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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Latin America: Terrorism Issues

Mark P. Sullivan
Specialist in Latin American Affairs

U.S. attention to terrorism in Latin America intensified in the aftermath of the September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, with an increase in bilateral and regional cooperation. In its 2009 Country Reports on Terrorism (issued in August 2010), 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 potential support for Colombian terrorist groups.

Concerns about Iran’s increasing activities in Latin America center on Iran’s attempts to circumvent U.N. and U.S. sanctions, as well as on its ties to the radical Lebanon-based Islamic group Hezbollah. 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. The State Department terrorism report maintains that the United States remains concerned that sympathizers of Hezbollah and the Sunni Muslim Palestinian group Hamas are raising funds among the sizable Middle Eastern communities in the tri-border area of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, but stated that there was no corroborated information that these or other Islamic extremist groups had an operational presence in the TBA or elsewhere in the hemisphere.

In the 111
th Congress, President Obama signed into law the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Disinvestment Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-195) on July 1, 2010, which includes a provision making gasoline sales to Iran subject to U.S. sanctions. (In 2009, Venezuela promised to supply gasoline to Iran in the case of U.S. sanctions. U.S. officials are examining whether Venezuela is in violation of the sanctions legislation.) In other legislative action in the 111th Congress, the House approved H.Con.Res. 156 (Ros-Lehtinen) in July 2009, which condemned the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires and urged Western Hemisphere governments to take actions to curb the activities that support Hezbollah and other such extremist groups.

Several other measures were either considered or introduced in the 111
th Congress with provisions related to Latin America and terrorism issues. In June 2010, the Senate Committee on Armed Services reported S. 3454, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2011, with a provision that would have required a report on Venezuela related to terrorism issues. In June 2009, the House approved H.R. 2410, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for FY2010 and FY2011, with a provision that would have required a report on Iran’s and Hezbollah’s actions in the Western Hemisphere. Other introduced measures included H.R. 375 (Ros-Lehtinen) and H.R. 2475 (Ros-Lehtinen), which would have placed restrictions on nuclear cooperation with countries assisting the nuclear programs of Venezuela or Cuba; H.R. 2272 (Rush), which would have removed Cuba from the state sponsors of terrorism list; and H.Res. 872 (Mack), which would have called for Venezuela to be designated a state sponsor of terrorism.

Date of Report: February 23, 2011
Number of Pages: 19
Order Number: RS21049
Price: $29.95

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