On August 1, Homeland Security Today published a report providing intriguing details about the rise of radical Islamists in Latin America. The report notes how, from the 1980s, Islamic terror organizations from the Middle East began establishing significant operational footholds in various Latin American countries. Hizballah has the largest such presence, but a terror branch of the Palestinian Liberation Organization also engaged in such infiltration. This report noted how, even in these earlier years, the radical Islamist organizations were making alliances with leftist guerrilla and drug trafficking groups as well as the intelligence and security services of Panama's then dictator Manuel Noriega.
This Islamic terror presence in America's backyard has grown over the years but may not have been receiving appropriate attention from US Intelligence and law enforcement agencies nor Congress. Periodic arrests of Middle East terror suspects along the US-Mexican border, or such suspects after they have entered the US, occasionally bring this issue to light; however, there have been notable indicators in more recent years that such terrorists pose a definite threat to US interests.
In June 2005, a report surfaced about a cocaine smuggling ring based in Ecuador that funneled money to Hizballah. In March of this year, The Washington Times reported that Hizballah utilized Mexican drug smuggling routes to facilitate its own narcotics and human trafficking enterprises. Journalist Todd Bensman has done some groundbreaking work on the subject.
There is little doubt Latin America has a significant population of radical Islamists, to include those affiliated with Middle East terror organizations. This threat has existed for more than 20 years in that region, and these Muslim terrorists and their supporters have forged alliances with indigenous Latin American leftist insurgent groups and organized drug trafficking cartels. This demands greater attention by U.S. authorities.