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30 April 2003

Report Gives Overview of Terrorism in the Western Hemisphere

(Terrorist groups said to have made Latin America a "battleground")
(1340)

International terrorist groups have made Latin America a
"battleground" to advance their causes elsewhere in the world, the
State Department says.

In its annual "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report, released April
30, the State Department said in its overview of the region that the
bombings of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 and the
Argentine-Jewish Cultural Center in 1994 are examples of the damage
caused in the Western Hemisphere by international terrorists.

Meanwhile, the report said many countries have struggled with domestic
sources of terrorism for decades, and many still do.

As a result, these countries have sought to shore up legislative tools
to outlaw terrorism, discourage terrorist financing, and make their
territory as unattractive as possible to terrorists fleeing from other
regions who might seek safe-haven in the hemisphere.

Following is the text of the State Department's Western Hemisphere
overview on terrorism:

(begin text)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Report on Global Terrorism
April 30, 2003

Overview of Terrorism in the Western Hemisphere

When compared to other regions of the world, the Western Hemisphere
generally does not attract attention as a "hot zone" in the war on
terror.

However, terrorism in the region was not born on September 11, 2001;
Latin American countries have struggled with domestic sources of
terrorism for decades, and many still do. International terrorist
groups, moreover, have not hesitated to make Latin America a
battleground to advance their causes elsewhere, such as the bombings
of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 and the
Argentine-Jewish Cultural Center in 1994. More recent international
terrorist attacks in Bali, Indonesia, and Mombassa, Kenya, in 2002
demonstrates that no region of the world -- and no type of target --
is beyond the reach or strategic interest of international terrorist
organizations.

Recognizing this threat, and the impact of terrorism on their economic
and social development, the vast majority of countries across the
Americas and the Caribbean have given strong support to the
international coalition against terrorism. At the June 2002 General
Assembly, member states of the Organization of American States (OAS)
adopted the Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism -- the first
international treaty against terrorism adopted since the September 11
attacks. All but one state has signed (Dominica is the exception);
Canada became the first state to ratify in late 2002. The Convention,
a binding legal instrument, establishes mechanisms for coordinated
action to prevent and combat terrorism by the states of the Americas.

Spurred by the Convention and the September 11 attacks, many countries
in the hemisphere have sought to shore up legislative tools to outlaw
terrorism, discourage terrorist financing, and make their territory as
unattractive as possible to fleeing terrorists from other regions who
might seek safe-haven in the hemisphere. However, a number of
countries remain engaged in deep internal debate over the scope of new
anti-terrorism bills that would grant governments broader powers
necessary to prosecute the war on terror. An ongoing OAS "Legislative
Action Against Terrorism " project with Central American parliaments,
for example, is aimed specifically at helping legislatures draft
anti-terrorism legislation and ratify the Inter-American Convention
Against Terrorism.

The Western Hemisphere has created a model regional counterterrorism
institution in its Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism (known
by its Spanish acronym CICTE). CICTE is a body of the Organization of
American States (OAS) that was created in 1998. Since September 11, it
has been reinvigorated as an effective coordinating body for OAS
member states on all counterterrorism issues, but with a primary focus
on information-sharing, training, and strengthening of financial and
border controls. Under U.S. chairmanship and Argentine
vice-chairmanship, CICTE established a full-time Secretariat in 2002
that is funded by voluntary donations from OAS member states.

At its Third Regular Session in El Salvador in early 2003, CICTE
member states adopted a strong "Declaration of San Salvador Against
Terrorism" and made recommendations on counterterrorism initiatives
for adoption by the Special Conference on Hemispheric Security (May
2003). The declaration and recommendations both call for increased
cooperation to prevent and combat terrorism, and recognize the
emerging threats posed to the Hemisphere by international terrorist
groups and attacks on cyber security.

In June, the Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism -- a direct
response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United
States and the first international treaty against terrorism adopted
since those attacks -- was opened for signature in Barbados. The
Convention, which is consistent with, and builds upon, previous U.N.
conventions and protocols relating to terrorism and U.N. Security
Council Resolution 1373, will improve regional cooperation in the
fight against terrorism through exchanges of information, experience
and training, technical cooperation, and mutual legal assistance. The
Convention will enter into force when six states have deposited their
instruments of ratification. All but one OAS member state has signed
(Dominica is the exception), and Canada became the first state to
ratify in late 2002. President Bush transmitted the Convention to the
Senate for its advice and consent to ratification in November.

The OAS in 2002 also played an important role in the investigation of
an illicit diversion in late 2001 of more than 3,000 AK-47 rifles and
ammunition from Nicaraguan police and army stocks to the Special
Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), which the United States has
designated as a foreign terrorist organization and has designated
pursuant to EO 13224 in Colombia. The OAS-commissioned report,
released in January 2003, contained a detailed analysis of the case
along with a series of recommendations for improving the existing
inter-American, arms-control regime. The Government of Nicaragua
quickly expressed its intention to follow up on the report and to
strengthen its arms-controls and export procedures.

Domestic terrorist groups continue to ravage Colombia and, to a lesser
extent, Peru. The Colombian government under former President Pastrana
cut off long-running peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces
of Colombia (FARC), which the United States has designated a foreign
terrorist organization in February after a series of provocative
actions, including kidnapping of a Colombian senator. The FARC
intensified its campaign throughout the year and steadily moved its
attacks from the countryside to the cities. On 7 August, new President
Alvaro Uribe was inaugurated amid an errant FARC mortar attack that
killed 21 residents of a poor Bogota neighborhood. Some elements of
the AUC disbanded and reconstituted themselves in an effort to seek
political legitimacy, but their ties to narco-trafficking and human
rights abuses persist. In December, AUC declared a unilateral
cease-fire and sought peace negotiations with the government. The
National Liberation Army (ELN) -- like the FARC -- continued to pursue
its favorite terrorist methods of kidnapping and infrastructure
bombing. All three organizations are linked to narco-trafficking.

In Peru, a resilient Shining Path is suspected of carrying out the 20
March car bombing at a shopping center across from the U.S. Embassy,
two days before a state visit by President Bush. Ten Peruvians died in
the attack, including security personnel protecting the Embassy.

At year's end, there was no confirmed, credible information of an
established al-Qaida presence in Latin America. However, terrorist
fundraising continued to be a concern throughout the region.
Activities of suspected Hizballah and HAMAS financiers in the
Triborder area (Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina) led those three
countries to take determined and cooperative action during 2002 to
investigate and disrupt illicit financial activities. Paraguay,
Brazil, and Argentina also invited the U.S. to join a new "Three Plus
One" counterterrorism consultative and cooperation mechanism to
analyze and combat any terrorist-related threats in the Triborder. The
mechanism is an excellent example of terrorism prevention and regional
foresight.

Canada and Mexico worked closely with the U.S. to secure their common
borders and to implement the comprehensive bilateral border accords
(signed in December 2001 and March 2002, respectively). These accords
aim to ensure national border security while facilitating the free and
rapid flow of legitimate travel and commerce.

(end text)

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)