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Patterns of Global Terrorism: 19917

Latin America Overview

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A record number of international incidents occurred in Latin America during 1991, most in South America, while Central America and the Caribbean experienced only a handful of attacks against foreign interests. A considerable number of attacks in the Latin American region were inspired by the U.S. role in the Persian Gulf war. Latin American terrorist groups conducted 224 attacks on foreign interests, continuing the upward trend of the past four years. It should be noted, however, that this figure represents only a small percentage of the total number of terrorist incidents in the region. In most countries with a terrorist problem, the primary targets of guerrillas and narcotraffickers have been domestic institutions -- government employees, law enforcement personnel, politicians, and media representatives. Most of the attacks occurred in Peru, Chile, and Colombia. At least 30 people died -- three were U.S. citizens -- and 62 people were injured in international incidents over the course of the year. Anti-U.S. terrorism rose to 174 attacks -- up from 131 in 1990. While the Persian Gulf war clearly was a factor in the large number of attacks in early 1991, 116 international incidents occurred after the end of Operation Desert Storm.

Bolivia Bolivian terrorists hit power pylons belonging to a U.S.-owned power company three times in 1991, all low-level bombing incidents. Domestic terrorism, however, increased almost sevenfold. More than 40 bombing incidents occurred. Among the targets were Bolivian Government buildings near the U.S. Embassy. Five bombs detonated at the La Paz International Airport. The Nestor Paz Zamora Commission (CNPZ), part of the refurbished National Liberation Army (ELN), and several previously unknown terrorist groups claimed responsibility for a handful of the attacks, but most went unclaimed. The new groups included the Tupac Katari Guerrilla Army (EGTK) and the Tomas Katari Communal Army (ECTK). Both advocate the return of Bolivia to precolonial forms of government and indigenous Indian culture.

The Bolivian Government initiated improvements in its domestic and regional counterterrorism programs, while publicly downplaying the increase in terrorist incidents. The government established various crisis management mechanisms and began developing a national counterterrorism strategy. The Bolivian police held high-level meetings with their counterparts from Chile, Peru, and Brazil to help improve coordination against cross-border terrorism. While these steps demonstrated greater political willingness to deal with terrorism than in past years, a severe lack of resources and investigative and judicial weaknesses continued to hamper the government's ability to counter the growing terrorist problem. Nonetheless, eight members of the Zarate Willka Armed Forces of Liberation (FALZW) received stiff sentences for their role in the 1988 attack on Secretary Shultz's motorcade and the murder of two U.S. Mormon missionaries in 1989. At the close of 1991, a trial was also under way for CNPZ terrorists who attacked the U.S. Marine guard-house in La Paz in October 1990.

Chile Since the end of the Pinochet regime in March 1990, several far-left groups, including the Communist Party of Chile (PCCH), have moved away from terrorist tactics, but other, more extreme organizations continue to use armed actions in pursuit of their political goals. Chilean terrorist organizations, which had targeted U.S. interests in record numbers in 1990 and early 1991, were somewhat less active during the remainder of the year. There were 52 anti-U.S. attacks in Chile in 1991, down from 61 in 1990. Of these attacks, more than half were conducted after the end of the Persian Gulf war. After a brief lull following the war, sporadic anti-U.S. attacks resumed in May and became more numerous during the last quarter of the year. Attacks against Mormon churches increased in intensity toward the end of the year, involving more powerful bombs or bombs containing shrapnel clearly designed to cause serious injury and substantial damage. Three Chilean children were injured in one attack against a Mormon church in November. Two terrorist organizations, the dissident faction of the Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front (FPMR/D) and elements of the Lautaro Youth Movement (MJL), were responsible for most of the political violence. Two previously unknown groups surfaced during the year -- the Guerrilla Army of the People-Free Fatherland and the Joaquin Murieta Extremist Movement. During October, the Guerrilla Army of the People carried out several low-level domestic bombings and an armed occupation of the French News Agency. Several of its leaders were subsequently arrested.

Several significant anti-U.S. and domestic incidents occurred in 1991. On 16 February, the FPMR/D fired a light antitank weapon rocket at a U.S. Marine guard van, but it failed to detonate. Ensuing gunfire by the terrorists injured one Marine. Some domestic incidents were pegged to the release of the National Truth and National Reconciliation Commission Report (Rettig Report), which detailed human rights violations during the Pinochet regime. The FPMR/D assassinated a retired Army medical doctor and his wife the day before the release of the report. The assassination of Senator Jaime Guzman on 1 April was probably carried out by the FPMR/D, although the investigation is continuing. The MJL claimed responsibility for the murder of investigations police chief Hector Sarmiento Hidalgo in Concepcion on 15 March.

The Chilean Government is focusing more attention on Chile's terrorism problem. Increased training and efforts by members of the police have improved their counterterrorism capabilities in the past year. During 1991, the police uncovered several safehouses and training sites used by Chilean terrorists and arrested several leaders and members of each of the country's main terrorist organizations. Immediately after the Guzman murder, the Chilean Government created the Public Security Coordinating Council, an advisory group whose function is to unite the counterterrorism efforts of government agencies. In its first report to President Aylwin, submitted in September, the Council recommended the establishment of a permanent intelligence organization to coordinate the government's counterterrorism effort. In December, President Aylwin announced a plan to set up an Under Secretariat for Public Security and Intelligence at the Interior Ministry to coordinate police efforts to combat crime and delinquency as well as terrorism. Implementing legislation will be taken up during the next session of Congress. The government has also appointed special investigating judges to try the more serious cases, such as the Guzman murder.

Colombia Terrorist incidents in Colombia continue to be perpetrated by three leftist insurgent groups loosely affiliated under the umbrella group Simon Bolivar Guerrilla Coordinator (CGSB), by narcotics traffickers, and by rightwing paramilitary groups.

There were 62 international terrorist incidents in Colombia in 1991, up from 28 in 1990 and 46 in 1989. While most of the violence in the country was domestic, the two main CGSB terrorist groups, the National Liberation Army (ELN) and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continued to target foreign workers for kidnapping. Three French and two Japanese engineers were kidnapped and held for ransom by the FARC during 1991. Three U.S. engineers held since November 1990 by the ELN were released a year later. The majority of the international attacks in Colombia in 1991 were bombings of Colombia's oil pipelines, particularly the Cano-Limon Covenas pipeline in northern Colombia, jointly owned by Ecopetrol and a consortium of U.S. and West European companies.

The surrender of Pablo Escobar, the head of the Medellin drug cartel, and many other members of his narcotics ring resulted in a sharp decrease in narcotics-related violence in Colombia. As a result, several paramilitary groups publicly demobilized, claiming that with Escobar behind bars the battle they had been fighting was over.

Peace talks between the Colombian Government and the CGSB continued in 1991, with little success. The end of the fifth round of talks in November prompted an increase in guerrilla attacks, primarily directed at domestic targets, as the terrorist groups sought to strengthen their negotiating position.

The Colombian Government made efforts toward improving the nation's judicial system in the past year by forming special courts to handle terrorist and narcotics cases and approving a new antiterrorist statute that strengthens sanctions for terrorist crimes. The Colombian Government also imposed a new tax to fund counterinsurgency efforts.

Ecuador The Government of Ecuador continued its policy of negotiating with the Alfaro Vive Carajo (AVC), a small, Marxist-Leninist extremist group, to encourage its participation in the legitimate political process. This effort resulted in a ceremony in February at which a handful of AVC members turned in 65 guns. In October, some of the members publicly announced their desire to join President Borja's Democratic Left Party, while a dissident faction denounced the move to abandon clandestine terrorist activities. AVC members occupied the French Consulate in Guayaquil in January 1991 and the British Embassy in Quito in September 1991. The Ecuadorian Government chose not to prosecute those who seized the facilities although one AVC member was charged with illegal possession of explosives in connection with an attempted bombing of the Social Welfare Ministry in May. Other minuscule extremist groups carried out five low-level attacks against foreign interests in Ecuador during 1991, four during the Gulf war.

El Salvador The leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) signed a cease-fire agreement on 31 December with the Government of El Salvador, ending the decade-long civil war. Before the cease-fire agreement, there were three international terrorist incidents in El Salvador in 1991. One of the incidents, notably, claimed the lives of the only three Americans to die as a result of terrorist activity in Latin America in 1991. On 2 January, the FMLN downed a U.S. helicopter carrying three U.S. military advisers who were enroute to Honduras. Two of them, Lt. Col. David Pickett and crew chief PFC Earnest Dawson, were brutally executed after surviving the crash. The third, Chief Warrant Officer Daniel Scott, died of injuries suffered in the shootdown. The FMLN has refused to turn over the two individuals responsible. In July, a U.S. Embassy security vehicle was fired on in San Salvador by suspected FMLN members.

A significant development in Salvadoran justice was the September conviction of two military officers for the 1989 murder of six Jesuit priests, marking the first time a military officer has been convicted for rightwing terrorism.

Guatemala Leftist insurgent groups under the umbrella group Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG) accounted for much of the terrorist violence in the country in 1991. There were seven incidents of international terrorism, the same figure as in 1990.

The Gulf war prompted the most significant international terrorist incidents in Guatemala in 1991. Attempted bombings and shootings were directed against the Uruguayan, British, and Canadian Embassies, as well as the residence of the Japanese Ambassador in February. Four armed men fired shots at the U.S.-affiliated Covenant House in July 1991. A series of threats against foreign media in Guatemala prompted representatives of several international news agencies to leave Guatemala City in August 1991.

The Guatemalan Government, with the support of the military, made some progress in direct talks with the leaders of the URNG during 1991. But the country's ineffective criminal justice system and the intransigence of the URNG have proved to be major impediments to effective counterterrorist strategies.

Mexico Mexico, which had not experienced international terrorist incidents in the past several years, had five terrorist bombing attacks during August, apparently timed to coincide with midterm national elections. (The Government of Mexico considers the group that claimed responsibility for carrying out the bombings to be a criminal rather than terrorist organization.) Targets included U.S.-owned banks and other commercial interests and a Japanese automobile dealership. No other attacks were perpetrated in 1991 against foreign interests.

The Clandestine Worker's Revolutionary Party, Union of the Poor (PROCUP), a leftist extremist organization, claimed responsibility for all five attacks. PROCUP has been periodically active since its formation in 1970, but the Government of Mexico has, for the most part, effectively monitored and controlled its activities.

Peru Terrorist activities of Peru's two insurgencies, Sendero Luminoso (SL) and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), have made Peru a dangerous country for foreigners. Of the 59 international attacks in Peru, 34 were against U.S. interests. Most were probably perpetrated by the MRTA, although SL also claimed two attacks against U.S. facilities. Violent terrorist attacks, which occurred on a nearly daily basis, were spread over much of Peru but were most heavily concentrated in Lima itself, where more than 600 terrorist attacks caused about 350 deaths. At least 2,800 people died during the year in an unknown number of terrorist attacks in the country; a record 422 people were killed in October alone. SL continued its campaign of assassinating teachers, clergy, engineers, development and human rights workers, Indian peasants, and political candidates, as well as government, police, and political party officials. SL killed at least 10 foreigners, none of them U.S. citizens. Nine of the foreigners were missionaries, clergy, or economic assistance workers.

Despite extensive security precautions, President Alberto Fujimori was the target of two terrorist attacks in November by the MRTA. A letter bomb campaign directed against domestic targets occurred in Lima, the first of its kind in South America, resulting in the death of one pro-MRTA journalist and serious injuries to three other Peruvians. It is not clear which group, or groups, is responsible for the letter bombs. On 3 November, 17 persons were killed in the Barrios Altos neighborhood of Lima by a group of armed men. Those responsible have not been identified, but local human rights groups attribute the act to a paramilitary group.

The troubled Peruvian justice system has proved ineffective in the fight against terrorism. In 1991 the Government of Peru prosecuted no cases involving international terrorism and few cases of domestic terrorism. A chronic lack of basic resources plagues the judicial system. Severe staffing and morale problems pervade the judicial and law enforcement communities because of meager salaries. Constant terrorist actions have left hundreds of policemen, soldiers, prosecutors, and judges dead, injured, or co-opted. The lack of properly trained personnel, a failure to employ modern investigative methods, and professional rivalries between the police and prosecutors are further impediments to terrorist prosecutions. Use of criminal forensics is inadequate, and the Peruvians lack an effective witness protection program. Imprisoned terrorists largely control the facilities where they are incarcerated.

The Government of Peru, nonetheless, has taken steps to strengthen its hand against terrorism. In November, the administration issued a series of legislative decrees designed to strengthen the government's counterterrorism capabilities. Among these decrees, which were subject to review by the Peruvian Congress, are measures to reduce sentences in exchange for information, to increase the powers of military commanders in areas outside emergency zones, and to reorganize the police and intelligence services.

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