, Mexican officials reaffirmed their commitment to counterterrorism measures. There are no known international terrorist organizations operating in Mexico, and there is no evidence that any terrorist group has targeted U.S. citizens in Mexican territory.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Mexico has a legal framework for the investigation and prosecution of terrorism and related crimes, including a special prosecutorial unit within the Office of the Attorney General dedicated to such investigations.
The Government of Mexico continued to work towards meeting its June 2016 deadline to transition from an inquisitorial to an accusatorial justice system. All of Mexico’s 31 states and the Federal District have begun to transition to the accusatory criminal justice system. As of November 2015, eight states have transitioned to the new criminal justice system for crimes under federal jurisdiction and six have done so at the state level.
Mexican government agencies collaborated well with U.S. law enforcement agencies on legal action against persons who raise terrorism concerns. The Government of Mexico is receptive to counterterrorism training opportunities and equipment donations. Mexican officials have the investigative, operational, and tactical skills needed for counterterrorism work due in part to their frequent counter-narcotics operations.
In 2015, the U.S. Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) training program, and other U.S. counterterrorism efforts, trained Mexican Federal Police, the Attorney General’s Office representatives, and Customs and Immigration officials, among other authorities.
Mexico’s border security enforcement capabilities continued to be focused at the U.S.-Mexico border and have increased apprehensions of undocumented migrants along its southern border with Guatemala. Mexico’s border enforcement efforts are shared among Federal Police, military authorities, and Customs and Immigration agencies, the latter of which has primary authority to interdict migrants. Corruption sometimes hinders the effectiveness of enforcement efforts. The National Institute of Migration adequately collects and disseminates passenger information for persons of interest and incorporates INTERPOL watchlists into their database.
Mexican security agencies track open-source reports claiming that terrorist training camps existed in Mexico, most recently in April 2015. In each instance, the media reports have been found to be unsubstantiated.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Mexico belongs to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the Financial Action Task Force in Latin America, and is a supporting nation of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, a FATF-style regional body. Its Financial Intelligence Unit is a member of the Egmont Group. In 2014, Mexico passed several amendments to existing legislation to counter the financing of terrorism. The amendments criminalized terrorism financing, created an exception to rules governing the dissemination of third-party fiscal data to comply with new terrorism financing laws, and sanctioned the immediate freezing of terrorist accounts and the seizure of terrorist assets based on both Mexican and international intelligence. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: //2009-2017.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong represented the Government of Mexico at The White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism in Washington, DC, in February. The Government of Mexico sent a representative to the July 2015 follow-on meeting in Rome.
International and Regional Cooperation: Mexico participates in the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Committee against Terrorism. Additionally in 2015, the Government of Mexico expressed interest in hosting a Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism multilateral training exercise in 2016.
Overview: In recent years, the most direct terrorism threats to Panama have been posed by elements of the 57th and 34th Fronts of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which have long operated illegally in the Darién region of Panama. The 30th Front is also known to actively transport illicit narcotics. Panama’s successes in combatting these groups in the region, as well as progress in the peace talks between the Government of Colombia and the FARC, have greatly reduced the threat posed by the FARC within Panamanian territory. Panama maintains close cooperation with its neighbors, particularly Colombia, in an effort to secure its borders.
Panama’s Darién region remains a significant and growing pathway for human smuggling, which includes elements of counterterrorism significance. Representatives of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation work with Panamanian authorities to identify smuggled aliens, with a particular focus on those who raise terrorism concerns.
The Panama Canal Authority has been vigilant in its efforts to maintain a secure Canal and enjoys international support in this mission; however, the Panama Canal Authority remains at risk for the illicit transit and transshipment of strategically-controlled, dual-use goods and technologies, and military goods. More than 60 percent of Panama’s container traffic is either bound for, or departing from, U.S. ports, and more than five percent of all global container traffic passes through the Panama Canal, making Panama a key country of geopolitical significance along a critical transit and trade route.
On February 5, the Ministry of Foreign Relations issued a statement expressing Panama’s “rejection of the violent acts and the grave violations to human rights perpetrated by the IS [Islamic State] group” and announced its intention to “join the efforts of the international community to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.” In so doing, Panama became the first Latin American country to join the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. Panama has been involved in the Coalition’s Counter-Finance Working Group.
2015 Terrorist Incidents: During protests held on July 7, assailants threw a homemade bomb which caused second-degree burns on two individuals. The 10 individuals implicated in this attack, seven of whom are minors, have been charged with terrorism and other associated crimes and remained detained by Panamanian authorities at the end of 2015.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Acts of terrorism are criminalized within Title IX, Chapter 1 of the Panamanian criminal code. Individuals who attempt to disturb the public peace, cause panic, terror, or fear in the population, or a subset thereof, through the use of radioactive materials, weapons, fire, explosives, biological or toxic substances, or any other means of massive destruction or element with that potential, are subject to prison sentences ranging from 20 to 30 years. Panamanian law also sanctions any individual who knowingly finances, grants, hides, or transfers money, goods, or other financial resources for use in the commission of the above referenced crimes to a period of confinement ranging from 25 to 30 years in prison. Those who use the internet to recruit terrorists or to provide bomb-making instructions are subject to confinement of five to 10 years.
In order to improve the Government of Panama’s capacity and capabilities with regards to counterterrorism, the Department of Justice’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance, and Training (OPDAT), the Department of Defense’s Security Programs including the Combating Terrorism Fellowship Program (CTFP), and the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) Program and Export Control and Border Security (EXBS) Programs, work in concert with Panamanian authorities. These efforts are supplemented by capacity building initiatives led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Department of Defense, and Homeland Security Investigations which also enhance Panama’s law enforcement capacity to respond to terrorism. However, Panamanian security services continue to compete for resources, diminishing the incentive for collaboration, lessening the likelihood that enforcement agencies will focus on maintaining skills and equipment. While recent joint operations between the services have been successful, the government remains in the development phase of fostering interagency cooperation. Strategic budgeting, including for operations and maintenance, as well as long-term training program development continue to be significant areas of need.
The Panamanian government has continued its efforts to exert sovereignty in the underserved Darién region through the use of its security forces, principally the National Border Service (SENAFRONT). SENAFRONT’s successes over the previous years have degraded the capabilities of the FARC to such an extent that it no longer maintains a permanent presence in Panamanian territory. However, narco-trafficking organizations and Colombian-origin criminal gangs (known as the BACRIM) continued to cause instability within the province. The Government of Panama maintains counterterrorism units within SENAFRONT, the National Air-Naval Service (SENAN), the Panamanian National Police (PNP), and the Institutional Protection Service (SPI; which is responsible for the protection of Panamanian and foreign dignitaries, as well as critical infrastructure, such as the Panama Canal). However, interagency coordination, cooperation, and information sharing remained limited.
In 2013, Panamanian forces searched and detained the North Korean-flagged merchant vessel Chong Chon Gang for transiting the Canal with illicit cargo. The search of the vessel found arms and related materiel which violated UN Security Council Resolutions prohibiting transfer of such items to North Korea. In February 2014, North Korea paid a $693,333 fine to the Panama Canal Authority and the ship left Panama with most of the crewmembers. Panamanian authorities charged the Captain, First Officer, and Political Officer of the vessel with possession and trafficking of arms and explosives. These individuals were acquitted in June of 2014 and left the country, despite an appeal filed in July 2014. In May 2015, a Panamanian court of appeals significantly revised the June 2014 trial court decision, finding both the Captain and the First Officer guilty of the crimes of possession and trafficking of arms and explosives and sentenced them to 12 years confinement, in absentia. The court upheld the acquittal of the Political Officer finding that there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate that he formed part of the “principal chain of command” of the vessel. This ruling has created an avenue for the definitive forfeiture of the military articles.
A key focus of counterterrorism efforts in Panama has been securing the borders as well as the airports and seaports throughout the country. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) continued to cooperate with Panamanian authorities at Tocumen International Airport and has been successful in utilizing the linkage between Panama’s Advance Passenger Information (API) System and CBP targeting systems. Panama collects nearly 100 percent of API data and actively seeks more complete Passenger Name Record (PNR) data. CBP continues to work with Panamanian authorities to improve their capacity to capture and transmit all API and PNR data. Mobile security teams, including those operating under the CBP Joint Security Program, partner with host country law enforcement officers operating in Tocumen International Airport to identify air passengers linked to terrorism, narcotics, weapons, and currency smuggling, as well as to identify and intercept fugitives, persons associated with organized crime, and other travelers of interest.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Panama is a member of the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America (GAFILAT), and its financial intelligence unit, Unidad de Analisis Financiero, is a member of the Egmont Group. In 2015, Panama strengthened its legal framework, amended its criminal code, and passed a new anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism law in 2015 that brings designated non-financial businesses and professions and entities in the Colon Free Zone into the supervisory framework in order to more effectively counter potential terrorism financing vulnerabilities in these sectors.
In 2015, Panama passed Law 10 and Law 34, which amended the criminal code by adding predicate offenses that typify terrorism financing and money laundering. Panama passed Law 23 which allows the government to freeze, seize, and confiscate the instruments and proceeds of criminal enterprises, including terrorism financing. The implementing regulations allow for the assets to be frozen for persons or entities listed under UN sanctions regimes. Panama also passed Law 149, which reformed Article 116 of the Criminal Procedure Code which rescinded previous modifications to Article 116 and eliminated the statute of limitations in cases of terrorism.
Panama has yet to identify and freeze assets belonging to terrorists or sanctioned individuals and organizations; it has not prosecuted any terrorism financing cases. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: //2009-2017.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: The United States and Panama continued to work together to create opportunities for residents of the Darién region to deter local recruitment by the FARC, transnational criminal organizations, and narco-trafficking organizations. The Panama Office of Defense Cooperation maintains a robust program designed to develop and refine Panama’s civil affairs and information operations capacity as part of the overall strategy to enhance governability and state control in an underdeveloped and underserved region. These teams work with Panamanian officials to distribute medical supplies to local communities and provide key information about threats facing the populace. Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) programs also provide some local youth with vocational and technical training to better prepare them for the labor market and to provide viable alternatives to criminality and terrorism.
International and Regional Cooperation: Panama was the first Latin American nation to join the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. Panama is also an active participant in the United Nations and regional security initiatives such as the OAS-CICTE. Panama and Colombia maintain a bilateral commission that continues to meet on a yearly basis to address topics of mutual concern, including illicit migration, narco-trafficking, transnational criminal organizations, and elements of the FARC operating in the region surrounding their shared border.
Overview: In 2015, the Government of Paraguay continued to cooperate with the United States on counterterrorism matters, and the U.S. Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program contributed to building Paraguay’s counterterrorism law enforcement capacity. Paraguay continued to face challenges of ineffective immigration, customs, and law enforcement controls along its porous borders, particularly the Tri-Border Area (TBA) with Argentina and Brazil. Illicit activities within the TBA remained potential funding sources for terrorist organizations, most notably Hizballah.
Since 2008, persons claiming to be part of the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP) – an internal criminal group dedicated to a socialist revolution in Paraguay – have been active in the northern departments of Concepcion and San Pedro. The group has been involved in violence designed to intimidate the population and government. The Government of Paraguay believes the EPP to be a small, decentralized group of 20 to 100 members. Additionally, the Armed Peasant Association (ACA), a splinter group of former EPP members reportedly expelled from the group over disciplinary issues in 2014, continued to operate in the Northern Departments as well. The ACA has a similar agenda and is currently believed to consist of six to eight members. Paraguayan authorities reported that most of the group’s leadership was eliminated in a November 16 Paraguayan Joint Task Force operation. EPP/ACA activity consisted largely of isolated attacks on remote police and army posts, or against ranchers and peasants accused of collaborating with Paraguayan security services. Ranchers and ranch workers in northeastern Paraguay, including members of the Mennonite community, claimed the EPP frequently threatened both their livelihoods and personal security.
2015 Terrorist Incidents: The EPP and ACA conducted several high profile operations involving kidnapping, killings, and sabotage that received significant press coverage.
- In January, the EPP allegedly killed two long-time resident German nationals in Azotey, Concepcion Department.
- In February, the EPP allegedly attacked four police stations in Arroyito, Kuruzu de Hierro, and Yvy Yau, Concepcion Department.
- In March, the EPP allegedly killed three farmers in Tacuati, San Pedro Department.
- In July, the EPP allegedly killed five Paraguayan National Police (PNP) officers in Santa Rosa del Aguaray and Jaguarete Forest, San Pedro Department.
- In August, the EPP allegedly killed a ranch manager and kidnapped ranch employees in Tacuati, San Pedro Department.
- In August, the EPP claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of a Mennonite in Tacuati, San Pedro Department. He was believed to still be held by the EPP at year’s end. Additionally, the EPP continues to hold police officer Edelio Morinigo, who was taken captive in April 2014.
- In August, the EPP allegedly destroyed a power line tower using an improvised explosive device (IED) in Tacuati, San Pedro Department.
- In September, the EPP claimed responsibility for killing two ranchers in Santa Rosa del Aguaray, San Pedro Department.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Paraguay pursued individuals suspected of terrorist crimes under laws passed in 2010 and 2011. The Paraguayan government continued to make use of a 2013 counterterrorism law that allows for the domestic deployment of the Paraguayan military to counter internal or external threats. Counterterrorism functions are handled by the Paraguayan National Police Secretariat for the Prevention and Investigation of Terrorism. Military forces and police officials continued to operate jointly in 2015 in the San Pedro, Concepcion, and Amambay departments, with limited success.
The Tri-Border region of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay continued to serve as a suspected funding source for terrorist groups, as the minimal police and military presence along these borders allowed for a largely unregulated flow of people, contraband, and money. Paraguay’s efforts to provide more effective law enforcement and border security were hampered by a lack of interagency cooperation and information sharing, as well as pervasive corruption within security, border control, and judicial institutions.
Paraguay continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, which provided instruction and resources to assist Paraguay to build its capacity to secure borders and ports of entry to prevent the transit of terrorists and materiel.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Paraguay is a member of the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Its financial intelligence unit, Secretaria de Prevención de Lavado de Dinero o Bienes, is a member of the Egmont Group. Paraguay has both counterterrorism financing legislation and the ability to freeze without delay and confiscate terrorist assets. There were no terrorism financing convictions or actions to freeze in 2015.
Paraguay requires the collection of data for wire transfers. Significant quantities of money are laundered through businesses or moved in cash. The Paraguayan government registers and has reporting requirements for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) (including non-profits), and requires NGOs to set up internal monitoring and training regimes to guard against criminal or terrorism financing.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: //2009-2017.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
International and Regional Cooperation: Paraguay collaborated with Argentina and Brazil on border protection initiatives, regional exchanges, and discussions on counterterrorism and law enforcement projects. In 2015, there were working-level meetings between the Paraguayan and Brazilian Federal/Civil Police to increase cooperation. At the second meeting in November, some officers cited investigative successes through the unprecedented sharing of leads and criminal intelligence between the two services. Paraguay served as the 2015 Chair of the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism.
Overview: The Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso or SL) constitutes a localized and declining threat to Peru’s internal security, and maintained a low profile in 2015. SL’s membership numbers continued to dwindle, and by the end of 2015 it consisted of one single active faction, whose area of activity and influence was confined to the special military emergency zone known as the Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro River Valley (VRAEM) – a remote and rugged region slightly larger than Switzerland which accounts for more than one-half of the cocaine produced in Peru. Within the VRAEM, SL has retreated to its stronghold in the Vizcatan area, approximately 500 square kilometers along the Mantaro River. To sustain itself, SL is involved in all logistical aspects of drug trafficking in its area of influence: it collects “revolutionary taxes” from those involved in the drug trade, and for a price, provides security and transports narcotics for drug trafficking organizations. SL continues to use Maoist ideology to justify its illegal activities.
SL has yet to recover from an August 2013 operation conducted by the Peruvian security forces that resulted in the deaths of two of the terrorist organization’s top four commanders, Orlando Borda, aka “Comrade Alipio” and Martin Quispe Palomino, aka “Comrade Gabriel." Operations have severely weakened SL in the Upper Huallaga Valley, a former stronghold. As a result, after nearly 30 years, the government lifted the emergency zone in the Upper Huallaga Valley on June 27. President Humala also announced on December 8 that the government would soon lift the state of emergency in parts of the VRAEM. A decree published on December 11 stated that the Peruvian National Police (PNP) would regain authority over internal security from the military in the remaining VRAEM emergency zone while the military will continue to combat SL.
Estimates of SL’s strength vary, but most experts and the Peruvian military assess SL to number 250-300 combatants of which 60-100 are hardcore fighters.
Security forces took limited actions to counter the SL during 2015, reflecting President Humala’s strategy, announced in July 2013, of gaining control of territory in the VRAEM at the lowest cost in human lives. In two separate operations, security forces rescued 54 people, including 37 children. Some of those rescued are children of SL members and others the SL had captured more than 30 years ago. Security forces also captured two mid-level SL leaders who were active in the northern edge of the VRAEM in the La Convención province of Cuzco region.
The government did not initiate coca-eradication operations in the VRAEM, which many analysts argue is necessary in the long run to regain control over this area. Officials in the Government of Peru believed that eradicating in the VRAEM would create a serious social conflict that could provide a boost to SL.
SL founder and leader Abimael Guzman and key accomplices remained in prison serving life sentences for numerous crimes committed in the 1980s and 1990s. Two top SL leaders – Osman Morote and Margot Liendo – completed their 25-year sentences in June 2013, but were still in jail at the end of 2015. These individuals remain in prison pending trials for other crimes committed in the early 1980s, but according to the Minister of Interior could be released soon. Most SL leaders were convicted of crimes long before new legislation allowing for life sentences was approved and should start leaving prison in 2017. Peter Cárdenas, a former top commander of the now defunct Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), was released from prison on September 22 after serving his full 25-year sentence. American Lori Berenson, who was convicted on terrorism charges in Peru for collaborating with the MRTA, finished serving her 20-year sentence on December 1; she was expelled from Peru and returned to the United States on December 3.
In October 2014, Peruvian police arrested Muhammad Ghaleb Hamdar, a 28-year old Lebanese citizen suspected of links to Hizballah. According to reports, there were residue and traces of explosives in Hamdar’s apartment. A Peruvian judge rejected Hamdar’s bail request on November 17; he remained in pretrial detention at year’s end. The police also arrested Hamdar’s wife, dual U.S.-Peruvian national Carmen Carrion McKay, on November 26. She was charged with violating the “collaborating with terrorism” statute and placed in preventative custody, which may be imposed for up to 18 months in Peru for terrorism, espionage, and other cases, where the charged offense meets a minimum threshold and the individual poses a demonstrable flight risk. The charge carries a minimum sentence of 20 years, if she is found guilty.
2015 Terrorist Incidents: According to Peruvian government statistics, the SL committed 13 terrorist acts in 2015, in comparison to 20 terrorist acts recorded in 2014 and 49 acts in 2013. Over the course of the year, SL attacks were limited to small, mostly harassing attacks that resulted in few casualties. In 2015, SL attacks and operations resulted in the deaths of two soldiers and three civilians. Seven members of the security forces were wounded in action. In 2014, two soldiers were killed compared to three in 2013 and 19 in 2012. Incidents included the following:
- On March 21, an alleged SL column shot and killed two people, a former community president and a justice of the peace in Huancamayo, a remote community in Junín region’s Santo Domingo de Acobamba district.
- In early August, SL attacked a counterterrorism base in Junín region, killing one soldier.
- On September 2, SL fighters wounded five soldiers in a clash in Ayacucho region, Huanta province. Security forces claimed two SL fighters were killed although no bodies were found.
- On October 24, approximately 30 SL members targeted and blew up a telecommunication tower in Tintay Puncu district in Huancavelica region’s Tayacaja province.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Over the past three decades, Peru has promulgated a variety of laws specifically designed to counter terrorism. These measures receive broad public support. The government published legislative decree 1233 on September 26, 2015, adding the crime of “conspiracy to commit terror” to existing legislation. This legislation could apply to “anyone who conspires to promote, benefit, or facilitate terror” and carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence. Peru’s congress also approved Law 30353 on October 29, 2015, which prohibits convicted felons who have not paid the fines levied against them as part of their sentences from running for public office. Imprisoned MRTA and SL terrorist leaders owe millions of dollars to the state for damages.
Peru has steadily improved its ability to detect, deter, and respond to terrorist incidents in the 22 years since the police captured the SL’s founder and chief ideologue, Abimael Guzmán.
The most significant Peruvian government actions against SL this year included:
- The police captured and arrested Neymar Maldonado on June 17. Maldonado was considered to be one of the successors to “Comrade Artemio,” the former SL leader in the Huallaga valley. The police also captured a large cache of weapons and documents in the operation.
- On July 7, the police captured alleged SL unit leader Ever Cabanillas Chuquilín, aka “Cajacho,” who operated in the Huallaga valley.
- On July 27, the military and police conducted a joint operation in Satipo province in Junín region that freed 39 people (26 children and 13 adults), who were held at an SL base. Security forces freed 15 more people in a second operation. Some of the adults had been under SL control for 30 years.
- Peruvian security forces captured SL leader Alexander Alarcón Soto, aka “Comrade Renán,” on August 8 and his lieutenant Dionicio Ramos Limaquipe, aka “Comrade Yuri,” on August 9. Renán and Yuri commanded one of the SL’s principal units operating in the Cuzco region of the VRAEM. Renán took command of this unit in August 2013 after Peruvian security forces killed Comrade Alipio and Comrade Gabriel. Renan is believed to have been involved in various high-profile kidnappings and attacks against the police/military, including one in 2012 that left eight soldiers and four police dead.
On border security, immigration authorities collected no biometrics information from visitors. Citizens of neighboring countries were allowed to travel to Peru by land using only national identification cards. There was no visa requirement for citizens of most countries from Western, Central, and Eastern Europe, as well as Mexico. Peruvian immigration used a database called “Movimiento Migratorio” at 18 points of entry to track entries and exits of travelers. The database also connects to the PNP’s database to flag outstanding arrest warrants. The Government of Peru announced that it would issue biometric passports in 2016 for all Peruvian citizens.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Under Decree Law 25475, Peru criminalizes any form of collaboration with terrorists, including economic collaboration. Peru is a member of the regional Financial Action Task Force of Latin America. Peru’s Financial Intelligence Unit is also a member of the Egmont Group.
In 2015, the Government of Peru continued to make progress in implementing its national plan to combat money laundering and terrorism financing. Most notably, Peru tightened controls on money changing entities and introduced measures to ensure timely reporting of bank information by financial institutions. In 2015, Peru did not prosecute any terrorism financing cases and/or identify frozen terrorist assets of sanctioned organizations.
SL’s ability to sustain itself and finance its terrorist and other criminal actions depends on profits from drug trafficking activities. The PNP lacks specific intelligence on the amounts of terrorism financing derived from narcotics trafficking and the methods used to move those payments to SL. It is understood that SL narcotics proceeds enter the VRAEM as bulk, physical dollars from neighboring countries via the same aircraft used to transport cocaine out of the region (commonly known as the “air bridge”). Experts estimated that SL has returned at least $170 million back into the VRAEM to launder into local currency to fund its operations. To address this issue, the PNP is forming a 15-person specialized unit that will focus on investigating SL financing.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Government of Peru publicly stressed the importance of heavily investing in the VRAEM as a means of breaking the symbiotic relationship that has existed for years between the VRAEM’s residents and SL. Since 2007, the Peruvian government has provided the equivalent of approximately $6 billion to districts and regions in the VRAEM to pave roads, provide basic health and education services, and establish a greater state presence. In November, the Minister of Agriculture announced the government would spend $18 million on alternative development in the VRAEM in 2016.
International and Regional Cooperation: Peru’s Foreign Ministry energetically and publicly condemned terrorist attacks around the world in 2015. Peru actively participated in the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism in February and the Leader’s Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism hosted by President Obama in New York in September. Peru participates in counterterrorism activities in international and regional organizations, including the UN, OAS, and UNASUR.
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
Overview: Trinidad and Tobago took steps to address the challenge of foreign terrorist fighters by forming a National Counterterrorism Working Group, chaired by the Trinidad and Tobago Chief of Defense Staff. The working group drafted a strategy to take into account international and domestic commitments in countering terrorism and the specific nature of the terrorist threat to Trinidad and Tobago, identifying the priorities, principles, and key assumptions.
Elections on September 7 resulted in a new Prime Minister and a new government that appears to be focused on national security, particularly in the areas of crime and counterterrorism. The government continued to cooperate with the United States on security matters, including participation in the U.S. Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program that addresses counterterrorism training for police, and the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative program that focuses on training and the professionalization of the police and military forces in order to ensure citizen security.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Trinidad and Tobago is reviewing its legislation to address foreign terrorist fighters and their possible return, an area not addressed in the 2005 Anti-Terrorism Act. The Counterterrorism Working Group, which includes both defense force and law enforcement officials, is still in its initial stages. Its proposed counterterrorism strategy was not approved by the country’s Cabinet in 2015, and police or military units that have a counterterrorism mission had not been identified.
Trinidad and Tobago, with the assistance of certain police units and government sections, continued to identify and monitor persons that raise terrorism concerns and maintained a list of nationals who traveled to Syria or Iraq to fight with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). More than 70 nationals of Trinidad and Tobago are believed be fighting with ISIL in Syria. There was limited interagency cooperation and coordination, and limited information-sharing due to allegations of corruption amongst different agencies. Prosecutors are consulted on an ad hoc basis with regard to criminal cases.
Biographic and biometric screening capabilities are limited at certain ports of entry. Trinidad and Tobago collects advance passenger information and disseminates this information to other countries accordingly.
The defense force is responsible for the security of the coastline spanning the two islands and assists law enforcement in combating transnational crime. Both the defense and police forces are limited in human and material resources to meet strategic security challenges.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Trinidad and Tobago is a member of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. The United States is concerned about serious deficiencies in Trinidad and Tobago’s anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) framework highlighted in its fourth round mutual evaluation. As a result of the evaluation, the Attorney General is looking to correct Trinidad and Tobago’s legislative deficiencies.
Trinidad and Tobago’s AML/CFT regime is not able to quantify the extent to which fraud and public corruption contribute to money laundering. The country requires the collection of Know Your Customer-data for banks and wire transfers, and requires various entities to report suspicious transactions. However, non-profit organizations are not obligated to file suspicious transaction reports.
STRs reviewed by the Trinidad and Tobago Financial Intelligence Unit and Customs and Excise Division officials confirm that trade-based money laundering occurs, though no indications tied these activities directly to terrorism financing.
In December 2015, the Trinidad and Tobago Attorney General, under the country’s 2005 Anti-Terrorism Act, froze the assets of Trinbagonian national Kareem Ibrahim. In 2011, Ibrahim was convicted in a United States federal court of conspiring to commit a terrorist attack at the John F. Kennedy Airport. This was the first time that Trinidad and Tobago invoked any portion of its 2005 Anti-Terrorism Act.
International and Regional Cooperation: In November 2015, the Prime Minister attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting where he and other leaders addressed terrorism and security issues and the growing concern over ISIL.
Overview: In May, for the tenth consecutive year, the U.S. Department of State determined, pursuant to section 40A of the Arms Export Control Act, that Venezuela was not cooperating fully with U.S. antiterrorism efforts.
The International Development Bank, a subsidiary of the Development and Export Bank of Iran, continued to operate in Venezuela despite its designation in 2008 by the U.S. Treasury Department under E.O. 13382 (“Blocking Property of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators and their Supporters”).
There were credible reports that Venezuela maintained a permissive environment that allowed for support of activities that benefited known terrorist groups. Individuals linked to the FARC, National Liberation Army, and Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) were present in Venezuela, as well as Hizballah supporters and sympathizers.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Venezuelan criminal code and additional Venezuelan laws explicitly criminalize terrorism and dictate procedures for prosecuting individuals engaged in terrorist activity. The government routinely levies accusations of “terrorism” against its political opponents. Following a wave of anti-government protests early in 2014, the Venezuelan government introduced a series of counterterrorism laws likely intended to suppress future public demonstrations.
Venezuelan military and civilian agencies perform counterterrorism functions. Within the Venezuelan armed forces, the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence and the Command Actions Group of the National Guard have primary counterterrorism duty. The Bolivarian National Intelligence Service and the Division of Counterterrorism Investigations in the Bureau of Scientific, Penal, and Criminal Investigative Corps within the Ministry of Interior, Justice, and Peace have primary civilian counterterrorism responsibilities. The degree of interagency cooperation and information sharing among agencies is unknown due to a lack of government transparency.
Border security at ports of entry is vulnerable and susceptible to corruption. The Venezuelan government routinely did not perform biographic or biometric screening at ports of entry or exit. There was no automated system to collect advance Passenger Name Records on commercial flights or to cross-check flight manifests with passenger disembarkation data.
In August, Venezuelan authorities closed multiple border crossings between Colombia and the western states of Tachira and Zulia as part of the “states of exception” declaration seeking to curb smuggling and paramilitary activity in the border region.
Venezuela did not respond to a request from the Spanish government to extradite former ETA member José Ignacio de Juana Chaos, wanted in Spain since 2010 for the alleged killing of 25 people in acts of terrorism.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Venezuela is a member of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body, and the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission Anti-Money Laundering Group. Its financial intelligence unit, Unidad Nacional de Inteligencia Financiera, is a member of the Egmont Group. In 2014, the CFATF determined that Venezuela had made sufficient progress on the recommendations in Venezuela’s FATF action plan to warrant moving the country from the standard follow-up process once every six months to periodic review once every two years. CFATF noted Venezuela still needed to improve its compliance with several recommendations as well as its implementation of various anti-money laundering/ counterterrorism financing (AML/CFT) laws and regulations. Venezuela’s existing AML/CFT legal and regulatory framework criminalizes the financing of terrorism. There was no publicly available information regarding the confiscation of terrorist assets. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: //2009-2017.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
International and Regional Cooperation: Venezuela participated as an official observer in ongoing peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC. Venezuelan and Colombian foreign ministers met several times throughout the year to address the reduction of smuggling of illegal goods, narcotics trafficking, and the activity of illegally armed groups.