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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Latin America: Terrorism Issues

Mark P. Sullivan
Specialist in Latin American Affairs

Since the September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, U.S. attention to terrorism in Latin America has intensified, with an increase in bilateral and regional cooperation. In its April 2009 Country Reports on Terrorism, the State Department maintained that terrorism in the region was primarily perpetrated by terrorist organizations in Colombia and by the remnants of radical leftist Andean groups. Overall, however, the report maintained that the threat of a transnational terrorist attack remained low for most countries in the hemisphere. Cuba has remained on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism since 1982 pursuant to Section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act, which triggers a number of economic sanctions. Both Cuba and Venezuela are on the State Department's annual list of countries determined to be not cooperating fully with U.S. antiterrorism efforts pursuant to Section 40A of the Arms Export Control Act. U.S. officials have expressed concerns over the past several years about Venezuela's lack of cooperation on antiterrorism efforts, its relations with Iran, and President Hugo Chávez's sympathetic statements for Colombian terrorist groups. The State Department terrorism report noted, however, that President Chávez publicly changed course in June 2008 and called on the FARC to unconditionally release all hostages, declaring that armed struggle is "out of place" in modern Latin America. 

In recent years, U.S. concerns have increased over activities of the radical Lebanon-based Islamic group Hezbollah and the Sunni Muslim Palestinian group Hamas in the tri-border area of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. The State Department terrorism report maintains that the United States remains concerned that Hezbollah and Hamas sympathizers are raising funds among the sizable Middle Eastern communities in the region, but stated that there was no corroborated information that these or other Islamic extremist groups had an operational presence in the area. Allegations have linked Hezbollah to two bombings in Argentina: the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 30 people and the 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people. Concerns about Iran's increasing activities in Latin America center on the country's ties to Hezbollah and the terrorist attacks in Argentina. 

In the 111th Congress, the House approved H.R. 2410 (Berman), the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for FY2010 and FY2011, on June 10, 2009, with a provision calling for a report on Iran's and Hezbollah's actions in the Western Hemisphere. On July 17, 2009, the House approved H.Con.Res. 156 (Ros-Lehtinen), which, among other provisions, condemns the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires, and urges Western Hemisphere governments to take actions to curb the activities that support Hezbollah and other such extremist groups. On July 23, 2009, the Senate approved its version of the FY2010 defense authorization bill, S. 1390 (Levin), which included reporting requirements on Venezuela and Cuba, but the provisions were not included in the final enacted measure. Other introduced measures include H.R. 375 (Ros-Lehtinen) and H.R. 2475 (Ros-Lehtinen), which, among their provisions, would place restrictions on nuclear cooperation with countries assisting the nuclear programs of Venezuela or Cuba; H.R. 2272 (Rush), which includes a provision that would remove Cuba from the state sponsors of terrorism list; and H.Res. 872 (Mack), which calls for Venezuela to be designated a state sponsor of terrorism. 

Date of Report: January 25, 2010
Number of Pages: 16
Order Number: RS21049
Price: $29.95

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