Paraguay Toughens Antiterrorist Laws
By Raúl Sánchez-Azuara / Diálogo September 26, 2019
“Organizations like IS and al-Qaida and related groups are a threat to the individual and collective security of citizens. Hezbollah and Hamas armed militias continue with their international operations, many of them in the Western Hemisphere,” the decree says.
The tri-border nations have worked together to counter terrorism since the attacks in Buenos Aires, Argentina, against the Israeli Embassy in 1992, which killed 29 people, and against the AMIA Jewish center in 1994, with a death toll of 85.
In July 2018, Argentina designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and ordered a freeze on the assets of the Bakarat Clan, a group specialized in software piracy and counterfeit money, after finding that its members operated through a casino in Puerto Iguazú, Argentina, to launder $10 million for Hezbollah. In September 2018, clan leader Assad Bakarat was arrested in Brazil at the request of Paraguay, said Argentine newspaper La Nación.
Although terrorism has not caused any fatalities in Paraguay, the presence of criminal groups in the country facilitates illegal commercial transactions to fund Hezbollah. In November 2018, Paraguayan newspaper ABC Color called Hezbollah’s activities “mega-laundering,” referring to the largest money laundering scheme in Paraguay, reaching $1.2 billion. Hezbollah raises funds using methods such as fake charity organizations, money laundering, and weapons trafficking, but its main business is narcotrafficking, said news agency CNN.
The new Paraguayan decree provides legal weapons to the limited judiciary arsenal of the authorities. The executive order says that any person who takes part in, or supports funding, planning, or committing terrorist attacks will be brought to justice.
After the Paraguayan decree, Brazil is considering following in the footsteps of its two neighbors, although the measure won’t be easy to implement due to legal flaws in its counterterrorism laws. The measure might also upset the powerful Lebanese community in Brazil and strain relations with Iran, a Hezbollah partner that imports $250 billion in Brazilian products a year. The government also fears becoming the target of terrorism, said the Brazilian newspaper O Globo.
Paraguayan Interior Minister Juan Ernesto Villamayor told the Paraguayan State Information Agency that the decree will activate surveillance protocols over the funding of these groups, so as to defeat international terrorism. “[We are going to] improve terrorism prevention tasks within the National Police and the systems of currency control through SEPRELAD [Secretariat for the Prevention of Money Laundering] and similar institutions,” Villamayor concluded.