April 21, 2014
Central American Criminal and Terrorism Nexuses are Maturing
As Central America's northern cone nations set records for willful deaths, Honduras leads the world with a murder rate of 90.4 per 100,000.
El Salvador, Guatemala and Belize’s homicide rates are averaging, collectively, 42 percent per 100,000, as people literally
fight for their lives.
These seemingly unabated rates of murder, plus the kidnappings and assassinations of public figures,
police, members of the armed forces and journalists, are the continuing and expanding product -- and chosen role -- of transnational
organized criminals (TOC). And much of their achieved movement would not have been possible without facilitation and nurturing
by rogue leftist political regimes, and paramilitary and guerilla-like forces, within this hemisphere.
Each of the countries
in the northern cone of Central America, as well as Mexico and the United States, have shared borders within the regions of
hostile operational activities that witness fluid and seemingly unstoppable encroachment by the criminal insurgent-like actors.
These TOCs, for the most part, use advanced military-type weaponry, superior firepower and more advantageous military tactics,
including seen before elements of intelligence tradecraft employed by world terrorist organizations.
has forced many gangs south into Guatemala and El Salvador. Quick to follow were the Zetas, albeit the Zeta movement south
has been described as a proactive movement and not a reactive strategy of retreat. Their reach into Central America
has corrupted police, while they have recruited talent and trained recruits in Guatemalan camps. Movements into Honduras graphically
mark the Zeta's area of influence as a clear indicator of turf superiority, as they have expanded their territorial range
from the Gulf of Mexico coastal states to Central America.
The transnational influence and power of the Zetas paved the way for an upswing
in the long distance shipping of cocaine from South America, much of this through the risky Central America drug pipeline
into lucrative North American markets. Other violent criminal activities, including human and sex trafficking, have
matured into lucrative markets of incredible revenue. These awesome endeavors required a power that had to prevail against
all obstacles designed to interdict.
In El Salvador alone, the strong and violent Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang became a fertile recruiting
ground for the Zetas. Law enforcement and government concerns and fears that powerful Zeta alliances would lead to jail
breaks, to free previously captured gang members, became realities.
This insurgent-like equation became the new organized crime-terror
nexus. Fear, intimidation, political tampering, kidnappings, murders, bombings, and torture became the norm. The organizational
similarities of organized crime and terror merged to essentially form a single merchant of violence and death, available to
the highest or most powerful bidder or survivor. Groups emerged as third generation gangs possessing extensive, asymmetrical
The critical question that must be asked, again -- and much more vociferously: where are all of these affected nation’s
priorities, strategies and proactive solutions to protect against TOCs using asymmetric tactics against the States and further
threatening their nations' security and economy?
Many ask, “Just how real and serious is this?” As far back as 2009,
the previous director of the CIA, General Michael Hayden, stated: ‘‘Escalating violence along the U.S.-Mexico
border will pose the second greatest threat to U.S. security this year, second only to al Qaeda. ”
In framing the discussion of the
realities of the nexus of many heavily armed nefarious groups and organizations within the hemisphere, and their desired and
actual agendas, we must look at the issues of not only corruption but too covert support and facilitation by other powerful
entities above “soldier” levels.
Last February 14 security consultant Douglas Farah gave testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Subcommittee
on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade regarding, “Terrorist Groups in Latin America: The Changing Landscape.”
stated that hybrid groups like Colombia's FARC, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and many others “thrive in the seams
of the world’s illicit trade pipelines.” He described FARC as a prototype of the coming hybrid
terrorist-criminal insurgency, which “remains at the center of a multitude of criminal enterprises and terrorist activities
that stretch from Colombia south to Argentina, and northward to Central America and into direct ties to Mexican drug cartels.”
Farah, the U.S. DEA has shown direct and growing criminal drug ties between the FARC and Hezbollah. Too, his testimony revealed
that “FARC is a central part of the revolutionary project of bringing together armed groups and terrorist organizations
under the umbrella of the (Venezuelan) Bolivarian Revolution.” He cited known and reported links
to the late Hugo Chavez, Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega, Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa, and current president-elect
Salvador Sanchez Ceren of El Salvador, as “Giving significant logistical, financial, and political support to the FARC,
allowing FARC to expand its international networks and increase its resources.”
Documents and computers, including hundreds of gigabytes of data retrieved from computers during a Colombian raid into
Ecuador against FARC in 2008, revealed what was described as graphic evidence of these rogue political associations and relationships.
Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat
mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia. His website is located at www.cjiausa.org.