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The Growing Terrorism Challenges From Latin America

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by Douglas Farah
Published on February 18th, 2007

Latin America is often near the bottom of U.S counter-terrorism priorities. No terrorist attacks against the United States have originated from there or been carried out by Latin American nationals. Yet there are several reasons that recent trends in Latin America pose significant threats to the United States.

The U.S. Southern Command, with operational responsibility for Latin America and the Caribbean, defined the threat as follows:

The stability and prosperity of the SOUTHCOM AOR [Area of Responsibility] are threatened by transnational terrorism, narco-terrorism, illicit trafficking, forgery and money laundering, kidnapping, urban gangs, radical movements, natural disasters and mass migration…

We have detected a number of Islamic Radical Group facilitators that continue to participate in fundraising and logistical support activities such as money laundering, document forgery, and illicit trafficking. Proceeds from these activities are supporting worldwide terrorist activities. Not only do these activities serve to support Islamic terrorist groups in the Middle East, these same activities performed by other groups make up the greater criminal network so prominent in the AOR. Illicit activities, facilitated by the AOR's permissive environment, are the backbone for criminal entities like urban gangs, narco-terrorists, Islamic terrorists, and worldwide organized crime.[1]

The Challenge To States

Among the most obvious threats for the spread of radical Islam is the growing personal tie between Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, who have held at least three face-to-face meetings in the past six months, and address each other as "brother." The growing economic ties between the two nations can be seen in the dozens of economic agreements the two leaders have signed in that time, and the mutual support for cutting OPEC’s oil production, which is significant given that the two countries are OPEC’s second and fourth largest oil producers, respectively.[2]

The friendship can bring some modest commercial and political gains, but it is fundamentally premised on both leaders’ stated enmity toward the United States. As Chavez recently said, Iran and Venezuela face "the same imperialist push to control our oil resources. Our two revolutions, the Islamic Revolution and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, are in the end one, single fight."[3] Ahmadinejad supported the statement, saying that, "As brother governments, we have a responsibility to promote revolutionary thought on the world stage. We have to be partners in the development of both our lands."[4]

Together Venezuela and Iran produce some 5 million barrels of oil a day. While half of Venezuela’s 2.2 million barrels a day is destined to the U.S. market (representing almost 10 percent of 13.2 million barrels a day the United States imports), Iran does not export any oil directly the United States. However, Iran’s 2.6 million barrels a day of production, if diminished, would greatly affect the global petroleum market.[5] Earlier this year the two nations agreed to jointly construct oil refineries in Indonesia, Syria and Venezuela, which would further increase their joint economic clout in the worldwide petroleum market.[6] This not only gives the two nations economic leverage in the United States, but the financial wherewithal to finance armed groups that could directly attack the United States.

Iran is the primary sponsor of Hezbollah, the predominant Shiite Muslim militia based in Lebanon that has an extensive presence in Latin America and has carried out numerous attacks against U.S. and Latin American targets. In Venezuela, Chavez has allowed senior officials of the FARC[7], the largest and oldest insurgency in the hemisphere, to operate with impunity and allowed its border area with Colombia to be used as "a safe area to rest, transship drugs and arms, and procure logistical supplies."[8] The potential joining of these two groups against a common enemy—the United States—under the auspices of two states that already have shown a willingness to sponsor armed movements, should be of serious concern.

Venezuela is also using its oil wealth for an arms build-up that is unprecedented in recent history and threatens to destabilize the region. The most recent acquisition by the Chavez government includes the purchase of 100,000 new AK-103 assault rifles from Russia, along with the license to build a Kalashnikov factory in Venezuela. Chavez has also been buying naval patrol vessels from Spain, at least 15 combat helicopters from Russia, and is negotiating to buy Sukhoi-30 fighter jets and Tor- M1 surface to air missile systems from Russia.

All told, Venezuela has spent some $4.3 billion on weapons since 2005, placing it ahead of China ($3.4 billion); Pakistan ($3 billion); and Iran ($1.7 billion), according to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).[9] Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, director of the DIA, said Venezuela’s agenda was to "neutralize U.S influence" in Latin America and predicted the buying spree would continue in 2007.[10]

Brig. Gen. Frederick Rudesheim, deputy director for western hemisphere politico-military affairs and a member of the joint staff, said Venezuela’s arms acquisitions would "destabilize" the region.

"When you have that sort of wholesale purchase by a government that is so out of balance with the needs of that government, it can be nothing other than destabilizing," he said.[11]

Venezuela’s alliance with Iran, a state sponsor of a terrorist group that has a wide-spread presence in Latin America, is only one of several emerging threats on a state level. Non-state threats will be discussed in more detail below.

With its oil revenues, which provide about half of the government’s income, Venezuela has been able to provide significant financial assistance to several other populist leaders recently elected in Latin America, in an effort to build an anti-U.S. coalition that can partner with Iran. These include Chavez allies Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, and their ideological mentor, Fidel Castro of Cuba. Bolivia and Ecuador are, like Venezuela, moving to consolidate political power in the hands of the presidency, stifle freedom of the press and rewrite the constitutions to do away with term limits and judicial independence. And like Chavez in Venezuela, Morales in Bolivia and Correa in Ecuador are moving to consolidate presidential control of the central bank (which among other effects, will severely curtail transparency and effective cooperation with U.S. and U.N. terror finance and criminal finance tracking and enforcement efforts).

The case of Ecuador is particularly worrisome because one of Correa’s fundamental political promises is that he will not renew the lease of a U.S. military base in Manta, on Ecuador’s Pacific coast, when it expires in 2009. Correa’s keeping this promise will have a direct impact on the ability of U.S. military and law enforcement personnel to interdict the large-scale flow of cocaine and heroin into the United States. The 220 U.S. personnel and eight aircraft stationed at Manta are an important part of U.S. drug interdiction strategy. The Manta base is responsible for almost two-thirds of the drug interdictions on the Pacific coast.[12] The loss of this interdiction base will not only enable increased flows of illicit drugs into the United States, but will be a severe blow to the Colombian government of Alvaro Uribe and Plan Colombia, the counter-drug/counterinsurgency strategy backed by the United States. With the Manta base closed, the FARC will have increased access to drug revenues and safer drug trafficking and weapons trafficking routes on the Pacific front.

Historically, and particularly during the Cold War, populist and nationalist movements of varying types, intensity and duration have flourished. Most of these have incorporated anti-American themes internally, and allied with anti-American blocs externally. In the 1980’s this was reflected in Marxist guerilla movements supported by the Soviet Union and its proxies, primarily Cuba. Such movements overthrew the government of Nicaragua in 1979, and threatened several other states in Central and Latin America, particularly El Salvador and Peru. This tendency has resurfaced with the election in 1998 and again in 2006, of the self-declared communist Hugo Chavez as President of Venezuela, and his avid support for the election of likeminded regimes in Bolivia and Ecuador. This new anti-American wave is of particular concern because of the growing alliance between this extensive Latin American leftist bloc and radical Islamists.

The Islamist Presence

Hezbollah remains the primary Islamist force in Latin America. The traditional divisions between the Shia Muslim sects and the Sunni wahhabi/salafist sects remain deep. However, in Latin America, as in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, the differences on the ground appear to be overcome by tactical alliances, particularly in the movement of money and the procurement of services such as false identity papers.

In Latin America Hezbollah (Shia) and Hamas (Sunni) have developed sophisticated but little studied financial structures, largely through the unregulated exchange houses and free trade zones in specific parts of the region, including Panama’s Colon Free Trade Zone, Isla Margarita in Venezuela, Ciudad del Este in Paraguay, the Aruba Free Trade Zone and others. The overarching structure that enables both groups to work along side each other is the international Muslim Brotherhood, the one pan-Islamist group that has for several decades served as a bridge between the two factions.[13]

There is also evidence, in the form of corporate registrations, that the international Muslim Brotherhood has established dozens of offshore companies in Panama and the Caribbean. Additionally, Brotherhood companies appear to have financial dealings with specific banks that are often also involved in money laundering activities for drug cartels and other illegal transactions.[14]

In the Caribbean the Muslim Brotherhood has a long history of offshore banking, dating back to 1982, when its leaders opened as series of banks, insurance companies and offshore shell companies.[15] Globally, these banks handle billions of dollars of transactions and investments, according to senior U.S. counterterrorism officials.[16]

In the immediate aftermath of 9-11, the United States and United Nations moved to close down al Taqwa Bank and Akida Bank International, both the primary financial institutions of the international Muslim Brotherhood operating out of Nassau, Bahamas. According to statements by the U.S. Treasury Department, al Taqwa was a shell bank, with no real physical installations. The Treasury Department stated that the bank was used to funnel money to al Qaeda, even after the attacks on U.S. soil. The bank also allegedly facilitated secure communications among al Qaeda cells as well as the transportation of weapons. The key leaders of the bank, Yousef Nada, Ghalib Himmat and Idriss Nasreddin, were designated as terrorist financiers by the U.S. government and the United Nations.[17]

In addition to working with al Qaeda, the banks were also the primary financial institution for Hamas, even after the organization had been declared a terrorist group by the United States. At one point the bank reportedly held more than $60 million in Hamas funds.[18]

Offshore banking and corporate registries in the Caribbean that allow customer secrecy and nominee ownership have long provided financial safe havens for drug traffickers and transnational organized crime groups. While this is a tremendous problem, it is beyond the scope of this paper.

One of the most interesting and least studied developments of the past decade is the growth of salafist mosques, complete with outreach literature in Spanish and Portuguese.

There are few reliable statistics on the number of Muslims in Latin America. According to an Islamic data base there are some 200,000 Muslim in the Caribbean, and an additional 360,000 in South America, making up less than 3 percent of the total population.[19] However, few dispute the fact that Islam is growing, in part because of the concerted outreach effort by the same groups operating in Latin America among Latinos in the United States.[20]

For example, the website of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) has a special "Outreach Latino" page and the World Muslim League, one of Saudi Arabia’s largest non-governmental organizations, recently held a continent-wide conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to outline outreach programs and present the "true face of Islam."[21]

Since about 1997 there has been a concerted effort by Sunni Muslims to proselytize in South America. The mosque websites, tied to ISNA and the World Association of Muslim Youth (WAMY), offer information on "reversion," the Islamic term for conversion; literature, points of contact, and offers of aid. In some of the countries where new mosques have been built, the Islamic population remains negligible (for example in Bolivia, where the total national Muslim population is estimated at 3,000).[22]

The willingness of these Islamic groups to spend large amounts of money on infrastructure, translation and outreach demonstrates how seriously they view the need and potential for expansion in Latin America.

The Non-State Challenges

The threat of these groups is magnified by the potential alliances between radical Islamist groups (predominately Shia because of their more formal presence, but not exclusively) and the powerful, wealthy criminal networks that have deep roots in the hemisphere. These networks already possess the capacity to move tons of illegal drugs, thousands of vehicles, sophisticated weaponry and large numbers of illegal immigrants across the U.S. border, all capacities that Islamist groups can take advantage of and could desire to engage with. As Gen. James Hill testified in 2004, when he was commander of US SOUTHCOM:

Beyond narcoterrorist and gang violence, branches of Middle Eastern terrorist organizations conduct support activities in the Southern Command area of responsibility.  Islamic radical group supporters, extending from the Caribbean basin to the tri-border area of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil, conduct fund raising activities.  Terrorists who have planned or participated in attacks in the Middle East and the United States, such as captured high profile al Qaida terrorist Khalid Shaihk Mohammed, have spent time in the region.  Supporters generate illicit funds through money laundering, drug trafficking, arms deals, human smuggling, piracy, and document forgery.  They funnel tens of millions of dollars every year back to their parent organizations in the Middle East, thus extending the global support structure of international terrorism to this hemisphere.  Not surprisingly, Islamic radical groups, narcoterrorists in Colombia, and urban gangs across Latin America all practice many of the same illicit business methods.[23]

The criminal organizations have access to the United States and, if they should choose, could facilitate an attack by Islamist groups who could pay for their services. As has been shown in Africa and elsewhere, radical Islamic groups are willing to form short-term tactical alliances with criminal groups (the Madrid bombings, the blood diamond trade in West Africa), despite the lack of ideological or theological kinship with their temporary allies.

There is evidence that such alliances have already been formed, at least on a temporary basis. In little-noticed Congressional testimony in March 2006, FBI Director Robert Mueller said his agency had broken up a human smuggling ring "in which Hezbollah operatives were assisting others with some association with Hezbollah in coming to the United States." Mueller admitted that Hezbollah had succeeded in smuggling some of its operatives across the border, telling the House committee: "That was an organization that we dismantled and identified those persons who had been smuggled in. And they have been addressed as well."[24]

There has also been relatively little attention paid, on a policy and intelligence level, to the newer role of transnational criminal youth gangs based in Central America, such as Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Mara Calle18. Yet these groups, with aggregate membership now in the tens of thousands, pose a clear threat to U.S. critical infrastructure because of their strong organizations across the United States, their familiarity with weapons and explosives and rigid, brutally-enforced discipline. The U.S. military estimates that there are now at least 70,000 gang members in Central America and that "the level of sophistication and brutality of these gangs is without precedent."[25] In 2005, the FBI declared the MS-13 the most dangerous street gang in America, with as many as 10,000 members, operating in almost every state.

Some of the leaders of the most important gang branches are former members of the special forces of the U.S.-backed militaries, or members of elite units of Cuban-trained insurgent groups, meaning they possess the capacity to impart training in explosives, tactics and infiltration.[26] This high-level training and wealth of battlefield experience of these leaders, coupled with the easy availability of sophisticated weapons and the growing wealth and strengthening alliances of the gangs with traditional organized crime groups in the hemisphere, has exacerbated an already-bad situation.

These gangs have deep ties inside the United States, where thousands of members have set up related gang structures, particularly in the Los Angeles, Miami, Washington, D.C and New York areas. (There is further discussion of this in the Ungovernable Regions section below). Many of their members, in addition to sophisticated military training, have spent time in U.S. jails, where they are in touch not only with other hardened criminal gangs, but with radicalized Islamic groups. This potential alliance of groups with a theologically-driven hatred for the United States with sophisticated armed groups who are being specifically targeted for recruitment by Islamist groups is a serious threat.

The United States is ill-equipped to monitor, assess and plan for these multiple threats emerging from a region in close proximity to and with deep historical ties to the United States. In addition to SOUTHCOM’s sporadic presence, which is focused almost exclusively on drug trafficking issues, there are only five FBI Legal Attaché offices in South America, two in the Caribbean and three in Central America.[27]

Ungovernable Regions

Non-state armed groups are able to operate with impunity in much of Latin America because the weak and corrupt central governments have not had an effective enforcement presence in many of these regions for years.[28] As in Africa, also home to large swathes of "stateless" and ungovernable regions, this has bred a chronic instability, poverty and radicalization. While during the Cold War Latin America and Africa received some considerable attention in the competition between the U.S. and the Soviet bloc, today these powers’ interest in both regions has waned -- often replaced by investment, high-level delegations and even military advisors of the People Republic of China (PRC).

These ungovernable areas in Latin America offer the sanctuary and access to fungible financial resources that enable these groups to thrive. Among the primary stateless areas in the region are:

1. Much of Central America’s Atlantic coast, from Honduras through Guatemala and southern Mexico, expanding westward to include much of El Salvador. In this region the Mara Salvatrucha, with an extensive network stretching into California, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Maryland, and at least thirty other states, is one of the primary non-state actors. In addition to contributing to the failure of the rule of law in their countries of origin (primarily El Salvador and Honduras), through kidnapping, extortion, protection rackets and common criminal activity, these groups derive income by acting as agents for a host of illegal, transnational activities. These include weapons smuggling, the movement of illegal aliens, cocaine and heroin trafficking and stolen car parts. Other primary actors are Mexican drug trafficking organizations, who have built increasingly strong alliances with the gangs.

2. Southern Colombia, western Venezuela, northwestern Brazil, northwestern Colombia into the Darien Gap in Panama, and into Ecuador. These areas are a mixture of formal insurgent groups (the Marxist groups Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-FARC and National Liberation Army-ELN), paramilitary groups associated with --meaning tied directly to, and enjoying protection from -- elements of the militaries of Colombia and Venezuela, such as the United Self Defense of Colombia-AUC; and small, transnational drug cartels based in the Northern Cauca Valley, Barranquilla and Bogotá. All three groups, the FARC, ELN and AUC, have been designated terrorist organizations by the U.S. State Department.

What these groups share in common is that each derives the bulk of its revenue stream from the illegal cocaine and heroin trades, either as producers, transporters, coca growers, or international traffickers.

The primary actor in this area, and one that the United States is actively engaged in combating, is the FARC, the oldest Marxist-led insurgency in the hemisphere. Since its founding as a splinter of the Liberal Party in the mid-1960s the organization has gone through several changes, first as a Soviet-allied guerrilla movement during much of the Cold War, and now as an economic cartel largely devoid of ideological content and more closely resembling a drug trafficking organization.

With some 17,000 members, the FARC controls more than 40 percent of the Colombia’s national territory and poses a significant challenge to the central government. A junior partner in the rebel movement is the ELN, with less than 5,000 troops and less involvement in the drug trafficking trade. These groups together are responsible for thousands of kidnappings and hundreds of murders each year. Among those kidnapped are three American contractors who were flying drug eradication aircraft. In the past decade the FARC has killed at least seven U.S. citizens.

It is worth noting the extensive help and support the FARC and ELN receive from the Chavez government, which has refused to designate the groups as terrorist organizations. In addition to the open presence of FARC leaders in Venezuela, using Venezuelan identity papers, senior U.S. counter-terrorism officials have expressed growing concern about Venezuela also providing identity cards to other terror-related groups.[29]

A third group is the AUC, also known as "Paramilitaries," which been involved in sporadic peace talks with the government, and whose members are accused of most of the worst human rights abuses that take place in their area. Several thousand AUC members have demobilized in recent months under a controversial government plan that grants the fighters amnesty in exchange for laying down their weapons.

Many of these paramilitary units are closely allied with some elements of the Colombian military and operate under the protection of some senior Colombian military commanders.[30]

3. The northern shield of Guyana, Suriname and French Guyana. In this region, local criminal groups involved in natural resource exploitation, primarily gold and timber, as well as small drug trafficking organizations often mix. Suriname, in particular, has become a major transit point for Colombian cocaine destined for the European market. It is also an area with a high concentration of Muslims, and where Hezbollah members have been active in crimes such as passport fraud and counterfeiting. However, there is almost no research into this area, or the potential for radicalization among the Muslim population.

4. The Tri-Border Area, comprised of the area around Foz de Iguaçu, where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay all come together. This has traditionally been a smuggling route and money laundering center for a variety of criminal organizations.

It is also an area from which Hezbollah operates, and was the location where much of the planning and training for the mid-1990s attacks on Jewish targets in Buenos Aires were carried out. In addition to the presence of Hezbollah for both logistical and financial reasons, there are anecdotal reports of a Hamas presence in the region. There has been a sporadic presence of al Qaeda in the late 1990s, as documented by the 9-11 Commission and others.[31]

The region is not primarily a haven for terrorist organizations, but rather a smuggling center that, in the past decade, has developed into an important money laundering center for Colombian, Brazilian, Bolivian and Peruvian drug trafficking organizations. A primary method of laundering is through the largely unregulated exchange houses, largely on the Brazilian side of the border.

However, as has been the case in other ungovernable areas, the lack of a state presence and the easy availability of money laundering and money making facilities has attracted Hezbollah operatives to the region, who are able to operate easily among the estimated 25,000 citizens of Lebanese descent in the region.[32] Many of the families of Lebanese origin have a long history in the region, as well as extensive family and clan networks that connect them not only to Lebanon but to relatives in other free trade zones and money laundering operations elsewhere in Latin America.

Two recent events underscore the growing importance of the criminal elements in the TBA. The first is the Sept. 26, 2006 announcement by the Manhattan District Attorney of a settlement with the Bank of America for the bank’s negligence in dealing with money transfer services from the region. According to the settlement statement, from May 2002 to April 2004, some $3 billion flowed from a Brazilian money service operation through a remitter in Uruguay, passing through shell companies established in Panama and the British Virgin Islands.[33]

On Dec. 6, 2006, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control designated nine individuals and two commercial entities in the TBA as terrorist financiers for their alleged support of Hezbollah. According to the OFAC statement, the designated network operated as a "major financial artery to Hizbollah in Lebanon."[34]


There are numerous factors that now make Latin America a serious security concern, regardless of any specific terrorist threat or action. These include:

o     the growing ties between Latin American countries and state sponsors of terror, such as Iran;

o     a growing Islamist presence and activism in the region aimed at converting and recruiting Latin Americans who can easily migrate into the U.S.;

o     the marked reversal in democratic gains in several countries (Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and possibly Nicaragua);

o     the existence of large, ungovernable areas within the region which serve as havens and staging areas for criminal and terrorist activities;

o     Venezuela’s tolerance, if not overt sponsorship, of regional terrorist organizations responsible for drug trafficking, kidnappings and instability; and,

o     the perennial problems of drug trafficking, transnational criminal networks and Central American gangs.

These are all issues deserving of greater focus and vigilance from Washington.  The increasingly permissive operational environment for Islamist radicals and their teaming arrangements with criminal elements and some of the region’s major political actors represents a significant challenge for U.S. intelligence, law enforcement, diplomatic and military leaders at a time when their attention is largely focused elsewhere. 

[1] Posture statement of Gen. Brantz J. Craddock, U.S. Army Commander, U.S. Southern Command, before the 109th Congress, Senate Armed Services Committee, March 15, 2005.

[2] Theresa Bradley, "Iran, Venezuela Urge OPEC to Keep Oil Production Low," Bloomberg News, Jan. 13, 2007.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] These figures are from the U.S. Department of Energy. See: and /


[7] The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are the oldest insurgent group in the Western Hemisphere. Begun in the 1960s as a breakaway faction of the Liberal Party, the FARC has, in the past four decades has been a largely rural guerrilla movement espousing a Soviet-Marxist ideology. Since the late 1980s it has become increasingly involved in the protection of illegal coca fields and the production of cocaine. Revenues from this ever-closer association with drug trafficking cartels has allowed the FARC to greatly expand its recruiting efforts, modernize its arsenal and retain control of about 40 percent of Colombia’s national territory, although it controls no major cities.

[8] Posture statement of Gen. Brantz J. Craddock, U.S. Army Commander, U.S. Southern Command, before the 109th Congress, Senate Armed Services Committee, March 15, 2005.

[9] Tony Capaccio, "Venezuela’s Arms Purchases Since 2005 Top China, Iran, Pakistan," Bloomberg News, Jan. 22, 2007, accessed at:

[10] Ibid.


[12] Jeanneth Valdivieso, "Troubled U.S. Presence on Ecuador’s Coast," The Associated Press, Feb. 6, 2007, accessed at:

[13] Among the leaders of the international Muslim Brotherhood or Ikwan al-Musulman who have worked across this divide are Yousef Nada, Idriss Nasreddin and Ghalib Himmat, who have all been designated terrorist sponsors by the U.S. government and the United Nations.

[14] Some preliminary work in this field has been done by the NEFA Foundation, including the retrieval of corporate records from Panama and the Bahamas on Islamic banking institutions and offshore companies of the leadership of the international Muslim Brotherhood. These documents are in possession of the author.

[15] Research sponsored by the NEFA Foundation has documented numerous banks and companies registered in Nassau, Bahamas, Panama. These documents are in possession of the author.

[16] Author interview with two senior U.S. counter-terrorism officials. The Muslim Brotherhood financial holdings are generally estimated to be about $5 billion, the officials said.

[17] U.S. Treasury Department Statement on Terrorist Designations, Aug. 12, 2002

[18] U.S. Treasury Department Statement on Terrorist Designations, Aug. 12, 2002

[19] These figures were arrived at by totaling the number of Muslims in each country from the figures from the Islamic Population website. The country with the largest Muslim population was Brazil, with about 170,000, followed by Venezuela with some 85,000 and Argentina with 50,000. The figures are accessible here:

[20] Not all the Latin American immigrants from Greater Lebanon, known throughout Latin America as "turcos," are Muslim. There was a large-scale Christian migration to Latin America as well, particularly at the turn of the 20th century. However, many of these groups retain strong family ties to Lebanon and the Middle East. This group is not included in this paper, except to note that some of the Christian families support the Islamist causes in their places of origin out of national and ethnic pride.

[21] The event, held Oct. 30-Nov. 1, 2006 and co-sponsored by the Organizacion Islamica Para America Latina, was inaugurated by the vice president of Argentina. A complete write-up of the event can be found at:

[22] An example of the type of websites and their cross links can be found by going to the following sites:;;;;;;; and There are numerous other websites that appear to be the work of a small group of people, often claiming affiliation with Hezbollah and calling for "eradicating the enemy to the North." These websites do not appear to be linked to other sites. See for example:;;; and, which advocates placing explosives to blow up U.S. installations.

[23] Perhaps one of the most unusual places for Muslim proselytizing has been Chiapas, Mexico, in the heart of one of the few armed revolutionaries movements still active, albeit on a very limited level. For details of these efforts, whose leaders have been tied to Holocaust denial groups, see: Susan Ferriss, "Links to Mayan, Moorish Roots Survive Centuries of Oppression,; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Aug. 12, 2002, Another website claims to represent Hezbollah among the Wayuu indigenous group in northern Colombia, which can be viewed here:

[24] Testimony of Gen. James T. Hill, United States Army, Commander , United States Southern Command, before the House Armed Services Committee, March 24, 2004.

[25] "FBI’s Mueller: Hezbollah Busted in Mexican Smuggling Ring,", accessed at:

[26] Posture statement of Gen. Brantz J. Craddock, U.S. Army Commander, U.S. Southern Command, before the 109th Congress, Senate Armed Services Committee, March 15, 2005.

[27] Author interviews with leaders of Mara Salvatrucha in San Salvador, Mexico and the United States.

[28] These figures come from the FBI official website, The countries in Latin America with legal attaché offices are: Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Venezuela and Brazil. The Caribbean has offices in Barbados and the Dominican Republic. Central America has legal attaché offices in Mexico, Panama and El Salvador.

[29] Much of this section is drawn from the author’s work, which was first published as follows: Richard H. Shultz, Douglas Farah and Itamara V. Lochard, "Armed Groups: A Tier-One Security Priority," Institute for National Security Studies, Occasional Paper 57, September 2004. Accessible at:

[30] Statement of Frank C. Urbancic, principal deputy coordinator for Counterterrorism, statement before the House Committee on International Relations, Subcommittee on International Terrorism and Nonproliferation, July 13, 2006, accessed at:

[31] Crimes of War: What the Public Should Know, edited by Roy Gutman and David Reiff, W.W. Norton, New York, 1999, pp. 92-96.

[32] For a review of known terrorist activity in the Tri-Border Area, including Hamas, Hezbollah and Egyptian Islamic Jihad, see: Angel Rabasa et al, Beyond al Qaeda, Part 2: The Outer Rings of the Terrorist Universe, Rand Corporation, prepared for the United States Air Force, December 2006, pp. 153-159.

[33] Angel Rabasa et al, Beyond al Qaeda, Part 2: The Outer Rings of the Terrorist Universe, Rand Corporation, prepared for the United States Air Force, December 2006, p. 154.

[34] News Release, District Attorney-New York County, Sept. 27, 2006.

[35] U.S. Treasury Department, Office of Public Affairs, "Treasury Targets Hizbollah Fundraising Network in The Triple Frontier of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay," Dec. 6, 2006. The BBC reported seeing documents showing that linked a company called Telefax to unlicensed remittances totaling millions of dollars to the Middle East. The story is accessible here:

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