Homeland Security Network Blog
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Countering Violent Extremism In The Western Hemisphere
U.S. Department of State
Overview: Many countries in Latin America have porous borders, limited law enforcement capabilities, and established smuggling routes. These vulnerabilities offered opportunities to local and international terrorist groups and posed challenges to governments in the region. Canada and the Caribbean – particularly Trinidad and Tobago – were sources of foreign terrorist fighters in 2016; the return of these trained foreign terrorist fighters is of great concern.
Transnational criminal organizations continued to pose a significant threat to the region, and most countries made efforts to investigate possible connections between terrorist organizations and criminal activity. For many countries in the region, the challenges related to transnational crime remained the preeminent security concern in 2016. Corruption, weak government institutions, insufficient interagency cooperation, weak or non-existent legislation, and a lack of resources remained the primary causes for the lack of significant political will to counter terrorism in some Western Hemisphere countries. Nevertheless, some countries, like Brazil and Trinidad and Tobago, have made significant progress in their counterterrorism efforts.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the Government of Colombia reached an agreement to end their five-decade conflict. The Colombian Congress approved the peace accord on November 30, 2016, which put in motion a six-month disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration process. In 2016, the Colombian government continued exploratory peace talks with the National Liberation Army, which continued to conduct terrorist activities; a date for formal peace negotiations was set for early 2017 in Quito, Ecuador. Peru’s Shining Path terrorist group remained active, but with reduced strength, and focused mostly on criminal activities.
The Tri-Border Areas of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay remained an important regional nexus of arms, narcotics, pirated goods, human smuggling, counterfeiting, and money laundering – all potential funding sources for terrorist organizations.
Terrorist groups based in the Middle East find some support in Latin America despite the geographic distance. The call to fight in Iraq or Syria drew limited numbers of recruits from Latin America and parts of the Caribbean, which offered areas of financial and ideological support for ISIS and other terrorist groups in the Middle East and South Asia. In addition, in 2016 Hizballah maintained some financial supporters, facilitators, and sympathizers in the region that it could tap for support in building and expanding its activities there.
In 2016, the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE) focused programs and activities on cyber and supply chain security as part of the OAS’ long-standing work on critical infrastructure security and resilience. The 16th CICTE Regular Session took place in February in Washington, DC, and brought together high level experts and authorities from the region to discuss the use of the internet for terrorist and criminal purposes, among other topics.
In 2016, the Caribbean Community Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (CARICOM/IMPACS) took steps to develop a coordinated regional counterterrorism strategy for the Caribbean, which it plans to release in 2017. CARICOM also consulted with international partners including the United States, Canada, and the United Nations to identify best practices for inclusion in its counterterrorism strategy. This effort to improve cooperation and coordination builds on the CARICOM Crime and Security Strategy, approved in 2013.
The United States collaborated with both Canada and Mexico to protect our shared borders through regular exchanges of intelligence and other information.