Global Policy Forum

Rumsfeld Urges a Latin Push Against Terror


By Thom Shanker

New York Times
November 17, 2004

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Tuesday that the ability of terrorist organizations to move people, weapons and money across the many borders of Central and South America could be constrained only by increased cooperation among the governments and militaries in the region.

At the start of meetings with defense ministers from the Western Hemisphere, Mr. Rumsfeld cited the skill of the groups Hamas and Hezbollah - which are on the United States government's list of terrorist organizations - in raising money in the region. And he warned that smugglers' routes now used to move illegal workers toward the United States border could just as easily be used by terrorists.

In outlining Washington's vision for cooperation, he complimented recent military exercises that included naval and coast guard ships and air force jets from the United States, Panama, Chile and six other nations, and focused on skills at intercepting smugglers' vessels and guarding the entrances of the Panama Canal.

Members of Mr. Rumsfeld's delegation acknowledged that although there was broad agreement on the dangers of narcotics trafficking and links between criminal organizations in Latin America and the United States, not all nations in the hemisphere shared Washington's definition of terrorism, which focuses on Islamic extremists like Al Qaeda. "Solidarity is a problem," a senior Defense Department official said.

Ministers presented a united face on the topic, at least in public. "This is a subject of extreme concern to us," said Nelson Herrera, Ecuador's minister of defense. Mr. Rumsfeld emphasized that security threats of the 21st century could not be solved by any one country working alone.

"The enemies of civil order in this world - whether they be hostage takers, gangs, criminals, narco-traffickers, terrorists - they look for weaknesses," he said. "The only real way to defeat the terrorists is to put pressure on them across the board," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "We have to deny them safe havens. We have to seek them out where they are. And we have to cooperate internationally in reducing their ability to raise money."

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