Monday, December 4, 2023

LATIN AMERICA | 09-10-2023 15:31

Maximum alert at South American Triple Frontier after Hamas’ attacks in Israel

Area taking in triple border junction of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay remains, according to different international relations analysts, “a mini state benefitting from a corrupt elite while maintaining a large and efficient money-laundering hub for organised crime and terrorist groups.”

While war wages on in all its horror in Israel, some 1,000 kilometres north of Buenos Aires City, at the so-called Triple Frontier juncture in South America, surveillance of unlawful activities is intensifying. In the region, at least six groups of terrorists and members of the organised crime operate.

Argentina's northern city of Puerto Iguazú borders the Brazilian city of Foz do Iguazú and Ciudad del Este, in the Paraguayan province of Alto Paraná. In that region where the Iguazú and the Paraná rivers meet, serving as a natural separation for the territories of all three South American nations, there is lawful business activity which once positioned Ciudad del Este as the second most populated city in Paraguay, only overtaken by Asunción.

Yet, given the lack of actual control on the ground, the region has allowed a budding unlawful trade of banned substances, arms dealing. On multiple occasions, the Triple Frontier has been a hide-out for terrorists who, for instance, once attacked Jewish targets in Buenos Aires City.

In the face of a new context of war declared between the Hamas militia and the State of Israel, alarms have gone off at the Triple Frontier. Controls and reports by the main spying agencies with interests in the region have been heightened.

On June 15, 2023, the Infobae news outlet revealed that three of the four members of Hezbollah allegedly responsible for the terrorist attacks in Argentina in the 1990s were living in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay and Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil. Lately, the members of Hezbollah and Hamas operating from the Triple Frontier have joined drug dealing clans to fund their attack missions in Israel and targets in the rest of the world.

While Hamas strikes cities in southern Israel, military authorities fear attacks in the north from Hezbollah bases in Lebanon and Syria. Israeli military spokesman, lieutenant colonel Richard Hecht, told foreign correspondents that “tens of thousands” of Israeli reserves had been called to help because the nation is preparing in the north in case of attacks from Lebanon or Syria. Lebanese militant group Hezbollah praised the recent attacks and said they were in touch with Palestinian militant groups, according to their channel Al Manar.


'Mini state'

A report by Asymetrica and the Project on Terrorism states that “the Triple Frontier has become a mini state, yielding some US$43 billion a year."

According to César Niño, professor of international relations from Universidad La Salle in Bogotá, Colombia, “the triple frontier is a geopolitical black hole."

"The area has sections where the State can’t reach, illegal border crossings, very poor or non-existent customs control and corrupt public servants," said Niño.

Those are the main reasons, in addition to the opportunities afforded by the differences in taxes and exchange rates, for thre presence of criminal groups such as the Brazilian Comando Vermelho or the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel in this part of the continent, on occasion associated with the fundamentalists of Hezbollah and Hamas, among other terrorist organisations.

Argentine police sources say that the Lebanese mainly dominate in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil. According to estimates by Argentine and Brazilian officials, Hezbollah brings in US$200 million per year at the Triple Frontier, between operations in Ciudad del Este (Paraguay) and Foz do Iguaçu.

In 2018, during Mauricio Macri’s administration in Argentina, the assets and funds of the so-called 'Barakat Clan,' a criminal organisation linked to Hezbollah with parallel operations in Lebanon and the Triple Frontier, were frozen. Even though, money continues to be moved some other way.

The Barakat clan, headed by Assad Ahmad Barakat, has business in all three countries, and according to Argentina's UIF Financial Information Unit watchdog during the Cambiemos government, the clan is involved in “smuggling, forging money and documents, extortion, drug-dealing, arms-dealing, asset-laundering and terrorism-financing."

Angélica Cuellar, a professor with the Universidad Nacional Autónoma in Mexico, explains that Hamas is an organisation which will not give up its fight against the State of Israel.

“Hamas is a nationalist and Sunni Islamist Palestinian organisation, founded in the late eighties, amid the outbreak of the Initifada, and 20 years after the disaster which was the Six-Day War for the Arabic world in general and for Palestinians in particular," said Cuellar.

"Despite its growing involvement in the complex political arena and the control it maintains over a portion of the territories controlled by the Palestinian National Authority, Hamas’ refusal to give up terrorist violence as a means of resistance entails serious difficulties for the possibility of its internal legitimacy within relations with Israel and the West," said the professor.

Supported and funded by the Iranian Ayatollahs, Hamas also collects money from its association with drug-trafficking gangs. In January 2021, authorities dismantled a criminal organisation closely linked with Hezbollah: a network commandeered by Nasser Abbas Bahmad, which camouflaged a great number of tonnes of narcotics in coal containers.

Other illegal businesses include the smuggling of Chinese electronics and forgeries, drugs and money-laundering, as well as smuggling cigarettes, the latter for which former president of Paraguay Horacio Cartes was indicted. The largest transnational criminal organisation smuggling tobacco in the Western world involves Hezbollah. The group is actively involved in cigarette-trafficking in Colombia, United States and the Triple Frontier.

This is a reality known for some time now, because Hamas, which has just been congratulated by Hezbollah high command for their bloody attacks on innocent Israeli citizens, was an organisation “driven by leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood when they broke ties with Islamic Jihad."

Expert Cuellar, explained that “...between 1984 and 1987 there was a fundamental change in the perspective of the Brotherhood, which decided to undertake a clear commitment to armed resistance. And thus Hamas was born, founded partly as a continuation of the cycle of Palestinian resistance against Israel within the aforementioend context of rigorous Islamic ideology."

related news

by Antonio D´Eramo, Noticias Argentinas


More in (in spanish)