Overview: In 2020, Argentina concentrated its counterterrorism strategy on the Tri-Border Area (TBA) of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, where suspected terrorism financing networks operate. U.S.-Argentine law enforcement and security cooperation continued in 2020. No terrorist acts occurred in Argentina in 2020. The investigation into the 1994 terrorist attack on the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) continued but did not yield any convictions for accused perpetrators. Argentina maintained Hizballah’s listing on its domestic designation registry of terrorist groups and entities for the second year.
2020 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in Argentina in 2020.
The lack of justice for the 1994 AMIA bombing remained in the news, as did developments in several investigations of the attack itself and the failures of justice in the aftermath. On June 25, a Federal Appeals Court decided to extend the investigative stage of the core AMIA case for at least six months, rejecting a motion from the defense to close the case because of the statute of limitations. On November 25 the AMIA Special Prosecutors Unit charged Carlos Telleldín as a participant in the attack and requested a sentence of life imprisonment for allegedly and knowingly providing the vehicle used in the bombing to members of Hizballah. On December 23 a federal trial court announced that it had acquitted Telleldín, although the court’s arguments for acquittal were not released at the time. Lawyers for AMIA announced their intent to appeal.
In August, federal prosecutors formally requested that the court begin the oral trial stage for Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and several former associates accused of treason for allegedly engaging in a 2013 bilateral agreement with Iran to cover up Iran’s involvement in the AMIA attack, a case commonly referred to as the “Iran MOU” case. Oral debate is expected to begin in 2021.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Argentina is a member of the FATF and of the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America (GAFILAT), a FATF-style regional body. Its FIU, the Financial Information Unit Argentina, is a member of the Egmont Group. The TBA is one of the principal routes into Argentina for multi-billion-dollar trade-based money laundering (TBML), 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. Argentina lacked adequate controls at points of entry to prevent cross-border transport of contraband and bulk cash, particularly with respect to outbound enforcement; however, reduced cross-border volume attributable to coronavirus restrictions netted increased seizures of narcotics and other contraband in border areas. The cash-intensive economy and large informal financial sector in Argentina created additional opportunities for criminals to launder illicit proceeds, and authorities detected numerous TBML schemes. In Mar de Plata, on December 16, the federal police arrested a Russian woman with an outstanding INTERPOL Red Notice for financing ISIS.
The U.S. Department of State funded the Department of Justice to implement capacity-building activities and training focused on counterterrorism. These programs strengthened Argentina’s ability to identify and disrupt trade-based money laundering, smuggling, and other transnational crimes linked to terrorist financing and shared best international practices on judicial cooperation to combat terrorism and its financing. Argentine law enforcement, border security, judiciary, and prosecutorial agencies participated in activities to combat the financing of terrorism, including money laundering. Further information on money laundering and financial crimes is presented in the 2020 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.
In July the listing of Hizballah, Hizballah External Security Organisation, and senior Hizballah leaders on Argentina’s domestic terrorist registry was effectively extended for at least another year.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: There were no major changes to counterterrorism legislation in 2020.
Multiple security agencies maintained specialized law enforcement units with substantial capabilities to respond to terrorist incidents. Argentina continued to develop its nationwide network of law enforcement Intelligence Fusion Centers. The Ministry of Security and its federal security forces incorporated biometric data into their fight against international terrorism and transnational crime.
Argentina contributed intelligence and analysis activities through 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.
Argentina maintained prosecution and analysis capabilities within the Attorney General’s Office through the Counter Terrorism Secretariat, created in 2018 to support federal prosecutors in the investigation of terrorism and terrorist financing cases. The Attorney General’s Office Special Prosecutors Unit for Economic Crimes led the investigation of terrorist financing in coordination with the FIU.
In 2019, Argentina approved the National Terrorist Financing and Financing of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction Risk Assessment. The National Committee for Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing started to develop the National Money Laundering Risk Assessment as a part of the national strategy to prepare for the Fourth Round FATF Mutual Evaluation in 2021.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Government of Argentina systematically issued statements of condemnation against major acts of terrorism.
International and Regional Cooperation: Argentina participated in the third Western Hemisphere Counterterrorism Ministerial in Bogotá in January and the OAS-CICTE annual meeting in September. Argentina participated in the first experts-level meeting of the Regional Security Mechanism (RSM) with the United States, Brazil, and Paraguay, in 2019, in Asuncíon. The RSM, established earlier that year to facilitate security coordination, including counterterrorism, among member states, did not hold any meetings in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.