Overview: During 2019, Argentina continued to focus its counterterrorism strategy on the Tri-Border Area (TBA) of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay where suspected terrorism financing networks operate. Robust U.S.-Argentine law enforcement and security cooperation continued in 2019. Argentina created a “Public Register of People and Entities Linked to Acts of Terrorism and their Financing,” which it used to designate Hizballah as a terrorist entity. On July 19, Argentina hosted the Second Western Hemisphere Counterterrorism Ministerial in Buenos Aires.
2019 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in Argentina during 2019.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: On July 16, then-President Macri signed a presidential decree creating a “Public Register of People and Entities Linked to Acts of Terrorism and their Financing” and added Hizballah to the registry on July 17. The registry, which is accessible to the public and controlled by the Ministry of Justice, derives its listings from UN designated terrorist groups, prosecutions for terrorism, and the Financial Information Unit (UIF).
Plans to introduce changes to the criminal code to reform Argentina’s legal framework for terrorism cases remained delayed in 2019. The executive branch drafted and submitted new legislation to Congress for approval in March 2019; however, it has not yet been approved. In January 2019, then-President Macri issued a presidential decree creating an asset forfeiture regime enabling asset forfeiture in terrorism and terrorism financing cases without the need for a conviction.
Multiple security agencies maintained specialized law enforcement units that have substantial capabilities to respond to criminal activities, including terrorist incidents. Argentina continued to develop its nationwide network of law enforcement Intelligence Fusion Centers. By deploying additional technology, personnel, and equipment, the Argentine Ministry of Security (MOS) improved its law enforcement capacity at high-risk ports of entry along its northern border. The MOS and its federal security forces continue to incorporate biometric data into their fight against international terrorism and transnational crime.
Argentina strengthened its intelligence and analysis activities through its participation in the Tripartite Command, an interagency security mechanism created by Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay to exchange information and combat transnational threats, including terrorism, in the TBA.
The lack of justice for Hizballah’s 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) remained in the news and prompted a proposal to reform the criminal code by allowing trials in absentia. In March, the Argentine Supreme Court rejected an appeal submitted by former Argentine President Fernandez de Kirchner to avoid oral trial for allegedly covering up Iran’s involvement in the AMIA attack by signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Iran in 2013. The Supreme Court ratified a pre-trial detention order against her; however, the Argentine Senate decided not to vote to remove her parliamentary immunity from arrest. In December, the Argentine federal trial court hearing the case revoked the pre-trial detention order, finding that her investiture as vice president had removed the risk she could flee.
Argentine prosecutors charged seven Iranians (and then-Iranian President Rafsanjani) in October 2006 as suspects in the AMIA bombing in what is now known as the “AMIA I” case, but the lead prosecutor died under suspicious circumstances, and the Iranian suspects have never been brought to justice. A four-year trial seeking to determine local complicity in the deviation of the investigation, commonly known as the “AMIA II” case, concluded on February 28 with the acquittal of former Argentine President Carlos Menem, the convictions of former federal judge Juan José Galeano and then-intelligence chief Hugo Anzorreguy, and the acquittals and/or suspended sentences for the other 10 individuals accused.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Argentina is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), as well as the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America (GAFILAT), a FATF-style regional body. Its FIU, known as the Financial Information Unit Argentina (UIF), is a member of the Egmont Group. Recent reforms have empowered the UIF to act as the lead agency on all financial intelligence matters. The TBA is one of the principal routes into Argentina for multi-billion-dollar trade-based money laundering, counterfeiting, drug trafficking, and other smuggling operations. In addition, many of the money laundering organizations in the TBA have known or suspected links to the terrorist organization Hizballah.
In 2019, the UIF ordered the freezing of assets in the country belonging to Hizballah and its members after officially designating the group a terrorist organization. The government also created a National Committee for Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing.
In July 2019, the FIU enacted regulation for credit and debit card operators, prepaid cards, and other means of payment to implement a new risk-based approach in line with FATF recommendations.
Countering Violent Extremism: There were no changes in 2019.
International and Regional Cooperation: On July 19, Argentina hosted the Second Western Hemisphere Counterterrorism Ministerial in Buenos Aires. Argentina is a member of the RSM and participated in the first experts-level meeting of the RSM November 12-13 in Asuncion. Argentina participated in the Organization of American States (OAS) Inter-American Committee against Terrorism and the Southern Common Market Special Forum on Terrorism. The United States and Argentina co-hosted a U.S. DOJ-sponsored Practitioner’s Workshop August 1-2 in Iguazu on the Argentine side of the TBA. The workshop included prosecutors, judges, law enforcement investigators, financial intelligence/sanctions officials, and intelligence officials from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and the United States.