Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Fwd: The New Nexus of Narcoterrorism AZMEX

A AZMEX Must Read
Note:  This report by Dr. Neumann adds to what the AZMEX reports have also been piecing together.
A destabilized or failed Mexican state is clearly on the agenda of these players, as that would have so
impact on the USA.  Take into account also the extensive access these states and groups have to international arms markets. The Cuban and
Venezuelan new capabilities in weapons and munitions production.  The dots are connecting.

Begin forwarded message:

From: "Foreign Policy Research Institute" <fpri@fpri.org>
Date: December 26, 2011 11:34:28 PM MST
Subject: The New Nexus of Narcoterrorism

Foreign Policy Research Institute
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Distributed Exclusively via Email

by Vanessa Neumann

December 26, 2011

Vanessa Neumann is a Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy
Research Institute and is co-chair, with FPRI Trustee Devon
Cross, of FPRI's Manhattan Initiative.

Available on the web and in pdf format at:

The Winter 2012 issue of Orbis, FPRI's Journal of World Affairs
is now available. Orbis is edited by Mackubin (Mac) Owens, Associate
Dean of Academics for Electives and Directed Research and Professor
of National Security Affairs at the Naval War College in Newport,
Rhode Island. A prolific writer on military affairs, Dr. Owens is
a long-time associate of FPRI, where he is a Senior Fellow in
the Program on National Security.

Current issue featuring:

Margin Call: How To Cut A Trillion From Defense
     Kori Schake
China's Naval Rise And The South China Sea: An Operational Assessment
     Felix K. Chang
Confronting A Powerful China With Western Characteristics
     James Kurth
Religious Relations Across The Taiwan Strait: Patterns, Alignments, And
Political Effects
     Deborah A. Brown and Tun-jen Cheng
Jordan: Between The Arab Spring And The Gulf Cooperation Council
     Samuel Helfont and Tally Helfont
The Arab Spring And The Saudi-Led Counterrevolution
     Mehran Kamrava
India's 'Af-Pak' Conundrum: South Asia In Flux
     Harsh V. Pant
Intelligence And Grand Strategy
     Thomas Fingar
The Reform Of Military Education: Twenty-Five Years Later
     Joan Johnson-Freese

Complete Table of Contents and links to all articles:


                     by Vanessa Neumann

Press stories, as well as a television documentary, over the
past two months have detailed the growing cooperation
between South American drug traffickers and Middle Eastern
terrorists, proving that the United States continues to
ignore the mounting terrorist threat in its own "backyard"
of Latin America at its own peril. A greater portion of
financing for Middle Eastern terrorist groups, including
Hezbollah and Al Qaeda, is coming from Latin America, while
they are also setting up training camps and recruiting
centers throughout our continent, endangering American lives
and interests globally. Some Latin American countries that
were traditional allies for the U.S. (including Venezuela)
have now forged significant political and economic alliances
with regimes whose interests are at odds with those of the
U.S., particularly China, Russia and Iran. In fact Iran and
Iran's Lebanese asset, "the Party of God," Hezbollah, have
now become the main terror sponsors in the region and are
increasingly funded by South American cocaine.

Venezuela and Iran are strong allies: Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
publicly call each other "brothers," and last year signed 11
memoranda of understanding for, among other initiatives,
joint oil and gas exploration, as well as the construction
of tanker ships and petrochemical plants. Chavez's
assistance to the Islamic Republic in circumventing U.N.
sanctions has got the attention of the new Republican
leadership of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, resulting
in the May 23rd, 2011 announcement by the US State
Department that it was imposing sanctions on the Venezuelan
government-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA)
as a punishment for circumventing UN sanctions against Iran
and assisting in the development of the Iran's nuclear

Besides its sponsored terrorist groups, Iran also has a
growing direct influence in Latin America, spurred by three
principal motivations: 1) a quest for uranium, 2) a quest
for gasoline, 3) a quest for a base of operations that is
close to the US territory, in order to position itself to
resist diplomatic and possible military pressure, possibly
by setting up a missile base within striking distance of the
mainland US, as the Soviets did in the Cuban Missile Crisis.
FARC, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda all have training camps,
recruiting bases and networks of mutual assistance in
Venezuela as well as throughout the continent.

I have long argued that Latin America is an increasing
source of funding for Middle Eastern terrorism and to
overlook the political changes and security threats in the
region with such geographic proximity to the US and its
greatest source of immigrants is a huge strategic mistake.
It was inevitable that South American cocaine traffickers
and narcoterrorists would become of increasing importance to
Hezbollah and other groups. While intelligence officials
believe that Hezbollah used to receive as much as $200
million annually from its primary patron, Iran, and
additional money from Syria, both these sources have largely
dried up due to the onerous sanctions imposed on the former
and the turmoil in the latter.

A recent New York Times front-page article (December 14,
2011) revealed the extensive and intricate connections
between Hezbollah and South American cocaine trafficking.
Far from being the passive beneficiaries of drug-trafficking
expats and sympathizers, Hezbollah has high-level officials
directly involved in the South American cocaine trade and
its most violent cartels, including the Mexican gang Los
Zetas. The "Party of God's" increasing foothold in the
cocaine trade is facilitated by an enormous Lebanese
diaspora. As I wrote in my May 2011 e-note, in 2005, six
million Muslims were estimated to inhabit Latin American
cities. However, ungoverned areas, primarily in the Amazon
regions of Suriname, Guyana, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador,
Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil, present easily exploitable
terrain over which to move people and material. The Free
Trade Zones of Iquique, Chile; Maicao, Colombia; and Colon,
Panama, can generate undetected financial and logistical
support for terrorist groups. Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru
offer cocaine as a lucrative source of income. In addition,
Cuba and Venezuela have cooperative agreements with Syria,
Libya, and Iran.

Some shocking revelations into the global interconnectedness
of Latin American governments and Middle Eastern terrorist
groups have come from Walid Makled, Venezuela's latter-day
Pablo Escobar, who was arrested on August 19, 2010 in
Cucuta, a town on the Venezuelan-Colombian border. A
Venezuelan of Syrian descent known variously as "El Turco"
("The Turk") or "El Arabe" ("The Arab"), he is allegedly
responsible for smuggling 10 tons of cocaine a month into
the US and Europe-a full 10 percent of the world's supply
and 60 percent of Europe's supply. His massive
infrastructure and distribution network make this entirely
plausible, as well as entirely implausible the Venezuelan
government did not know. Makled owned Venezuela's biggest
airline, Aeropostal, huge warehouses in Venezuela's biggest
port, Puerto Cabello, and bought enormous quantities of urea
(used in cocaine processing) from a government-owned
chemical company.

After his arrest and incarceration in the Colombian prison
La Picota, Makled gave numerous interviews to various media
outlets. When asked on camera by a Univision television
reporter whether he had any relation to the FARC, he
answered: "That is what I would say to the American
prosecutor." Asked directly whether he knew of Hezbollah
operations in Venezuela, he answered: "In Venezuela? Of
course! That which I understand is that they work in
Venezuela. [Hezbollah] make money and all of that money they
send to the Middle East." A prime example of the importance
of the Lebanese diaspora in triangulating amongst South
American cocaine and Middle Eastern terrorists, is Ayman
Joumaa, a Sunni Muslim of the Medell¡n cartel with deep ties
with Shiites in the Hezbollah strongholds of southern
Lebanon. His indictment made public on Tuesday "charges him
with coordinating shipments of Colombian cocaine to Los
Zetas in Mexico for sale in the United States, and
laundering the proceeds" (NY Times, Dec. 14, 2011).

The growing routes linking South American cocaine to Middle
Eastern terrorists are primarily from Colombia through
Venezuela. According to an April 2011 report by the United
Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) the Bolivarian
Republic of Venezuela is the most prominent country of
origin for direct cocaine shipments to Europe, with the
cocaine coming mainly from Colombia, primarily the FARC and
ELN terrorist groups. Shipments to Africa, mostly West
Africa, gained in importance between 2004 and 2007,
resulting in the emergence of a new key trans-shipment hub:
centered on Guinea-Bissau and Guinea, stretching to Cape
Verde, The Gambia and Senegal, thus complementing the
already existing trafficking hub of the Bight of Benin,
which spans from Ghana to Nigeria. As the cocaine is
transported through Africa and into Europe, its safe passage
is guaranteed (much as it was in Latin America) by terrorist
groups-most prominently, Al Qaeda and Hezbollah. The cocaine
can also travel from Latin America's Tri-Border Area
(TBA)-bounded by Puerto Iguazu, Argentina; Ciudad del Este,
Paraguay; and Foz do Iguacu, Brazil-to West Africa
(particularly Benin, Gambia and Guinea-Bissau, with its poor
governance and vast archipelagos) and then north into Europe
through Portugal and Spain or east via Syria and Lebanon.

Hezbollah's traditional continental home has been the TBA,
where a large, active Arab and Muslim community consisting
of a Shi'a majority, a Sunni minority, and a small
population of Christians who emigrated from Lebanon, Syria,
Egypt and the Palestinian territories about 50 years ago.
The TBA, South America's busiest contraband and smuggling
center, has long been an ideal breeding ground for terrorist
groups, including Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda-the
latter since 1995 when Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh
Mohammad first visited.

Hezbollah is still active in the TBA, according to Argentine
officials. They maintain that with Iran's assistance,
Hezbollah carried out a car-bomb attack on the main building
of the Jewish Community Center (AMIA) in Buenos Aires on
July 18, 1994, protesting the Israeli-Jordanian peace
agreement that year. Today, one of the masterminds of those
attacks, the Iranian citizen and Shia Muslim teacher, Mohsen
Rabbani, remains not only at large, but extremely active in
recruiting young Brazilians, according to reports in
Brazilian magazine Veja. This region, the third in the world
for cash transactions (behind Hong Kong and Miami),
continues to be an epicenter for the conversion and
recruitment of a new generation of terrorists who then train
in the Middle East and pursue their activities both there
and in the Americas.

According to Lebanon's drug enforcement chief, Col. Adel
Mashmoushi, as cited in The New York Times, a main
transportation route for terrorists, cash and drugs was
aboard a flight commonly referred to as "Aeroterror," about
which I wrote in my May 2011 e-note for FPRI. According to
my own secret sources within the Venezuelan government, the
flight had the route Tehran-Damascus-Caracas-Madrid, where
it would wait for 15 days, and flew under the direct orders
of the Venezuelan Vice-President, according to the captain.
The flight would leave Caracas seemingly empty (though now
it appears it carried a cargo of cocaine) and returned full
of Iranians, who boarded the flight in Damascus, where they
arrived by bus from Tehran. The Iranian ambassador in
Caracas would then distribute the new arrivals all over

I wrote in my May 2011 e-note that reports that Venezuela
has provided Hezbollah operatives with Venezuelan national
identity cards are so rife, they were raised in the July 27,
2010, Senate hearing for the recently nominated U.S.
ambassador to Venezuela, Larry Palmer. When Palmer answered
that he believed the reports, Chavez refused to accept him
as ambassador in Venezuela. Thousands of foreign terrorists
have in fact been given national identity cards that
identify them as Venezuelan citizens and give them full
access to the benefits of citizenship. In 2003, Gen. Marcos
Ferreira, who had been in charge of Venezuela's Department
of Immigration and Foreigners (DIEX) until he decided to
support the 2002 coup against Chavez, said that he had been
personally asked by Ramon Rodr¡guez Chac¡n (who served as
both deputy head of DISIP-Venezuela's intelligence service,
now renamed SEBIN-and Interior Minister under Chavez) to
allow the illegal entry Colombians into Venezuela thirty-
five times and that the DISIP itself regularly fast-tracked
insurgents including Hezbollah and Al Qaeda. The newly-
minted Venezuelan citizens during Ferreira's tenure include
2,520 Colombians and 279 "Syrians." And that was only during
three of the past twelve years of an increasingly
radicalized Chavez regime.

While Chavez has done more than anyone to strengthen these
relationships with Middle Eastern terrorists, in an attempt
to use what he calls "the International Rebellion"
(including Hezbollah, Hamas and ETA) in order to negotiate
with the US for power in Latin America, the coziness of the
seemingly strange bedfellows dates back to the fall of the
Soviet Union, when the USSR abandoned Cuba. At the Sao Paulo
Forum of 1990, prominent Venezuelans and international
terrorists were all in attendance, including: then-
Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez (against whom
Chavez attempted a coup in 1992); Al¡ Rodr¡guez, then-
President of PDVSA (Petroleos de Venezuela, the government-
owned oil company); Pablo Medina, a left-wing Venezuelan
politician who initially supported Chavez, but has now moved
to the opposition; as well as Fidel Castro, Moammar Qaddafi
and leaders of the FARC, Tupamaros and Sendero Luminoso
(Shining Path). The extent to which these alliances have
deepened and become institutionalized is exemplified by the
Continental Bolivarian Coordinator, the office that
coordinates all the Latin American terrorists. According to
a well-placed Venezuelan military source of mine, they are
headquartered in the Venezuelan state of Barinas-the same
state that is effectively a Chavez family fiefdom, with
their sprawling family estate, La Chavera, and their total
control of local politics. Their extreme anti-Semitism is
not ideological, but simply out of convenience: to court and
maintain Iranian support.

According to the Congressional Research Service, with
enactment of the sixth FY2011 Continuing Resolution through
March 18, 2011, (H.J.Res. 48/P.L. 112-6) Congress has
approved a total of $1.283 trillion for military operations,
base security, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs,
and veterans' health care for the three operations initiated
since the 9/11 attacks: Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)
Afghanistan and other counter terror operations; Operation
Noble Eagle (ONE), providing enhanced security at military
bases; and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).

Yet for all this massive spending on fighting terrorists and
insurgents in the Middle East, we are leaving ourselves
vulnerable to them here, on a number of fronts. First and
foremost, the United States is under territorial threat
through its Mexican border. Hezbollah operatives have
already been smuggled, along with drugs and weapons, in
tunnels dug under the border with the US by Mexican drug
cartels. Only a week after my October 5th interview by KT
McFarland on Fox, where I specifically warned of a
possibility of this resulting in a terrorist attack carried
out inside the US with the complicity of South American drug
traffickers, the global press revealed a plot by the elite
Iranian Quds Force to utilize the Mexican gang Los Zetas to
assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington in a bombing
that would have murdered many Americans on their lunch hour.

Second, American assets in Latin America are under threat.
Embassies, consulates, corporate headquarters, energy
pipelines and American- or Jewish-sponsored community
centers and American citizens have already been targeted by
terrorist groups all over Latin America for decades: FARC in
Colombia, Sendero Luminoso and Tupac Amaru in Peru and
Hezbollah in Argentina. Al Qaeda is also rumored to have a
strong presence in Brazil.

Third, while American soldiers give their lives trying to
defeat terrorists and violent insurgents in the Middle East,
these same groups are being supported and strengthened
increasingly by Latin America, where they receive training,
weapons and cash. This makes American military engagement
far more costly by any metric: loss of life and financial

Indeed over the last decade, Latin America is a region
spiraling ever more out of American control. It is a region
with which the United States has a growing asymmetry of
power: it has more importance to the United States, while
the United States is losing influence over Latin America,
which remains the largest source of oil, drugs and
immigrants, both documented and not. Latinos now account for
15 percent of the US population and nearly 50 percent of
recent US population growth, as well as a growing portion of
the electorate, as seen in the last presidential elections.
The discovery of huge new oil reserves in Brazil and
Argentina, that might even challenge Saudi Arabia, and the
2012 presidential elections in Venezuela, make Latin America
of increasing strategic importance to the U.S., particularly
as the future political landscape of the Middle East becomes
ever more uncertain, in the wake of the Arab Spring and the
political rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in previously
secular Arab governments. The growth of transnational gangs
and the resurgence of previously waning terrorist
organizations pose complicated new challenges, as violence
and murder cross the U.S. border, costing American lives and
taking a huge toll on U.S. law enforcement. The United
States needs to develop a smart policy to deal with these

So while the US is expending vast resources on the GWOT, the
terrorists are being armed and reinforced by America's
southern neighbors, making the GWOT far more costly for the
US and directly threatening American security. Even though
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez may be removed from the
presidency either through an electoral loss in the October
7, 2012 presidential elections or through his battle with
cancer, certain sectors of the Venezuelan government will
continue to support international terrorism, whose
activities, bases and training camps have now spread
throughout this region. By understanding the dynamics of the
increasingly entrenched narcoterrorist network, the U.S. can
develop an effective policy to contend with these, whether
or not President Chavez remains in power.

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