Gates of Vienna rarely reports on South American issues, but it’s not because there is no material worth looking at. Up until now there has simply been a shortage of volunteers who are willing to sift through the available documentation and translate it into English.
All that has changed, thanks to the participation of Hermes, our Spanish correspondent. Hermes has a gift for languages, and has offered to translate Spanish, Hungarian, German, and Portuguese material for our blog.
His latest effort concerns the marshalling of jihad forces in Latin America, particularly in Venezuela and the Tri-Border Area (where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet). Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, and other Muslim terrorist organizations take advantage of Hugo Chavez’ antipathy towards the United States, and the corruption of Latin American governments, to gather mujahideen and prepare for operations across the porous border between Mexico and the USA.
The following two articles were translated by Hermes from the Brazilian blog “De olho na Jihad” (“An eye on Jihad”). The first post is from last November:
American specialist warns: Islamic terror is already in Brazil
Ambassador Roger Noriega, an American citizen born in Kansas of immigrant Mexican parents and a specialist in Latin America, explained to the journalist Leonardo Coutinho in an interview published in the magazine VEJA how Islamic terrorism is infiltrating in South America and Brazil. “I pray that the Brazilian authorities give up ignoring the threat of terrorism. The risks for the country are real and imminent.”
Brazil is not immune to terrorist attacks
During the last two decades, American ambassador Roger Noriega, 51, has been present at the forefront in the elaboration of the foreign policy of the USA for Latin America. He worked as consultant for the American Congress and, during the administration of George W. Bush, for two years was head of the American delegation at the Organization of American States.
In 2003, he took up of the post of Deputy Secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs in the State Department, remaining in this post till 2005, when he left the public affairs and joined the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, an American think tank located in Washington, and which brings together researchers from many different fields, mostly related to security issues and public policy.
In October, a week before the detention of an Iranian citizen accused of plotting an attack against the ambassador of Saudi Arabia in Washington, Noriega published an article about the activities of Iran and the Lebanese group Hezbollah at the Mexican border. In the following interview, he explains how he could foresee the presence of the terrorists at the Mexican border, and also denounces the rising level of (Islamic) terror in South America.
How did you know that Iran and Hezbollah worked together with Mexican drug cartels?
Our investigation was based on months-long studies done by a team of four people who traveled not only to Mexico, but also to many other neighboring countries. This team interviewed authorities and secret informants in the groups commanded in the region by the Lebanese organization Hezbollah. We gathered the names, connected the dots, and a dangerous reality was revealed to us.
Iran and Hezbollah have expanded their positions in Latin America with the purpose of promoting terrorist attacks. They built up an operational structure of recruiting, training and gathering of resources. The facts showed that the terrorists shared their experiences with the drug cartels of Mexico.
Apart from this report, which was published on the website of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, and which gave anticipated information about these extremists’ actions, we also issued a confidential document, which we shared with the authorities and with many governments in the (South American) region.
Why didn’t the USA take notice earlier of these movements on its southern border?
I spend most of my time explaining to American politicians that we are neglecting Latin America. Not long ago I presented solid facts about the activities of those terrorist groups in the continent. Our investigations resulted in the identification of at least two parallel networks which work together and grow at an alarming pace in Latin America.
This network is formed by more than 80 extremists settled in 12 countries, concentrated mainly in Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina and Chile. We cannot face the transnational menace of drug trafficking and terrorism without the cooperation of our allies in the region.
That’s why the USA must pay much more attention to that region, establish strong and healthy economic ties in order to stimulate the growth, prosperity and stability of our neighbors.
What was the role of the CIA, the American Central Intelligence Agency, regarding this problem?
Virtually none. Besides our work, which made public the presence of Iran and Hezbollah in Mexico, the DEA was already investigating the links between Islamic extremists and drug traffickers. And I think that this was a lucky development, because the members of the DEA are used to thinking not only in the way their established rules dictate. They were not constrained by the conventional way of thinking of the CIA specialists regarding the Quds Forces (the elite forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard)
At the intelligence agency they may have concluded that the modus operandi of the Iranians in trying to execute the Saudi ambassador in Washington by hiring the services of the Mexican cartel “Zetas” was far too uncommon to be true — which could have had a fatal result. Instead of this, the DEA, which is extremely active in investigations on various continents, continued the work and unveiled the plan to kill ambassador Adel al Jubeir.
Which are exactly the connections of Iran and Hezbollah in Latin America?
In 2007, a terrorist who tried to commit an attack at the John F. Kennedy airport in New York was detained in Trinidad y Tobago just as he was trying to depart for Caracas. He would have then traveled from the Venezuelan capital to Iran where, according to his declaration, he would have undergone religious training.
He knew where to flee for security. Venezuela is an advanced base of Islamic terrorism in Latin America. On Ilha Margarita (Margarita Island), which is located on the Venezuelan coast, one of the most active terrorist training camps outside Lebanon may be found.
The Tri-Border Area, which is a region between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, still gives grounds for worries about being a center for financial operations for a wide range of terrorist organizations. But it is in Venezuela that these terrorist groups have official permission to train and plan attacks against the USA
So you are accusing the Venezuelan government of giving support to terrorists?
There is no doubt that Hugo Chavez is using the wealth gained from oil to strengthen Islamic terrorism, which has as its main objective the USA. That is scandalous.
Sincerely, in whatever place there is an Iranian embassy or mosque or Islamic center funded by Iran, and in Venezuela virtually all of them are, there also can be found a unit from the Lebanese group Hezbollah.
I’m not suggesting that every mosque is a place for terrorism. That is a ridiculous and dangerous presumption. Meanwhile, when Iranian agents fund mosques and Islamic centers in America; they do it with the straightforward objective of radicalizing the local Muslim community. The basic mission of these messengers of terror is to identify potential individuals to recruit them for Hezbollah and the Quds Forces.
How do these Islamic extremists operate in Venezuela?
There’s a network which manages the gathering of resources, recruiting, training, and the coordination of the Hezbollah members in the country. This network bears the name of its head, Ghazi Nassereddine. He is a Lebanese-born Venezuelan with a diplomatic assignment in Syria.
In 2008, Nassereddine was identified by the government of the United States as one of the suppliers of logistical and economic support for Hezbollah. In spite of being a relevant figure, I consider him to be less dangerous than his companions. These act in a more discreet way regarding their training activities. Our confidential information sources delivered evidence to us that last year activists from Iran and Hezbollah gave a course on Ilha Margarita in terrorist tactics for Latin American volunteers.
If this weren’t already enough, a meeting was held in Venezuela involving terrorist leaders from Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Palestinian organization called Islam Jihad. This meeting took place in Caracas in August 22 2010 with the patronage of Hugo Chavez.
Is the Venezuelan president the only one in the region who supports terrorists?
The president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, hosts a training academy for militia members which is funded by Iran. This academy was recently inaugurated by the infamous Iranian defense minister Ahmad Vahidi, who was identified as one of the masterminds behind the terrorist attacks against Jewish targets in Buenos Aires, back in the nineties.
Both Bolivia and Ecuador allow Iran to develop allegedly commercial activities in their countries, the most worrying of them being the exploitation of strategic mining resources such as uranium.
These alleged operations can be useful to the acceleration of the Iranian nuclear program. Besides, the commercial relationship between Argentina and Iran increased substantially during recent years. I fear that together with this growth in commercial activities, the possibility of new worries about security will also increase.
Argentinean justice still tries to capture and bring to court the Iranian diplomats accused of two terrorist attacks in the country. Do you think that this behavior may eventually change?
Argentineans have full knowledge of Iranian activities in their country. The plots against the embassy of Israel and the Israeli Argentinean Mutual Association (AMIA) in 1992 and 1994 are proof of this.
That’s why the judicial body of Argentina asked the Interpol for an international arrest warrant. But frankly, some operations of the Argentinean government with Iran give grounds for much suspicion. The most important of them is a cooperation agreement signed between the two countries regarding nuclear issues.
I hope that the (new) findings of the DEA about the possibility of an attack in Buenos Aires will put the Casa Rosada on alert.
Why did Iran and Hezbollah choose Latin America as ground for operations?
Being so near to the USA makes this region attractive for them. President Hugo Chavez, as he already declared, also sees in the building of a close alliance with Iran the strengthening of his anti-American agenda. Apart from this, he used the petrodollars from his country to open the doors of Bolivia and Ecuador for Iran.
And in case this is not enough, the local intelligence services are inefficient, and Latin America has a reduced capacity to implement its laws. This mixture transform the Latin American countries in a fertile ground for terrorists from all over the globe.
Given these circumstances, the government of the United States must increasingly enlist the cooperation of our neighboring allies, in this way strengthening them.
What can you tell us about Brazil?
There is clear proof that Mohsen Rabbani, a member of the Quds Forces involved in the terrorist plots of 1992 and 1994, has been in Brazil twice during the last two years. In spite of being banned from leaving Iran because of an arrest warrant issued for him by the Interpol, Rabbani uses fake documents to travel to Brazil across the Venezuelan border. This has to worry us.
Official documents show that Rabbani and his brother Mohammad Baquer Rabbani Razavi, who has a permanent residence in Brazil, recruited dozens of poor Brazilian youngsters for their extremist cause. We know that Razavi, although being a Shia, joined Sunni leaders in order to give support to the operations of Hezbollah in the Tri-Border Area.
I hope that Brazilian authorities stop denying the existence of extremists in the country and begin to pay attention to the growing activities of terrorist organizations in Latin America. The very safety of the Brazilian citizens is at stake. The Brazilian government cannot ignore this threat.
What are the threats for Brazil?
The country will shortly be the host for the World Cup and the Olympic games. Obviously, this turns Brazil into a desirable target. It would be a mistake to underestimate this fact.
The presence of Islamist networks on Brazilian territory forces the authorities in charge of security to increase their surveillance. Brazil, as well as any other nation, is not free from the terrorist threat. The international community gave Brazil a vote of confidence, and it expects that the country will not fail in securing the physical integrity of the athletes and the public at the World Cup and the Olympic games.
I pray that the Brazilian authorities give up ignoring the threat of terrorism. The risks for the country are real and imminent.
Source: Revista Veja
The second post is from last December:
The Brazilian connection of the terrorist group Hamas
No matter how adamantly Brazilian authorities deny it, proofs continue to appear that Islamic terrorist organizations are spreading their tentacles all over the country. A report from VEJA revealed last April the connections of five extremist groups in Brazil. Now the analysis from the judicial processes and the reports from the Department of Justice, the army and the American Congress exposed the links of extremists living in Brazil with the Holy Land Foundation, an organization which had for 13 years been financing Hamas, the radical Palestinian group which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, and which has as its declared goal the destruction of the State of Israel.
The Holy Land Foundation had its headquarters in Dallas, Texas, and it was registered as a charity foundation. This institution had sent at least $12.4 million to Hamas and helped the same terrorist group to recruit people in USA and South America. In 2001 it was included in the UN list of terrorist organizations, and in 2008 its leaders were prosecuted by the American court of justice for 108 crimes, among them the financing of terrorist actions and money laundering. The highest sentence, 65 years in prison, was imposed on Shukri Abu Baker, the founder, leader and executive director of Holy Land. Interestingly enough, no one spoke a word about the fact that Baker is Brazilian. And moreover, he spent many years operating in Brazil, and some of his companions are still here (in Brazil).
Shukri Abu Baker was born in Catanduva, an inner zone of Sao Paulo, on April 3rd 1959. His mother, Zaira Guerzoni, was born to an Italian family, and his father, Ahmad Abu Baker, was a Palestinian immigrant. He and his family moved in 1965 to Cisjordania. He ended his studies in Kuwait, and then he moved to England, where he attended university, and in 1980 he settled in the USA. In 1988 he founded together with Mohammed El-Mezain and Ghassan Elashi the Holy Land Foundation. Meanwhile his brother Jamai Abu Baker, also a Brazilian citizen, changed his name to Jamal Issa and began gaining influence in Hamas — first at its branch in Sudan, and after at that in Yemen. Jamal, who actually lives in Syria, was one of the Hamas leaders who last October met the 1027 prisoners freed by Israel in exchange for Gilad Shalit.
The manual: Holy Land was a charity foundation acting as a façade. Its real purpose was to raise funds for Hamas and build up terrorist cells in USA and South America. The American police found among other documents from Holy Land a “Manual for implementing the plan for 1991-1992”. Among other goals, there were:
63 The multiplication of the number of Ikhwans (groups promoting Jihad) in Brazil 161 Completing the identification of the levels of the Brazilian and Gayana Brothers 166 Securing a computer and tape-dubbing machine for Brazil 168 Opening “Usras” — groups of Islamic indoctrination in Brazil