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Terrorist and Organized Crime Groups in the Tri-Border Area (TBA) of South America

NCJ Number
Rex Hudson
Date Published
July 2003
This report assesses the activities of organized crime groups, terrorist groups, and narcotics traffickers in the Tri-Border Area (TBA) of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, focusing on the period since 1999.
Based on open sources, this assessment has made extensive use of books, journal articles, and other reports available in the U.S. Library of Congress collections. Islamic terrorist groups -- including Egypt's Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group) and Al-Jihad (Islamic Jihad), al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hizballah, and al-Mugawamah (pro-Iran wing of the Lebanon-based Hizballah) -- have used the TBA for fund-raising, drug trafficking, money laundering, plotting, and other activities in support of their organizations. The large Arab community in the TBA is conducive to the establishment of sleeper cells of Islamic terrorists; however, as many as 11,000 members of the Islamic community in the TBA may have moved since late 2001 to other less closely watched Arab population centers in South America. The TBA is also geographically, socially, economically, and politically conducive to organized crime activities, along with the corruption of public officials who accept their bribes. Organized crime in the TBA thrives on drug and arms trafficking, money laundering, and other lucrative criminal activities. Indigenous crime groups that operate in the TBA include the Argentine, Brazilian, and Paraguayan mafias. Non-indigenous mafias that operate in the TBA include syndicates from Chile, China, Colombia, Corsica, Ghana, Libya, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Korea, Lebanon, Nigeria, Russia, and Taiwan. Cooperative and individual national efforts of the Argentine, Brazilian, and Paraguayan security force in countering the illicit activities of organized crime and terrorist groups in the TBA apparently have constrained their activities since late 2001; however, law enforcement efforts have been impeded by endemic corruption within the police, criminal justice systems, and governments of the TBA countries; poor pay; inadequate training, equipment, funding, law-enforcement techniques, and penal codes; poor organization; human rights abuses; weak anti-money-laundering laws and their enforcement; and secrecy provisions in banking laws (with the exception of Paraguay, where the main problem is failure to report suspicious financial activities). 1 table, 3 figures, and a 65-item selective bibliography