In July, an attack on the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) in Buenos Aires killed nearly 100 persons and injured more than 200. The leading suspect in this incident is Hizballah. Twenty-one persons, of whom 12 were Jewish, were killed when a Panamanian commuter aircraft was bombed in July, apparently by a suicide bomber. These attacks raised concerns about the reported presence of members of Hizballah in Latin America, especially in the triborder area where Brazilian, Argentine, and Paraguayan territories meet.
Colombia continued to suffer the highest incidence of terrorist violence in the region. Guerrillas attacked the democratic process by attempting to sabotage Colombia's 1994 presidential, congressional, and departmental elections. Rebel organizations also targeted petroleum companies and infiltrated trade unions, particularly in the banana and petroleum industries, intimidating rank-and-file union members. US business interests and Mormon missionaries were attacked by guerrillas, and nine US citizens were being held hostage by guerrillas at the end of the year. Six of these were US missionaries. Kidnapping continued as a major source of income for the Colombian guerrillas.
Guerrillas in the region continued to attack national interests causing damage to local economies particularly in Colombia, Peru, and Guatemala. In the Andean Region, the connection between guerrilla groups and narco- traffickers remained strong. Guerrillas forced coca and amapola cultivators to pay protection money and attacked government efforts to reduce production.
Terrorist violence decreased in Peru during the year. The Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) assassinated 150 persons, down from 516 the previous year when its leader was imprisoned. Various Peruvian terrorist groups suffered setbacks due to arrests, casualties, and defections under the government's amnesty program. Government actions in Chile also resulted in a decline of terrorist violence.
In reaction to the terrorist violence in the region, the heads of state of the Western Hemisphere nations adopted a plan of action against terrorism at the December Summit of the Americas. The plan called for cooperation among nations in combating terrorism and for the prosecution of terrorists while protecting human rights. The nations of the hemisphere also agreed to convene a special OAS conference on the prevention of terrorism and reaffirmed the importance of extradition treaties in combating terrorism.
While the vast majority of the violence in the nation was directed against local targets, Colombia was the location of 41 international terrorist attacks in 1994, the highest in the region. Oil pipelines owned jointly by the Government of Colombia and Western companies continued to be bombed by the rebels, but at a slower pace than in 1993. US interests sustained several terrorist attacks during the year, more than in any other Latin American country. For instance, suspected ELN rebels bombed a Coca-Cola plant in January, and FARC and ELN guerrillas attacked at least five Mormon churches during the year. The rebels also conducted a series of kidnappings of US citizens; the FARC is suspected of kidnapping at least five US citizens in 1994. At yearend, both rebel groups held hostage as many as nine Americans, six of whom are US missionaries. This appears to be the largest number of Americans held in Colombia at any one time.
In 1994 there were 1,378 reported kidnappings, a 35-percent increase from 1993. This figure, however, is considered low because many families deal with the kidnappers directly without reporting the crime. It is estimated that 50 percent of these recorded instances were by guerrillas who rely on the ransom payments to finance their activities.
In November, after only a few months in office, President Ernesto Samper announced his administration's willingness to negotiate with the nation's violent guerrilla organizations, emphasizing that the insurgents need to demonstrate a genuine desire for reaching a negotiated settlement. Unlike his predecessor, the President did not condition negotiations on a rebel cease-fire. While both the FARC and ELN have characterized the government's proposal as positive, government officials cautioned against expectations that negotiations would begin soon.
The government is also exposing further links between the guerrillas and narcotraffickers. Various guerrilla fronts, particularly in southeastern Colombia, provide security and other services for different narcotics trafficking organizations.
At yearend, Panamanian authorities had outstanding arrest warrants for two of the three individuals sought for questioning in connection with the 1992 murder of US Army Corporal Zak Hernandez. On 23 September, Panamanian President Ernesto Perez Balladares granted amnesties to 216 individuals, including six former Panamanian Defense Force personnel linked to the 1989 kidnapping, torture, and murder of American citizen Raymond Dragseth during Operation Just Cause.
Two years after the capture of Abimael Guzman, Sendero Luminoso's founder and leader, the Maoist terrorist group is struggling, attempting to rebuild and resolve its leadership problems. Guzman's 1993 peace offer continued to divide the organization between Sendero militants in favor of continuing the armed struggle and those preferring to adhere to their jailed leader's proposal. Consequently, recruitment of new cadres has been hindered. Moreover, during the past two years Sendero's financial lifeline -- the narcotics industry in the coca-rich Upper Huallaga Valley (UHV) -- was disrupted, largely because of a coca plant fungus in UHV and a more active government counternarcotics policy.
The Fujimori government continued to maintain its momentum against Sendero in 1994. Peruvian police detained two Sendero Central Committee members operating in Lima, weakening the group's urban infrastructure and a planned terrorism campaign to commemorate a revered Sendero anniversary in June. The arrests further exacerbated logistic and financial problems in the organization. One of the detainees, Moises Limaco, was one of the most senior Sendero leaders reportedly responsible for coordinating logistics and personnel.
Despite these setbacks, Sendero proved it can still inflict serious damage. During 1994, Sendero murdered more than 150 Peruvians, down from 516 in 1993. In February, suspected Sendero militants detonated an 80- kilogram car bomb against the Air Force headquarters building in central Lima, killing two persons. In October, the group destroyed six electrical towers, cutting off power temporarily in nearly all of Lima, much of the Peruvian coast, and part of the Sierra highlands.