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Terrorists in Latin America and Canada

President Fox of Mexico has vowed to cooperate with the US in preventing terrorists from entering the United States. An Ibero-American summit in Lima voted unanimously to fight terrorism (Fidel Castro did not attend). What few realize is that Argentina is an important player in this game, as Martin Edwin Andersen, a senior research analyst at Freedom House demonstrates in a forthcoming book, History of the Argentine Police. Islamic groups including Al-Qaeda, have established themselves among the considerable Near Eastern populations in the area, especially in Argentina. They are commonly called "turcos", "siriolibaneses", or "libaneses". Many of them are Christian Arabs, but they have almost as much animosity toward the US as do the Muslims. Argentina has also a large Jewish population, resulting in terrorist acts like the 1994 bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish Community Center. Former Argentine president Corlos Menem is the son of Syrian parents. In the mid 90s, the US under Clinton agreed to a visa waiver program. and many people entered the US with false Argentine passports, allegedly with the connivance of the Argentine police. The US is now trying to track them down.

Christians from the Middle East, of whom there are a number in Santiago de Chile, have resentments against Israel and the US. Greek Christians are angered by stories that in Israel their Church connived with the government, selling church lands to it. Reportedly these lands include the sites where the Knesset and the Holocaust Museum are built. The Armenian Christians have their grievance too. Because of its alliance with Turkey, Israel refuses to acknowledge the fact of the Armenian genocide.

Cuba and Venezuela are special problems. Castro is undoubtedly cooperating with guerrilla groups in Latin America, while his friend President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela seems to be supporting the FARC in Colombia. He has visited Saddan Hussein in Iraq and Muammar Qadaffi in Libya. He has been vocally critical of the US bombing of Afghanistan. He has written a letter to his "Dear compatriot" Illich Ramírez Sánchez , the Venezuelan terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal, who is jailed in France for murdering two French secret agents.

Canada has a different problem. Because the main US problem is the Mexican border, the Canadian border is much more lightly guarded, and a number of terrorists have taken advantage of that to enter the United States. Washington has asked Canada to filter entries more carefully. Apparently Quebec authorities have not been very cooperative. Canada has the British parliamentary system, which features direct confrontation in a way the US presidential system does not. An extremely tense session of the Canadian parliament discussed the terrorist question, and there were charges that the French legal system is defective because it has allowed terrorists to travel to French Canada. Few Americans have any idea of these complexities. Fortunately the CIA and the State Department's Office of Counter-terrorism seem to be doing an excellent job of covering the issue. Enforcement will be another matter.

Ronald Hilton - 12/5/01