(New York, NY) -- Terrorists and criminals are able to pocket up to $800 million a week or $43 billion a year from activities taking place in Latin America’s Tri-Border Area (TBA) according to a new report released today by the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) and Asymmetrica.
The TBA is the rugged area between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. It encompasses a river system stretching for 2,100 miles and crossing five countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
The report found that the TBA has grown into a mini-state that benefits a corrupt elite. It has become the center of a number of illegal activities like money laundering and cigarette smuggling that benefit the terrorist group Hezbollah. The TBA presents a significant challenge for national authorities of all three countries. The International Monetary Fund has expressed particular concern about the effect the money laundering and terrorist financing in the region will have on the effective functioning of legitimate capital flows around the world.
Hezbollah is widely considered the biggest cigarette smuggling DTO [drug trafficking organization] in the Western Hemisphere and while the disruption of Hezbollah’s financing is high on many countries’ agenda, it remains a continuing challenge to the countries of the TBA, due in part to a lack of law enforcement resources.
“Hezbollah’s presence and economic activities in the TBA must be curtailed and halted,” said CEP Hezbollah expert David Daoud. “The group currently runs one of the largest cigarette smuggling operation in the Western Hemisphere. By tolerating this illicit activity, we are allowing Hezbollah to continue to operations, and plotting and executing further attacks.”
Stuart Page, one of the report’s authors, highlighted that ‘’the TBA has become a regional crime fusion center where corrupt politicians work with drug cartels leading to the creation of a state within a state that benefits a corrupt elite while maintaining a large and efficient money-laundering center for the world’s organized crime and terrorist groups. Currently, an estimated 70 percent of economic activity in this area is on the black market.’’
Report author, Dr. Vanessa Neumann, is an expert on Latin American politics and security, said: “The TBA represents a significant challenge for the governments in this region and for the wider international community. Only through a coordinated, international effort can the challenges presented be adequately tackled. International organizations should not only commit in theory to step up their national and collective involvement, but should take concrete action in the fight against the financing of terrorist individuals. We do not need empty words but efficient and effective actions.’’
To read the report: The Many Criminal Heads of the Golden Hydra, please click here.