Chapter 2. Country Reports: Western Hemisphere

Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism
Report

WESTERN HEMISPHERE

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.

ARGENTINA

Overview: In 2016 Argentina focused its counterterrorism strategy on its northern and northeastern borders, which include the Tri-Border Area where Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay meet, and where terrorist financing networks operate. The Government of Argentina systematically issued statements condemning violent acts perpetrated by ISIS and other global terrorist organizations.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In 2016, the Government of Argentina announced a plan to reform its counterterrorism legal framework. The proposed legislation would include penal system reforms, a new approach to countering terrorist financing, and a modernization of security and intelligence capabilities. Multiple security agencies maintained specialized law enforcement units that have substantial capabilities to respond to terrorist incidents.

The criminal investigations into and prosecutions of the 1994 terrorist bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people remained in the news. Former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner testified before an investigative court about her role in the congressional commission tasked with the investigation into the bombing. The former president was a member of the commission from 1996 until 2001 during her tenure as a federal senator. In late December of 2015, following the election of Mauricio Macri as president, the new administration chose not to appeal a federal court ruling invalidating a Memorandum of Understanding between Argentina and Iran concerning the investigation into the bombing. The Memorandum had been negotiated and signed by the Fernandez de Kirchner administration, who maintained that the agreement with Iran would clarify Iran’s alleged role in the bombing. Several former Iranian officials have been indicted for planning and executing the bombing, and are subject to INTERPOL Red Notices.

There was a substantial increase in U.S.-Argentina law enforcement and security cooperation in 2016. In early March, the Department of State approved funding to support the development of a Fusion Center for Argentine security forces, based on the U.S. model, to expand capabilities and improve communications and information sharing between Argentine federal ministries. U.S. agencies have hosted Argentine counterparts and organized training courses in counterterrorism and fusion center strategic planning.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Argentina is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America, a FATF-style regional body. Its financial intelligence unit, Unidad de Informacion Financiera (UIF), is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. In February, President Macri’s administration announced its plan to counter money laundering and terrorist financing and expanded UIF’s authority as the lead agency on all financial intelligence matters. Argentina also passed legislation in mid-2016 which allows the UIF to share information with relevant law enforcement and security agencies; previously, the UIF could only share information with the prosecutor’s office. This new authority should improve Argentina’s ability to use financial intelligence to identity and disrupt the activities of illicit actors. The UIF did not identify any cases involving terrorist financing in 2016. Two cases identified in 2014 – as possibly involving terrorist financing – remained under investigation at the end of 2016.

While Argentina has established the legal authorities and mechanisms necessary to identify and counter the financing of terrorism, results in the form of targets identified, assets seized, and cases prosecuted have been minimal. Following the September 2016 visits of the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and the Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing, the United States and Argentina renewed bilateral cooperation against terrorist financing.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.

Countering Violent Extremism: The Government of Argentina consistently issued statements of condemnation against major acts of international terrorism in 2016. Argentina participated in the UN Conference on Preventing Violent Extremism and pledged its support to the UN Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism.

International and Regional Cooperation: Argentina participates in the Organization of American States Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism and the Southern Common Market Special Forum on Terrorism. Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay coordinated law enforcement efforts in the Tri-Border Area via their Trilateral Tri-Border Area Command. In 2016, Argentina resumed its participation in the International Law Enforcement Academy in San Salvador, El Salvador.

BRAZIL

Overview: Counterterrorism cooperation between Brazil and the United States was strong, with increased information sharing in 2016. The Brazilian government passed legislation criminalizing terrorism and terrorist financing and dramatically increased both interagency and international cooperation on counterterrorism issues in 2016. In repeated public statements in advance of the 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazilian officials candidly assessed the potential threat posed by a high-profile gathering of foreigners and prepared for the possibility of a lone offender/self-radicalized individual or other terrorist threat at the Olympics. The Brazilian government deployed an interagency strategy on counterterrorism, integrated counterterrorism command centers which included international partners, and launched a public awareness campaign, “See, Inform, Save,” to encourage citizens to be alert to potential terrorist or security threats. No terrorist incident occurred at the Olympic Games. Commentators noted the concerted Brazilian effort to improve counterterrorism cooperation as a potential lasting legacy of the Games.

The Brazilian Federal Police (DPF) – Brazil’s lead counterterrorism agency – worked closely with the United States and other nations’ law enforcement entities to assess and mitigate potential terrorist threats, especially leading up to the Olympics. The Brazilian government continued to support counterterrorism activities, which included third-country technical assistance for controlling sensitive technologies, assessing and mitigating potential terrorist threats in advance of major events, and investigating fraudulent travel documents.

In 2016, press reports indicated the new online presence of a Portuguese-speaking ISIS recruiter (Ismail Abdul Jabbar Al Brazili – “The Brazilian”) and potential Brazilian sympathizers.

As a result of the deepest economic recession in Brazil’s modern history and a fiscal short-fall, there were austerity cuts across the government, including at the law enforcement agencies that address counterterrorism and rule of law.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: On March 16, Brazil’s president signed Law #13.260, criminalizing terrorism and terrorist financing, including specific provisions addressing foreign terrorist fighters. The law imposed penalties of up to 12 to 30 years’ imprisonment for terrorism and 15 to 30 years for terrorist financing – in addition to any other applicable charges. The law also criminalized preparatory acts that could lead to a terrorist attack. This law includes penalties for those who recruit individuals to another country with the purpose of practicing acts of terrorism, as well as those who provide or receive such training in another country, in line with UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 2178 (2014) on foreign terrorist fighters.

The Law joined companion legislation (Law #13.170, signed October 16, 2015) to facilitate the freezing of assets, giving Brazil a comprehensive legal counterterrorism framework for the first time. Together, the two laws closed a longstanding legal gap in Brazil that had hindered counterterrorism investigations and prosecutions.

Law #13.260 was used for the first time on July 21, two weeks ahead of the start of the Olympic Games. As part of “Operation Hashtag,” Brazilian Federal Police arrested 12 Brazilian citizens under suspicion of preparatory acts for an intended terrorist attack. Since then, charges have been filed against eight individuals, with trials pending at year’s end.

In November, Brazil’s president established a permanent federal interagency committee on border security issues, as part of a stated objective by the administration to prioritize the issue.

Prior to the Olympics, Brazil instituted an interagency structure on counterterrorism strategy, led jointly by the Ministry of Justice and Citizenship, the Institutional Security Cabinet, and the Ministry of Defense. Brazil’s Ministry of External Affairs leads on counterterrorism policy at international fora. This strategic planning led to the establishment of counterterrorism protocols for a wide range of potential scenarios, with a particular focus on soft targets.

Operationally, multiple Brazilian law enforcement agencies have counterterrorism responsibilities. The Brazilian Federal Police’s Anti-Terrorism Division – which reports to the Ministry of Justice and Citizenship – is the lead counterterrorism agency, responsible for investigating any terrorist-related threats or groups. Response duties are shared by state-level Military Police Departments, through their respective Police Special Operations Battalions; and the state-level Civil Police Departments, through their respective Divisions of Special Operations. The Brazilian Intelligence Agency, which reports to the Institutional Security Cabinet, also monitors terrorist threats. Brazil’s military leads on border security issues and on chemical, biological, nuclear, and radiological emergency response. Coordination between civilian security and law enforcement agencies, and the Brazilian military, is hindered by inter‑agency rivalries, but has made great strides through Brazil’s preparations for major events. Interagency coordination would benefit from consolidated and automatic information sharing.

All of Brazil’s law enforcement agencies with counterterrorism responsibilities have benefitted from U.S. capacity-building training. In 2016, the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program delivered courses to security and law enforcement personnel covering such topics as countering international and transnational terrorism, preventing attacks on soft targets, and police leaders’ role in countering terrorism – all with the goal of enhancing investigative capabilities, building border security capabilities, and supporting Brazil’s efforts to prevent and respond to potential terrorist attacks at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Training courses had the added benefit of bringing together disparate agencies, which enhanced Brazilian interagency communication. In addition, the Department of State supported subject matter expert exchanges on emergency incident command response for major disasters and fire and medical rescue training, as well as supporting enhanced operational information sharing.

Brazilian authorities continued to work with other concerned nations – particularly the United States – to counter document fraud. Regional and international joint operations successfully disrupted a number of document vendors and facilitators, as well as related human‑smuggling networks. The Department of State provided comprehensive and ongoing counterfeit and fraudulent document recognition training to airline and border police units through its Investigations Program. The Investigations Program continued to train thousands of airline personnel and Brazilian Immigration officials at all of Brazil’s international ports of entry. The Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have trained Brazilian airline employees on identifying fraudulent documents.

The U.S.-Brazil Container Security Initiative (CSI) in Santos, which began in 2005, continued to operate throughout 2016. CSI promotes container security by co-locating CBP personnel overseas with Brazilian customs administrators, to target, detect, and inspect high-risk cargo while facilitating the movement of legitimate trade. CBP’s International Affairs and Field Operations Offices conducted joint workshops with Brazil to bolster supply chain security and port security. Similarly, the National Civil Aviation Agency, DPF, and Brazilian Customs continued to work with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to make modifications to Brazil’s National Cargo Security Program to gain TSA recognition of commensurability for cargo security procedures, training, and operations at Brazil’s international airports.

Brazil shares vast international borders with 10 different countries. Many of its borders – especially those with Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela – are porous. Irregular migration, especially by aliens from areas with a potential nexus to terrorism, is a growing problem, with Brazil often serving as a transit country.

Brazilian states maintained individual criminal records databases, and information sharing between the states is unwieldy. Biographic information is collected from foreign visitors, although biometric information is not. A 2013 law requires the collection of passenger name record data, and it is being gradually implemented. Brazil maintains its own watchlist, but it is not fully digitized and is not widely shared across all the relevant screening authorities. Brazil collaborates with other nations and INTERPOL on information sharing. On July 18, Brazilian airports began applying international security measures for inspection of passengers and hand luggage on domestic flights.

The Brazilian Army continued to implement an Integrated Border Monitoring System to monitor the country’s borders using a combination of soldiers, cameras, sensors, and satellites. The strategic initiative is underway in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, as a preliminary pilot project, with intention to cover the entire Brazilian border by 2021.

Brazil’s law enforcement, security officials, and justice system faced resource constraints when enforcing immigration law, supervising airport security and screening, and monitoring Brazil’s borders.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Brazil is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America, a FATF-style regional body. Its financial intelligence unit, the Council for Financial Activities Control (COAF), is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. COAF is a largely independent entity within the Finance Ministry and is responsible for monitoring domestic financial operations, identifying possible funding sources for terrorist groups, and implementing the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime.

Brazil criminalized terrorist financing via Law #13.260, signed March 16, 2016. Law #13.170, signed October 16, 2015, provided procedures for freezing assets relating to UN Security Council resolutions and for information provided through bilateral cooperation. Brazil’s laws and regulations still do not fully comply with FATF standards, however.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.

Countering Violent Extremism: The Government of Brazil consistently issued statements of condemnation against major acts of international terrorism in 2016. The DPF Anti-Terrorism Division takes the lead on addressing threats of radicalization to violence and countering violent extremism.

International and Regional Cooperation: Brazil participates in regional counterterrorism fora, including the Organization of American States and its Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism; the Union of South American Nations; and the working group on terrorism and sub‑working group on financial issues in the Southern Common Market. In addition, it participated in the 2016 establishment of BRICS (a grouping of emerging economies that includes Brazil, China, India, Russia, South Africa) Joint Working Group on Counterterrorism.

Brazil worked with a range of international law enforcement partners in its security plan for the 2016 Summer Olympics, through two Centers for International Police Cooperation (CCPI) and an Integrated Antiterrorism Center (CIANT). The CCPI included three foreign law enforcement officials for each of the 55 invited countries. CIANT also included representatives from invited countries.

The Brazilian government continued to invest in border and law enforcement infrastructure and has undertaken initiatives with its neighboring countries to control the flow of goods – legal and illegal – through the Tri-Border Area of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay.

CANADA

Overview: In 2016, Canada played a significant role in international efforts to detect, disrupt, prevent, and punish acts of terrorism. Canada and the United States maintained a close, cooperative counterterrorism partnership, and worked together on key bilateral homeland security programs such as the Beyond the Border initiative and the Cross Border Crime Forum. Canada made important contributions to the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and the Global Initiative to Counter Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT), and Canadian diplomacy supported global efforts to prevent radicalization, counter violent extremism, and promote stability and the rule of law. Canada rigorously implemented UN Security Council resolutions (UNSCRs) 2178 (2014) and 2199 (2015), monitored financial flows to counter terrorist financing, and implemented GCTF good practices on foreign terrorist fighters. The main terrorist threats in Canada are from Canada-based violent extremists inspired by terrorist groups such as ISIS and al-Qai’da and their affiliates and adherents.

Canada has made important contributions to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS over the past year. Although Ottawa withdrew its six deployed CF-18s from the effort in February, its two Aurora surveillance aircraft and one refueling aircraft remained in theater and Canada has tripled its contribution of Special Operating Forces which have been advising and assisting Kurdish Peshmerga in their efforts to recapture territory from ISIS. Canada has also provided significant humanitarian assistance to ISIS-impacted communities, including by accepting more than 39,000 Syrian refugees over the past year. Canadian law enforcement and security services are working to prevent the flow of foreign terrorist fighters to Iraq and Syria.

2016 Terrorist Incidents: Canada experienced two terrorist incidents:

  • On March 14, Ayanie Hassan Ali attacked Canadian soldiers at a military recruiting center in Toronto. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) formally charged him with three counts of attempted murder, two counts of assault causing bodily harm, three counts of assault using a weapon, and one count of carrying a weapon dangerous to the public, all for the benefit of a terrorist organization.
  • On August 10, Aaron Driver was killed outside his home in southern Ontario by police officers while he was attempting to carry out a terrorist attack after he released a video pledging allegiance to ISIS. Driver was subject to a peace bond from earlier in 2016, which directed he not associate with any terrorist organization, including ISIS.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Canada’s legal framework includes significant penalties for committing terrorist acts, conspiring to commit terrorist acts, financing terrorism, and traveling abroad to engage in terrorism. Canada still faces; however, a significant challenge in prosecuting individuals who have traveled abroad to engage in terrorism, due to the difficulty in proving association with terrorist organizations or having committed specific terrorist acts. Traveling abroad to commit acts of terrorism is a violation of Canadian federal law. Current measures in place enforcing those laws include: peace bonds, which could involve the denial of passport applications or revocation of valid passports of Canadian citizens suspected of traveling abroad or aspiring to travel abroad to commit acts of terrorism; and the maintenance of a watchlist of individuals (both citizens and non-citizen residents) flagged for potential involvement with terrorist organizations.

In 2016, the following legislative activity impacting Canada’s counterterrorism efforts included:

  • Bill C-6 (“An act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act”) was passed by the House of Commons on June 17, and awaits its second reading in the Senate. The bill was introduced in February to amend the Citizenship Act to remove the grounds for the revocation of Canadian citizenship that relate to national security.
  • Bill C-22 (“An Act to establish the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts”) was in the reporting stage in the House of Commons. In June, the government introduced the bill which seeks to establish the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians and to define its composition and mandate.
  • Bill C-23 (“Preclearance Act, 2016”) awaits its second reading in the House, where it has been dormant since June 2016. When signed, it would implement the March 2015 Agreement on Land, Rail, Marine, and Air Transport Preclearance and provide U.S. officers with powers to facilitate preclearance with the caveat that the exercise of any such power would be subject to Canadian law.
  • Bill C-51 (“Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015”) was put out for public comment to fulfill an election campaign promise to amend “objectionable elements,” but no action had been taken before the end of 2016.

Canadian government entities shared legally available terrorism-related information with U.S. counterparts in a timely, proactive fashion. Prosecutors worked in close cooperation with specialized law enforcement entities that use accepted investigative, crisis response, and border security techniques. Canadian federal law enforcement entities have clearly demarcated counterterrorism missions and maintain working relationships with their provincial and municipal counterparts as well as with elements of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Canada’s border security network uses travel document security technology, terrorist-screening watchlists, biographic and biometric screening capabilities at ports of entry, information sharing between host government entities and other countries, and collection of advance passenger name record information on commercial flights to safeguard its borders. Canada and the United States have established border security collaboration under the auspices of the Beyond the Border initiative as well as within the framework of the Cross Border Crime Forum and other ongoing law enforcement exchanges. Canadian security forces maintain patrols to secure the country’s land and maritime borders, with the Border Enforcement Security Task Forces and Integrated Border Enforcement Teams serving as models for effective cross-border law enforcement collaboration and capacity-building agencies. Canada continued to develop a traveler redress policy and process.

Canada conducted numerous law enforcement actions against terrorists and terrorist groups over the past year. The most significant were:

  • On March 26, Kevin Omar Mohamed, who was subject to peace bond restrictions, was arrested and charged with carrying a concealed weapon and for possession of a weapon dangerous to public peace. On March 29, he was charged with participating in the activity of a terrorist group over a two-year period. Mohamed was also accused of traveling to Turkey in April 2014 to join al-Qa’ida’s affiliate in Syria, al-Nusrah Front, a listed terrorist entity in Canada.
  • On December 5, Tevis Gonyou-McLean, a Muslim convert originally from Ottawa, was charged with allegedly threatening to bomb Ottawa’s police headquarters and issuing death threats. He had been arrested in August on RCMP fears he would engage in terrorism. He was not charged at the time, but was placed under a peace bond. He was subsequently rearrested on November 5 for breaching the conditions of the peace bond.

There are some deterrents to more effective Canadian domestic law enforcement and border security, most of which include privacy and disclosure issues. The United States and Canada signed a new Tip-Off US-CAN (TUSCAN) arrangement following Prime Minister Trudeau’s March 2016 visit to Washington, but the implementing protocols for the arrangement have not been developed. The development of a TUSCAN governance document continued at year’s end.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Canada is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a FATF-style regional body. Canada also has observer or cooperating status in the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force and the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America. Canada’s financial intelligence unit, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units, and is responsible for detecting, preventing, and deterring money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities. Canada is also an observer in the Council of Europe’s Select Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures.

Canada has rigorous detection and monitoring processes in place to identify money laundering and terrorist financing activities. Canada implements the UN Security Council (UNSC) ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime; criminalizes terrorist financing in accordance with international standards through implementation of UNSCRs 2178 and 2199; freezes and confiscates terrorist assets without delay; monitors and regulates money/value transfer and other remittance services; requires collection of data for wire transfers; obligates non-profits to file suspicious transaction reports and monitors them to prevent either misuse or terrorist financing; and routinely distributes the UNSC ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions list to financial institutions.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, we refer you to the 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.

Countering Violent Extremism: The RCMP National Security Community Outreach program promotes interaction and relationship-building with at-risk communities. The Department of Public Safety’s Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security fosters dialogue on national security issues between the government and community leaders, including diaspora groups. The government – at all levels: federal, provincial, and municipal – continued to work with non‑governmental partners and concerned communities to counter violent extremism through preventative programming and community outreach. Additionally, the Department of Public Safety was awaiting the appointment of a Special Advisor for its newly established Office of Community Engagement and Countering Radicalization to Violence and was financing a Community Resilience Fund to assist at-risk communities with US $900,000 per year.

International and Regional Cooperation: Canada prioritizes collaboration with international partners to counter terrorism and international crime and regularly seeks opportunities to lead. Canada is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum and co-chairs with Algeria its Sahel Region Capacity-Building Working Group. Canada remains active in numerous international fora dealing with counterterrorism, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the UN, the G-7, Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the ASEAN Regional Forum, the Commonwealth, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Maritime Organization, and the Organization of American States and its Inter‑American Committee Against Terrorism. Canada makes major contributions to GICNT, while its diplomacy supports efforts to prevent radicalization, counter violent extremism, and promote the rule of law overseas.

Global Affairs Canada maintains a Counterterrorism Capacity Building Program, which provides training, funding, equipment, and technical and legal assistance to states to enable them to prevent and respond to a broad spectrum of terrorist activity. Examples of activities supported by Canadian counterterrorism assistance include: border security; transportation security; legislative, regulatory, and legal policy development; human rights training; law enforcement, security, military, and intelligence training; chemical/biological/radiological/nuclear and explosives terrorism prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery; detection and prevention of terrorist financing; cyber security; and the protection of critical infrastructure.

 

COLOMBIA

Overview: Colombia experienced a significant decrease in terrorist activity in 2016, according to Defense Ministry statistics, due in large part to a bilateral cease-fire between government forces and Colombia’s largest terrorist organization, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Congressional approval of a peace accord between the government and the FARC on November 30 put in motion a six-month disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration process. In contrast to 2015, since August, there has been only one lethal confrontation between the military and FARC forces, resulting in the death of two guerrillas. Anecdotal reports from mayors and military contacts confirmed some FARC members continued extortion activities.

Talks between the government and the other major terrorist organization in Colombia, the National Liberation Army (ELN), were announced on October 10. Earlier in the year, President Santos ordered the military to intensify strikes against the ELN to push negotiations, while the ELN continued to conduct kidnappings, assassinations, and bombings. Colombian military statistics show a 94 percent increase over 2015 in the number of ELN members who demobilized.

Overall, the number of members of the FARC and ELN who were either killed in combat, captured, or demobilized, decreased compared to 2015. The number of civilian deaths from conflicts with guerilla organizations also decreased significantly. Colombian-U.S. counterterrorism cooperation remained strong. While Colombia has openly condemned ISIS and its objectives, it is not a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

2016 Terrorist Incidents: Colombian government statistics showed a 55 percent decrease in attacks from 2015. FARC attacks against the Colombian military stopped almost entirely after the June 23 bilateral cease-fire. The ELN continued low-cost, high-impact asymmetric attacks, such as launching mortars at police stations or the military, explosive devices placed near roads and paths, sniper attacks, and ambushes. Among the 2016 attacks, several were notable for their severity or press coverage:

  • In February, the ELN initiated a wave of violence, kidnapping military intelligence official Jair de Jesus Villar from a power plant in Antioquia on February 4, killing a police officer in Cauca on February 5, attacking the military’s 18th Brigade in Arauca with cylinder bombs on February 8, bombing the Cano Limon-Covenas oil pipeline in Boyacá on February 9, and throwing grenades that wounded eight police officers in the city of Cucuta on February 10.
  • On May 22, the ELN kidnapped three journalists in Norte de Santander. President Santos launched an 800-strong police search, and the ELN surrendered the journalists to a Catholic Church delegation after six days.
  • From July 3-5, the ELN killed six members of Colombia’s security forces: three marines in Vichada, a soldier in Antioquia, and two policemen in Nariño.
  • On October 27, the ELN killed two civilian truck drivers in the Arauca, one of Colombia’s biggest oil producing regions.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The investigation and prosecution of terrorism cases in Colombia is governed by Section 906 of Colombia’s Criminal Procedure Code. The purpose of Section 906 is to develop an evidence-based justice system with a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard of proof. Most terrorism cases are prosecuted under legal statutes also used for narcotics trafficking and organized crime.

The Attorney General Office’s specialized Counterterrorism Unit has prosecutors assigned at the national level in Bogotá and in conflict-heavy regions. The unit has developed expertise in investigating and prosecuting acts of terrorism with the Attorney General’s Technical Criminal Investigative Body, Colombia’s National Police (CNP), and the country’s military forces. The Attorney General’s Office also has specialized prosecutors embedded with CNP anti-kidnapping and anti-extortion units throughout the country to handle kidnapping-for-ransom and extortion cases. Such efforts are now focused on the investigation and prosecution of ELN and other armed groups, as opposed to the FARC.

The U.S. Department of Justice, through its International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program, continued to work with the Attorney General’s Office and other agencies on the development of a Standards and Training Commission to develop minimum standards for investigators, forensic experts, and criminal analysts. Forensic labs are in the process of securing international accreditation.

The CNP has specialized counterterrorism units in the Intelligence, Anti-Kidnapping, and Judicial Police Directorates, all with advanced investigation techniques and crisis response capabilities. Law enforcement units displayed effective command and control within each organization and were properly equipped and supported. Counterterrorism missions are demarcated to a limited extent between law enforcement and military units. No single agency has jurisdiction over all terrorism-related investigations and post-incident response, sometimes resulting in poor information sharing and cooperation.

In 2016, Colombian authorities continued to operate military task forces to enhance coordination in countering terrorism. The CNP managed fusion centers to ensure all operational missions coordinated intelligence, investigations, and operations under the command of regional police commanders. Additionally, the National Police Intelligence Directorate continued to operate a 24-hour Citizen Security Center tasked with detecting, deterring, and responding to terrorist attacks, among other crimes.

Colombian border security remained an area of vulnerability. Law enforcement officers faced the challenge of working in areas with porous borders and difficult topography plagued by the presence of illegal armed groups and illicit drug cultivation and trafficking. The CNP lacked the manpower to enforce uniform policies for vehicle or passenger inspections at land border crossings. Biometric and biographic screening was conducted only at international airports. The Colombian government does not use advance Passenger Name Records. Of a total force of 184,000 officers, the CNP has 1,577 officers assigned to Customs Enforcement (air, land, and seaports and borders) duties.

Colombia remained a transit point for the smuggling of third-country nationals who may seek to enter the United States illegally. Compared to 2015, Colombia saw a 387 percent increase in undocumented migrants in 2016, primarily Haitians and Cubans attempting to transit to the United States. Porous borders with Ecuador and Venezuela facilitated the movements of third‑country nationals, and existing maritime narcotics smuggling routes facilitated their onward movement to Central America. While Colombian immigration regularly detained third-country nationals who have entered the country illegally, the entity lacked both the personnel and enforcement authority to adequately respond to possible threats, and the financial resources to repatriate migrants.

Colombia continued cooperation and information sharing with the Panamanian National Border Service, while improved relations with neighboring Ecuador led to some increased cooperation on law enforcement issues. Following Venezuela’s unilateral border closure in August 2015, the Colombian and Venezuelan governments began to reopen border posts on August 13. On December 12, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro again ordered the closure of the border for 72 hours (which was subsequently extended) in a stated effort to crackdown on currency smuggling. Colombia and Venezuela continued to improve coordinated security and law enforcement efforts, including expanding the Bi-National Joint Command and Control Center to include a Bi-National Center for Fighting Transnational Organized Crime, increasing troops along the border, and considering proposals for maritime and fluvial cooperation.

Significant actions against terrorism in 2016 included:

  • Jairo Alirio Puerta Peña (aka Omar Cuñado), a FARC member allegedly linked to massacres in Chocó in 2002 and Antioquia that left hundreds of civilians dead, was sentenced in June to three years and six months in prison for the crime of aggravated rebellion.
  • On June 25, three ELN members were killed and a fourth arrested when the Colombian military staged a rescue operation to free a kidnapped businessman in Chocó.
  • On September 21, authorities captured ELN members Daniel Andrés Molina and Gonzalo Vega in Santander. Vega is believed to be the commander of the Martha Cecilia Pabón commission of the ELN’s Ephraim Pabón Pabón Front. Authorities seized two pistols, 91 cartridges, and one radio.

Law enforcement cooperation between Colombia and the United States remained strong. Evidence sharing and joint law enforcement operations occurred in a fluid and efficient manner. Colombia continued to participate in the State Department’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, which provided instruction and resources to assist Colombia in building advanced, self‑sustaining CNP capabilities to secure borders from terrorist transit, to investigate terrorists and terrorist incidents, and to protect critical infrastructure. Colombia continued to establish itself as a regional provider of law enforcement and counterterrorism training, particularly with regard to anti-kidnapping efforts and dignitary protection.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Colombia is a member of the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. Colombia’s Financial Information and Analysis Unit is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. Colombia stands out as a regional leader in the fight against terrorist financing, and has become a key part of a regional financial intelligence unit initiative aimed at strengthening information sharing among Latin American countries. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/2016/vol2/index.htm.

Countering Violent Extremism: The passing of a peace accord with the FARC initiated a disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration process allowing potentially 15,000 FARC combatants and militia members to disarm through June 2017. The accord calls for the establishment of a reincorporation council to determine protocols and institutional arrangements for the reintegration of ex-combatants. The council was formally constituted December 20; however, it is not yet certain what institution will lead the reintegration process.

Colombia continued to employ a modern, multi-agency approach to countering radicalization to violence and violent extremism, with a focus on encouraging individual members and entire units of the FARC and ELN to demobilize and reintegrate into society. In 2016, the number of ex‑combatants successfully graduating from the Colombian Reintegration Agency’s comprehensive program reached more than 15,000 ex-combatants. The number of FARC members who demobilized decreased, while the Colombian military reported an increase in ELN demobilizations and surrenders. Demobilization and reintegration programs provide medical care, psychological counseling, education benefits, technical training, and job placement assistance for demobilized combatants. To receive benefits, demobilized combatants must check in monthly with program managers. In contrast to last year, due to the peace talks, which included a comprehensive demobilization plan, the Colombian military ended a messaging campaign to promote desertion within the FARC.

International and Regional Cooperation: Colombia is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum and is actively involved in the United Nations, the Organization of American States and its Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism, the Pacific Alliance, and the Union of South American Nations. The CNP operates an INTERPOL office of approximately 90 analysts, agents, and support staff. Colombia also led the creation of the American Police Community (Ameripol) in 2007, and helped found the Latin American and Caribbean Community of Police Intelligence in 2005, whose Technical Secretariat is based in Bogotá.

Colombia is a leader in providing security training and assistance to other countries in the region. The CNP and military continued to operate schools that train security personnel from around the region. In 2016, Colombia conducted 107 security trainings for thousands of non‑Colombian individuals on citizen security, crime prevention and monitoring, military and police capacity building, anti-kidnapping, anti-extortion, hostage negotiation, and cybersecurity training. Colombia also provided judicial training to regional judges and prosecutors handling drug trafficking and terrorism cases, offered basic and advanced helicopter training to pilots from countries throughout Latin America, and maintained its elite Lancero and Jungla Special Forces courses open to students from other countries.

MEXICO

Overview: Counterterrorism cooperation between the Mexican and U.S. governments remained strong. There are no known international terrorist organizations operating in Mexico, no evidence that any terrorist group has targeted U.S. citizens in Mexican territory, and no credible information that any member of a terrorist group has traveled through Mexico to gain access to the United States. In December 2016, Mexican government officials observed on social media an increase in terrorist group sympathizers in its territory over the previous year. The Governments of Mexico and the United States are analyzing this information.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Mexico has a legal framework for the investigation and prosecution of terrorism and related crimes, including a special prosecutorial unit within the Office of the Attorney General dedicated to such investigations, which pursues open terrorism cases. However, some challenges remain. For instance, joint investigations with the Government of Mexico involve violations under “material support to terrorism” laws, but there was no legal instrument in Mexico to charge individuals with that specific crime in 2016.

The Government of Mexico continued to work towards full implementation of an accusatorial justice system, with varying levels of application across Mexico’s 32 states. All states transitioned to the new system before the June 18, 2016 national deadline; however, experts believe full implementation could take a decade or more as Mexico continues its efforts to change its legal culture, law school system, evidentiary standards, courtrooms, and police training. The United States continues to support the transition through the Merida Initiative.

Since 2014, Mexico’s border security enforcement capabilities have increased in focus and effectiveness along its southern border to address the surge of migrants from Central America. There has also been an increase in migrants from beyond the region attempting to enter Mexico through its southern border. Mexico’s border enforcement efforts are shared among Federal Police, military authorities, and customs and immigration agencies, the latter of which has primary authority to interdict irregular migrants. Corruption sometimes hinders the effectiveness of enforcement efforts.

Counterterrorism monitoring is carried out in airports and at migration stations through a constant review of regular and irregular people flows. Mexican authorities analyze passenger lists against name matches from international organizations and intelligence agencies. Whenever a profile coincides with risk lists, Mexico initiates the alert process. In the case of an INTERPOL Red Notice, the authorities are notified. In other cases they could be denied entry or returned to their country of origin.

The National Institute of Migration (INM) collects and disseminates passenger information for persons who raise terrorism concerns and incorporates INTERPOL watchlists into its database. INM collects limited biographic and biometric data at ports of entry and migration stations.

Mexican and U.S. law enforcement agencies coordinate closely regarding persons who raise terrorism concerns. This primarily involves individuals encountered at the immigration detention facility in Tapachula, Chiapas, and also at international airports. The Government of Mexico is receptive to counterterrorism training opportunities and equipment donations. Mexican officials have the investigative, operational, and tactical skills needed for counterterrorism work due, in part, to frequent counternarcotic operations.

Mexican security agencies track open-source reports, and most recently investigated media reports that terrorist training camps existed in Mexico. In each instance, the media reports were found to be unsubstantiated.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Mexico is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and the Financial Action Task force of Latin America, a FATF-style regional body (FSRB). Mexico has observer or cooperating status in the following FSRBs: the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, and the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures. Mexico’s financial intelligence unit (FIU), Unidad de Inteligencia Financiera, is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units and proactively shares financial intelligence on shared threats with its U.S. counterpart, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

The Government of Mexico and financial services entities cooperate on terrorist financing legislation and regulations. For example, Mexico established an asset freezing regime that automatically and immediately incorporates listings under the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime into its domestic FIU-issued list.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.

Countering Violent Extremism: Mexico is beginning to take preventive actions to detect subjects who promote, favor, or facilitate violent Islamist extremism. Mexico also works to detect violent extremist propaganda on the internet.

International and Regional Cooperation: Mexico participates in the Organization of American States Inter-American Committee against Terrorism, which adopted a declaration on “Protection of Critical Infrastructure from Emerging Threats.”

PANAMA

Overview: In recent years, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was the most direct terrorism threat to Panama due to its use of the Darién region of Panama as a staging ground, a rest and recuperation point, and a rearming locale. With limited but consistent U.S. training assistance, Panamanian authorities have substantially eliminated the FARC’s ability to operate in the Darién. The conclusion of the Colombian Peace Process with the FARC further reduced the FARC threat in the Darién region.

The Darién region remained a significant and growing pathway for human smuggling. In 2016, Panamanian authorities detained more than 20,000 migrants attempting to or having entered Panama illegally from Colombia; African, South Asian, and Middle Eastern individuals represented a small portion of the overall migrant flow. During the year, Panamanian authorities worked with U.S. authorities to detain and repatriate individuals for whom there were elevated suspicions of links to potential terrorism.

Panama is one of two countries in the hemisphere that joined the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. Panama participates in the Defeat-ISIS Coalition’s Counter-ISIS Finance Group. Panamanian officials repeatedly reiterated Panama’s support for the work of the Coalition.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Panama has comprehensive counterterrorism legislation and a robust counterterrorism legal framework. Title IX, Chapter 1 of the Panamanian criminal code criminalizes acts of terrorism. Individuals who attempt to disturb the public peace, cause panic, terror, or fear in the population, or a subset thereof, through the use of radioactive materials, weapons, fire, explosives, biological or toxic substances, or any other means of massive destruction or element with that potential, are subject to prison sentences ranging from 20 to 30 years. Panamanian law also sanctions any individual who knowingly finances, grants, hides, or transfers money, goods, or other financial resources for use in the commission of the above referenced crimes to a period of confinement ranging from 25 to 30 years in prison. Those who use the internet to recruit terrorists or to provide bomb-making instructions are subject to confinement of five to 10 years.

The Government of Panama maintains counterterrorism units within the National Border Service, the National Air-Naval Service, the Panamanian National Police (PNP), Panama’s National Security Council, and the Institutional Protection Service, which is responsible for the protection of Panamanian and foreign dignitaries. Short-term, multi-agency task forces have improved inter-service coordination, cooperation, and information sharing, but the country does not have a formal coordinating authority below the Cabinet level.

Panama is a critical financial, transportation, and logistics hub, and the Panama Canal remains its most-critical infrastructure asset. Panama does not maintain a national control list of dual-use goods, and legal interpretations limit the government’s ability to analyze and inspect cargo transshipping or transiting the country, including dual-use items.

A key focus of counterterrorism efforts in Panama has been securing its land borders as well as the airports and seaports throughout the country. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) continued to cooperate with Panamanian authorities at Tocumen International Airport, and has been successful using the linkage between Panama’s Advance Passenger Information (API) System and CBP targeting systems. Panama collected nearly 100 percent of API data and actively seeks complete Passenger Name Record (PNR) data. Panama continued to seek agreements with regional partners to enhance API and PNR data, as well as associated migration and criminal derogatory information, to enhance regional security. CBP continued to work with Panamanian authorities to improve its capacity to capture and transmit all API and PNR data. Mobile security teams, including those operating under the CBP Joint Security Program, partner with host country law enforcement officers operating in Tocumen International Airport to identify air passengers linked to terrorism. Panamanian authorities began to screen travelers using a state-of the-art border management system, which has been integrated with existing technologies employed by the Panamanian government to secure national borders.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Panama is a member of the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America (GAFILAT), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Panama’s financial intelligence unit, Unidad de Analisis Financiero (Financial Analysis Unit), is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. On July 19, 2016, by Executive Decree 324, Panama created an Antiterrorism Department within the National Security Council responsible for coordinating Panama’s counterterrorist financing efforts as well as tracking and coordinating responses to UN Security Council (UNSC) designations. In the same decree, Panama created a new Committee for the Prevention of Terrorism and Terrorist financing responsible for reviewing relevant information to determine whether individuals or entities warrant nomination for inclusion on the UNSC ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime sanctions list or if they should be included in Panama’s domestic list of terrorists and terrorist financiers. The Committee distributes the lists of the designated individuals and entities electronically. Panama has yet to identify and freeze assets belonging to terrorists or sanctioned individuals and organizations. It has also not prosecuted any terrorist financing cases.

Panama criminalized terrorist financing under multiple laws passed in 2015. Panamanian law permits the freezing, seizure, and confiscation of the instruments and proceeds of criminal enterprises, including money laundering and terrorist financing. Implementing regulations allow for the freezing of assets of persons or entities listed under UN Sanctions regimes, including UNSC ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime. It does not; however, provide for the confiscation of property of corresponding value and the application of other measures.

A division of the Ministry of Economy and Finance supervises money transfer services and remittance houses including businesses in the Colon Free Trade Zone, Panama’s Diamond and Jewelry Exchange, casinos, money exchangers, real estate brokers, auto dealerships, and other entities. While there is no requirement for non-profit organizations to file suspicious transaction reports, the government does monitor them for suspicious transactions and requires the collection of Know Your Customer data for wire transfers.

For additional information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.

Countering Violent Extremism: Panama’s principal security initiative, “Barrios Seguros con Más Oportunidades y Mano Firme” (Safe Communities with More Opportunities and a Firm Hand), aims to reduce gang crime and criminality by focusing on vulnerable areas with serious gang problems and by disarming, demobilizing, and reintegrating those gang members into the community. The three-part program includes providing vocational and life skills training (including a religious education component) to reintegrate former gang members, expanding preventative and community policing, and doubling the size of specialized anti-gang units tasked with dismantling the upper echelons of criminal organizations operating in Panama. Panama is in the process of reviewing the program to enhance its ability to target at-risk individuals and communities, and to better respond to the concerns of the populace.

International and Regional Cooperation: Panama is an active participant in UN and regional security initiatives such as the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism. Panama and Colombia maintain a bilateral commission that meets on an annual basis to address topics of mutual concern, including illicit migration, narco-trafficking, transnational criminal organizations, and elements of the FARC operating in the region surrounding the shared border.

PARAGUAY

Overview: In 2016, the Government of Paraguay continued its counterterrorism cooperation with the United States. Paraguay continued to face challenges on ineffective immigration, customs, and law enforcement controls along its porous borders, particularly the Tri-Border Area (TBA) with Argentina and Brazil, and its dry border with Brazil from the TBA to Pedro Juan Caballero.

Since 2008, persons claiming to be part of the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP) – a domestic criminal group initially dedicated to a socialist revolution in Paraguay – have been active in the northern departments of Concepcion and San Pedro. The group has been involved in violence designed to intimidate the population and government. The Government of Paraguay believes the EPP to be a small, decentralized group of approximately 20 members. EPP and offshoot groups’ activities consisted largely of isolated attacks on remote police and army posts, or against ranchers and peasants accused of collaborating with Paraguayan security services. The Armed Peasants Association, an EPP offshoot, continued to operate at a reduced capacity, following a late 2015 Paraguayan government operation that killed most of the group’s leadership. Ranchers and ranch workers in northeastern Paraguay, including members of the Mennonite community, claimed the EPP frequently threatened both their livelihoods and personal security. At the end of 2016, the EPP allegedly held four high-profile hostages, including Mennonite Franz Weibe, kidnapped in 2016; rancher Felix Urbieta, kidnapped in 2016; Abrahan Fehr Banman, kidnapped in 2015; and former Paraguayan National Police official Edelio Morinigo Florenciano, kidnapped in 2014.

2016 Terrorist Incidents: The EPP conducted several high profile operations involving kidnapping, killings, and sabotage:

  • In July, alleged EPP members kidnapped 17-year-old Mennonite Franz Weibe, burned his family’s property, and left a pamphlet demanding ransom at Estancia La Yeya, Santa Rosa del Aguaray, San Pedro Department. The teenager was reportedly still in EPP custody at year’s end.
  • In August, alleged EPP members ambushed and killed eight Paraguayan military personnel with improvised explosive devices, and stole weapons and equipment in Arroyito, Concepcion Department.
  • In September, alleged EPP members kidnapped four ranch workers, leaving pamphlets and other media in Azotey, Concepcion Department. The workers were later released.
  • In October, alleged EPP members kidnapped cattle businessman Felix Urbieta in Horqueta, Concepcion Department. At the end of 2016, the businessman was reportedly still in EPP custody.
  • In December, alleged EPP members attacked and burned equipment at Estancia Paso Ita, Tacuati, San Pedro Department.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Paraguay pursued individuals suspected of terrorist crimes under laws passed in 2010 and 2011. The Paraguayan government continued to make use of a 2013 counterterrorism law that allows for the domestic deployment of the Paraguayan military to counter internal or external threats. Counterterrorism functions are handled by the Paraguayan National Police Secretariat for the Prevention and Investigation of Terrorism. Military forces and police officials continued to operate jointly in the San Pedro, Concepcion, and Amambay departments against the EPP, with limited success.

The Tri-Border Area continued to be attractive to individuals seeking to engage in terrorist financing, as the minimal police and military presence along these borders allowed for a largely unregulated flow of people, licit and illicit goods, and money. Paraguay’s efforts to provide more effective law enforcement and border security were hampered by a lack of interagency cooperation and information sharing, as well as pervasive corruption within security, border control, and judicial institutions.

Paraguay continued to participate in the State Department’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, as part of a tri-border regional program; other U.S. government agencies also contributed to building Paraguay’s counterterrorism law enforcement capacity

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Paraguay is a member of the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body, and Paraguay’s Financial Intelligence Unit is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. Paraguay has counterterrorist financing legislation and the ability to freeze without delay and confiscate terrorist assets, although there were no terrorist financing convictions or actions to freeze in 2016.

Concerted law enforcement efforts to implement anti-money laundering laws and laws countering the financing of terrorism were lacking. Significant quantities of money are laundered through businesses and financial institutions or moved in cash. The Paraguayan government registers and has reporting requirements for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – including non-profit organizations – and requires NGOs to set up internal monitoring and training regimes to guard against criminal or terrorist financing. Paraguay requires the collection of data for wire transfers.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.

Countering Violent Extremism: While the Paraguayan Minister of Foreign Affairs spoke in September on the need to counter violent extremism around the world, Paraguay currently has no program to counter violent extremism

International and Regional Cooperation: Paraguay participates in Organization of American States and its Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism, and the Union of South American Nations. Paraguay continued to collaborate with Brazil and Argentina on border protection initiatives, regional exchanges, and discussions on counterterrorism and law enforcement projects.

PERU

Overview: The Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso or SL) constituted a continuing threat in 2016 to Peru’s internal security in a localized zone. SL’s membership consisted of a single active faction, whose area of activity and influence was confined to the special military emergency zone known as the Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro River Valley (VRAEM) – a remote and rugged region slightly larger than Switzerland which accounts for more than one-half of the cocaine produced in Peru. Within the VRAEM, SL has retreated to its stronghold north of the Mantaro River. Estimates of SL’s strength vary, but most experts and the Peruvian military assess SL to number 250 to 300 members of which 60 to 150 are hardcore fighters.

To sustain itself, SL is involved in all logistical aspects of drug trafficking in its area of influence: it collects “revolutionary taxes” from those involved in the drug trade, and for a price, provides security and transports narcotics for drug trafficking organizations. SL continued to use Maoist ideology to justify its illegal activities and opposition to the Peruvian state. It staged its most significant attack this year during the first round of Peru’s 2016 elections, an ambush that resulted in 10 deaths. Beyond this high profile attack, SL conducted a limited number of operations in 2016. We received reports indicating a slight uptick in threats against political figures in Peru’s remote provinces and SL propaganda outside of the VRAEM.

In October, President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski assigned primary authority in the VRAEM Emergency Zone to the Ministry of Defense, instructing the military to counter narco-terrorism and work with the Ministry of Interior on counternarcotics operations.

SL founder Abimael Guzman and key accomplices remain in prison serving life sentences for numerous crimes committed in the 1980s and 1990s. Two top SL leaders – Osman Morote and Margot Liendo – completed their 25-year sentences in June 2013, but were still in jail at the end of 2016. Morote was the second in command of SL, and Liendo led the SL faction that operated in the provinces north of Lima before their arrest in June 1988. These individuals remain in prison pending trials for other crimes committed in the 1980s. Many SL leaders were convicted of crimes long before Congress approved new legislation allowing for life sentences. Guzman and other captured SL figures from 1980s and 1990s are no longer associated with the active SL group in the VRAEM emergency zone.

2016 Terrorist Incidents: Attacks included:

  • On April 9, SL ambushed a military patrol near the municipality of Matichacra, located in the Junín region’s Santo Domingo de Acobamba district. The attack resulted in the death of eight soldiers and two civilian drivers; five soldiers suffered injuries. The ambush occurred as the patrol was traveling to provide security at polling places for the April 10 general elections.
  • On April 9, SL attacked a naval patrol on the Apurímac River in Ayacucho region’s Huanta province, injuring two Peruvian Marines.
  • On August 1, media reported that alleged narco-terrorists attacked a military base in the Mazamari district of the Junín region, injuring one soldier. A handful of similar sniper attacks against military patrols occurred throughout 2016.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Over the past three decades, Peru has promulgated a variety of laws specifically designed to counter terrorism. These measures have broad political and public support. On February 16, the president signed legislative decree 1180, which authorizes compensation to citizens who provide information that leads to the capture of members of criminal or terrorist organizations.

Peruvian police and military counterterrorism units continued to capture SL fighters, recover weapons, and prevent terrorist incidents during the year.

The most significant Peruvian government actions against SL this year were the following:

  • On May 19, police officers prevented SL fighters from destroying electricity towers in the Huanta province of Ayacucho region. After forcing the SL fighters to retreat, police deactivated the explosives left near the towers.
  • On May 20, a military-police patrol in the district of Llochegua in the Ayacucho region killed Alejandro Auqui in a clash with an SL column. The military reported that Auqui, who served as an SL commander, had taken part in 13 Shining Path attacks, including shooting down helicopters in 2010 and 2012. The military captured weapons, ammunition, and communications equipment during the operation.
  • The Counter-Terrorism Directorate of the National Police reported the arrest of 23 alleged terrorists in a multi-region operation launched ahead of the June 5 run-off presidential election. Antonia Paucarcaja, a.k.a. Comrade Esther, was among those arrested. Experts considered her an important SL logistics coordinator.

On border security, immigration authorities collected limited biometrics information from visitors. Citizens of neighboring countries were allowed to travel to Peru by land using only national identification cards. There was no visa requirement for citizens of most countries from Western, Central, and Eastern Europe, as well as Mexico. Peruvian immigration authorities used a database called “Movimiento Migratorio” at 18 points of entry to track entries and exits of travelers. This database also connects to the Peruvian National Police’s database to flag outstanding arrest warrants. The Government of Peru collaborated with U.S. Customs and Border Protection on the use of traveler information to enhance security by determining and mitigating traveler risk prior to arrival and departure. In July, the Government of Peru started to issue biometric passports with upgraded security measures to Peruvian citizens.

In October 2014, Peruvian police arrested Muhammad Ghaleb Hamdar, a Lebanese citizen suspected of links to Hizballah. According to reports, there was residue and traces of explosives in Hamdar’s apartment. In April 2016, a judge extended Hamdar’s period of pre-trial detention another 15 months. In October, the First Criminal Superior Public Attorney requested a 30-year prison sentence for Hamdar on charges of terrorism and document forgery. Hamdar remained in pretrial detention at the end of 2016.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Peru is a member of the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. The Financial Intelligence Unit of Peru is also a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. The President of Peru’s Financial Intelligence Unit was appointed Chair of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units for the period 2015-2017. Under Decree Law 25475, Peru criminalizes any form of collaboration with terrorists, including economic collaboration.

In 2016, the Government of Peru made progress in implementing its national plan to counter money laundering and the financing of terrorism. In May, Peru approved Law 30437 which gives the FIU the authority to immediately seize assets belonging to organizations and individuals included on the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions list. The Government of Peru issued a decree on November 26, resolving one of the main liabilities in Peru’s anti‑money laundering legal framework. The law improves the FIU’s access to bank and tax information, establishes greater control over reporting entities, and enables money-laundering cases to be tried absent proof of a predicate crime. The new administration moved the previously independent Peruvian seized assets agency back into the Ministry of Justice in 2016, reducing this organization’s agility and efficiency.

SL’s ability to sustain itself and finance its terrorist and other criminal actions depends on profits from drug trafficking activities. SL narcotics proceeds enter the VRAEM as bulk, physical dollars from neighboring countries via the same aircraft used to transport cocaine out of the region (commonly known as the “air bridge”). To address this issue, the PNP’s 15-person specialized unit that focuses on investigating SL financing continued its work in 2016.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.

Countering Violent Extremism: The Government of Peru stressed the importance of heavily investing in the VRAEM as a means of ending the relationship between VRAEM residents and SL. Since 2007, the Peruvian government has provided the equivalent of approximately $6 billion to districts and regions in the VRAEM to pave roads, provide basic health and education services, and establish a greater state presence. The Government of Peru’s new VRAEM strategy remained under development at the close of 2016.

International and Regional Cooperation: Peru participates in counterterrorism activities in international and regional organizations, including the United Nations, Organization of American States and its Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism, and the Union of South American Nations.

 

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

Overview: In 2016, Trinidad and Tobago focused on national security. The Trinidadian government remained a willing U.S. counterterrorism partner and quickly accepted offers of assistance to share border security information, develop a strategy to counter violent extremism, and prosecute terrorists. While there were no known indigenous or foreign terrorist groups operating in Trinidad and Tobago, the country had the highest per capita rate of ISIS recruitment in the Western Hemisphere.

Trinidad’s government reported in 2015 that more than 100 Trinidadian nationals, including women and minors, had traveled to Syria and Iraq. A handful have reportedly returned to Trinidad and Tobago. Muslims make up about 6 percent of the population, roughly split between persons of African and South Asian heritage; foreign terrorist fighters reportedly come from both communities. Many, although not all, have had prior affiliations with criminal gangs.

An inter-agency National Counterterrorism Working Group, led by the Ministry of National Security, is working on a national counterterrorism strategy to address priorities and principles. The group meets on a regular basis to: (1) detect, deter, and disrupt any possible terrorist actions; (2) prevent a terrorist act in Trinidad and Tobago; and (3) identify and prosecute terrorists. The national strategy is in its final stages and will be submitted to the Cabinet for approval when it is completed.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Trinidad and Tobago continued to review the 2005 Anti-Terrorism Act to address gaps in the legislation, including foreign terrorist fighters and their possible return to the country.

Trinidad and Tobago, with the assistance of certain police units and government sections, continued to identify and monitor persons that raise terrorism concerns and maintained a list of nationals who traveled to Syria or Iraq to fight with ISIS. More than 70 nationals of Trinidad and Tobago are believed to be fighting with ISIS in Syria.

There was limited interagency cooperation and coordination, and limited information sharing due to allegations of corruption among different law enforcement units. Prosecutors are consulted on an ad hoc basis with regard to criminal cases.

Biographic and biometric screening capabilities are limited at ports of entry. Trinidad and Tobago collects advance passenger information and disseminates this information to other countries.

The defense force is responsible for the security of the coastline spanning the two islands and assists law enforcement in combating transnational crime. Both the defense and police forces are limited in human and material resources to meet strategic security challenges.

The government continued to cooperate with the United States on security matters, including participation in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, which provides counterterrorism training for police, and a Caribbean Basin Security Initiative program that focus on training the police and military forces to ensure citizen security.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Trinidad and Tobago is a member of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. The Financial Intelligence Unit of Trinidad and Tobago (FIU) is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units.

In June, FATF published its mutual evaluation of Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad and Tobago has criminalized the offense of terrorist financing; however, there remain several deficiencies in its anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism framework that Trinidad and Tobago is working to address. This includes a limited use of financial intelligence; an inadequate sanctions framework with no provisions for prohibiting material support to terrorists; no policy in place for the management, monitoring, and supervision of non-profit organizations; and a lack of terrorist financing prosecutions.

In September, Trinidad and Tobago designated 80 international and local entities as terrorist organizations, including ISIS. Of the 80 listed, only one, Kareem Ibrahim, was local. The government continued to work with the FIU and the police to add more local subjects to the list.

A separate report, from Trinidad and Tobago’s FIU, cited 182 suspicious transactions involving possible terrorist financing in 2016, all of which were under investigation at year’s end.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.

Countering Violent Extremism: The government has not developed a national countering violent extremism (CVE) strategy. There have been some efforts in the prevention of crime and anti-violence programs for at-risk youth, however, which include community law enforcement partnerships. In June 2016, leaders from Trinidad and Tobago’s Islamic community signed a joint statement condemning violent extremism. The statement read: “The Muslims of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, with one voice, strongly condemn ISIS and all forms of violent extremism locally and internationally.”

International and Regional Cooperation: Trinidad and Tobago is an active participant in regional security initiatives such as the Organization of American States Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism and the Caribbean Community Implementing Agency for Crime and Security.

VENEZUELA

Overview: In May 2016, for the eleventh consecutive year, the Department of State determined, pursuant to section 40A of the Arms Export Control Act, that Venezuela was not cooperating fully with U.S. counterterrorism efforts. There were credible reports that Venezuela maintained a permissive environment that allowed for support of activities that benefited known terrorist groups. Individuals linked to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army, and Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) were present in Venezuela, as well as Hizballah supporters and sympathizers.

Separately, the Venezuelan government took no action against senior Venezuelan government officials who have been designated under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, for materially assisting the narcotics-trafficking activities of the FARC or for acting for or on behalf of the FARC, often in direct support of its narcotics and arms trafficking activities.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Venezuelan criminal code and Venezuelan laws explicitly criminalize terrorism and dictate procedures for prosecuting individuals engaged in terrorist activity. The government routinely levies accusations of “terrorism” against its political opponents. Following a wave of anti-government protests in 2014, the Venezuelan government introduced a series of counterterrorism laws intended to suppress future public demonstrations.

Some Venezuelan military and civilian agencies perform counterterrorism functions. Within the Venezuelan armed forces, the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence and the Command Actions Group of the National Guard have primary counterterrorism duty. The Bolivarian National Intelligence Service and the Division of Counterterrorism Investigations in the Bureau of Scientific, Penal, and Criminal Investigative Corps within the Ministry of Interior, Justice, and Peace have primary civilian counterterrorism responsibilities. The degree of interagency cooperation and information sharing among agencies is unknown due to a lack of government transparency.

Border security at ports of entry was vulnerable and susceptible to corruption. The Venezuelan government routinely did not perform biographic or biometric screening at ports of entry or exit. There was no automated system to collect advance passenger name records on commercial flights or to cross-check flight manifests with passenger disembarkation data.

In July, Syrian national Jihad Diyab, who had been relocated to Uruguay following his 2014 release from Guantanamo Bay, traveled to Caracas with the perceived intention of continuing onward to Turkey to reunite with his family. He was detained by Venezuelan authorities in late July and deported back to Uruguay.

Venezuela did not respond to a 2015 request from the Spanish government to extradite former ETA member José Ignacio de Juana Chaos, who served 21 years in prison for his role in the killing of 25 people in a series of terrorist attacks. De Juana Chaos has been wanted in Spain since 2010 on charges of “glorifying terrorism.”

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Venezuela is a member of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body; and its financial intelligence unit, Unidad Nacional de Inteligencia Financiera, is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units.

Venezuela’s existing anti-money laundering/counterterrorist financing legal and regulatory framework criminalizes the financing of terrorism and includes obligations for suspicious transaction reporting. There remained; however, significant deficiencies in the terrorist asset freezing regime, including a lack of adequate procedures to identify and freeze terrorist assets.

There was no publicly available information regarding the confiscation of terrorist assets in 2016. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.

Regional and International Cooperation: Venezuela participated as an official observer in peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC. Venezuelan and Colombian foreign ministers met several times throughout the year to address the reduction of smuggling of illegal goods, narcotics trafficking, and the activity of illegally armed groups.