Latin America: Terrorism Issues

On July 2, 2008, three Americans defense contractors were among fifteen hostages dramatically rescued from years of captivity under the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The then US President George W. Bush among other world leaders congratulated the Colombian government for executing a brilliant, bloodless rescue mission. FARC is one of the largest and oldest major insurgent movements operating in Latin America (Sullivan).

Established in 1964, this leftist group is designated by the US as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO). Another group the US considers terrorist is the National Liberation Army (ELN). Though not as infamous as FARC, ELN also draws its inspiration from Marxism. Both FARC and ELN have sought to influence or even topple democratically elected governments in Colombia, accusing them of perpetuating Washington's "imperialist and neocolonialist" policies (Sullivan, Cuba: issues for the 111th Congress).

Over the years, the two FTOs have used guerilla warfare, terrorist attacks, organized crime, illegal taxation, economic extortions, kidnapping activities and arms smuggling to wage their war against the Colombian government and people. But perhaps their deadliest weapon so far has been narco-terrorism. This is the use of proceeds from the cultivation and trafficking of drugs to sponsor politically-motivated acts of violence. The relationship between narcotics trafficking and terrorism cannot be exaggerated (Perl).

Though there is no evidence directly linking either FARC or ELN to any recent terrorist plots against US interests, international terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda can easily take advantage of the instability caused by these two organizations and use Colombia as a safe haven to plan and execute their causes. The possibility of FARC or ELN using their drug dollars to sponsor terrorist activities against the US is also not remote. Moreover, FARC and ELN enjoy some sympathy from anti-US countries (National Drug Intelligence Center). It is not farfetched to imagine Venezuela sponsoring FARC to kidnap US nationals or bomb her embassy in Bogota.

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