- The commander of U.S. Southern Command, Admiral James Stavridis, gave his annual “Posture Statement” testimony [PDF] before the House and Senate this week. One new element was increased expression of concerns about activities of Islamic terrorist groups in the region.
Another threat to the United States is the nexus with Islamic radical terrorism.Â In August of last year, U.S. Southern Command supported a Drug Enforcement Administration operation, in coordination with host countries, which targeted a Hizballah-connected drug trafficking organization in the Tri-Border Area of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay.Â Last October, we supported another interagency operation that resulted in the arrests of several dozen individuals in Colombia associated with a Hizballah-connected drug trafficking and money laundering ring. …
Islamic terrorist networks are also active, primarily involved in fundraising and logistical support for parent organizations based in the Middle East, such as Hizballah and Hamas.Â Individuals with terrorist training and experience who could support or conduct terrorist attacks in our hemisphere may be present in the region, and our intelligence has demonstrated that pre-operational and operational activities have indeed occurred, as exemplified by the attempt to blow up fuel pipelines at the JFK airport in New York in 2007.
Islamic terrorist networks are present in the Tri-border Area, as well as several other locations in the region.Â A robust Hizballah financial support network exists in the region, as well as an active group of sympathizers and supporters of Hizballah.Â Also present are Sunni groups, including Hamas, whose members possess operational backgrounds.Â Moreover, known al-Qaâ€™ida members have journeyed to Latin America and the Caribbean and other terrorist-inspired Islamic radicals have been arrested in the region.
- Admiral Stavridis won’t be commanding Southern Command for much longer. The Defense Department on Wednesday announced his nomination to head NATO as the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.
- In several Colombian cities at once, “emerging” paramilitary groups posted flyers threatening specific individuals. The newsmagazine Cambio reports that people mentioned in some of the threatening flyers have begun to be killed.
- Seven fishermen were massacred, likely by an “emerging” paramilitary group, in the northwestern Colombian department of ChocÃ³.
- U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy continues to place a hold on $72 million in military aid to Colombia, pending progress in prosecuting cases of “false positives”: hundreds of civilians allegedly killed by the military, then presented as guerrillas or paramilitaries killed in combat.
- Two recent articles in the Colombian newsmagazine Semana indicate that Colombia’s security forces believe they are near capturing or killing one of the FARC’s most powerful leaders, Secretariat member and Eastern Bloc leader Jorge BriceÃ±o, alias “El Mono Jojoy.”
- Semana also published an important three-article series on the conflict’s victims’ frustrating and dangerous efforts to recover land that paramilitary groups stole from them – and the resulting “counter-land reform” that Colombia’s countryside has experienced.
- Far-right intellectual Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, whom Ãlvaro Uribe had named to serve as Colombia’s ambassador to Portugal, devoted a column in today’s El Tiempo to attacking Colombia’s attorney-general, Mario IguarÃ¡n, for seeking to punish military human-rights abuse. The prose borders on the truly hilarious.
“The Attorney-General’s Office” – I have written – “is the best ally in the judicial warfare being fought against the Army.” I proved that when a member of the office’s Human Rights Unit, an expert in charges against the military, told me in secret: “I’m the only one here who isn’t a friend of the communists.” The FARC’s infiltration of the Attorney-General’s Office and the rest of the judicial branch has been lengthy, slow, and very effective. If Mario IguarÃ¡n hasn’t noticed, it is because his advisors and friends move in circles of the old left, supporters of dialogue [with guerrillas] and of ChÃ¡vez and adversaries of Uribe, for whom any charge against a military officer, orchestrated by a press starving for front-page news, is worth its weight in gold. On the other hand, those of us who denounce the falsehood of these charges are seen by them as representatives of the extreme right. Are they “useful idiots?” That is what Lenin affectionately called those who, without knowing it, helped the Bolsheviks.
- Bolivia’s government says it is working on a “new framework agreement” to guide future relations with the United States.
- President Obama called Mauricio Funes, the new president-elect of El Salvador from the FMLN insurgency-turned-political party, on Wednesday. “The President said he looked forward to working with the new Salvadoran administration and expressed his desire for developing an ongoing dialogue to ensure a productive relationship,” read the White House statement.
- Obama also met last weekend in Washington with Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, spoke on the phone with Argentina’s Cristina FernÃ¡ndez de Kirchner, and will visit Mexico a week before the April 23 Summit of the Americas.
- Vice-President Joe Biden will be in San JosÃ©, Costa Rica on March 30 to meet with Central America’s presidents. Funes will attend. So will Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.