Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, United States Create Counter-terrorism Groupbhaez
By Eduardo Szklarz/Diálogo September 06, 2019
The agreement, announced on July 19, 2019, coincided with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Buenos Aires to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the attack on the Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Society (AMIA, in Spanish). The Argentine court seeks to indict Iranian officials for ordering — and Hezbollah for executing — the AMIA attack that killed 85 people and injured more than 300.
“The four countries have made a decision to set up a regional security mechanism,” said Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie at a press conference in Buenos Aires.
According to Faurie, the measure will help to coordinate political and diplomatic efforts to counter illicit activities in the region, as well as potential connections to transnational crime and terrorism financing. “This mechanism will be ratified in biannual meetings, with the coordination of the four ministries of foreign affairs and the support of other agencies in our countries that are competent in this field,” he said.
Security analysts praised the initiative. “This counter-terrorist partnership is very important, since Latin America isn’t free of terrorism”, Luis Fleischman, sociology professor at Palm Beach State College in Florida and consultant at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., told Diálogo.
“A group linked to the Islamic State was dismantled in Brazil. Hezbollah maintains a presence in Venezuela, and their supporters have been found in several countries in the region, including Peru and the Guyanas, with intentions to commit terrorist acts”, said Fleischman.
Argentina freezes Hezbollah assets
Argentina’s Financial Information Unit (UIF, in Spanish) ordered a freeze on the assets of Hezbollah and its leaders on July 18, after officially designating the organization a “terrorist group.” UIF said that Hezbollah had been designated a terrorist organization by many states, including Australia, Canada, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as the European Union.
“These designations clearly show that Hezbollah has been responsible for committing numerous terrorist attacks worldwide,” Mariano Federici, UIF president, told Diálogo. “Today, Hezbollah continues to be a threat for national security and for the integrity of the financial and economic order in Argentina.”
Registry of terrorist organizations
As part of its commitment against terrorism, the Argentine government also implemented the Public Registry of People and Entities Linked to Terrorism and Financing. This database, created by a decree Argentine president Mauricio Macri issued on July 16, seeks to “prevent, counter, and eradicate terrorism and its financing,” according to Article 24.
The list designates Hezbollah and its leaders. Among these are Hasan Nasrallah, the group’s secretary general; Hashem Safieddine, executive officer; Naim Qasim, deputy secretary general; and Samuel Salman el Reda, a member of the Hezbollah External Security Organization, who is accused of direct involvement in the AMIA attack.
“Hezbollah might be assisting the Venezuelan government of Nicolás Maduro with paramilitary assault troops, in addition to having strong bonds with narcotrafficking,” said Fleischman. “We expect countries like Chile to join this regional pact, since some Islamic extremists operate in the Andean country as well.”