- The Washington Times - Monday, November 29, 2010

The U.S. has been concerned about about the presence of terrorists - as well as Iranian influence - in Paraguay, according to a cable from the WikiLeaks document dump.

A March 24, 2008, directive sent to the U.S. Embassy in Asuncion asks diplomats to collect information “on the presence, intentions, plans and activities of terrorist groups, facilitators, and support networks - including, but not limited to, Hizballah, Hamas, al-Gama’at al-Islamiya, al-Qa’ida, jihadist media organizations, Iranian state agents or surrogates - in Paraguay, in particular in the Tri-Border Area (TBA).”

The TBA, where Paraguay meets Brazil and Argentina has long been a source of unease in the West, described in 1998 by FBI Director Louis Freeh as a “free zone for significant criminal activity, including people who are organized to commit acts of terrorism.”

Both the CIA and Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency have long been rumored to have operatives in the area.

As reported in July by The Washington Times, Air Force Gen. Douglas M. Fraser, commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), expressed concern about terrorist activity throughout Latin America in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“Transnational terrorists - Hezbollah, Hamas - have organizations resident in the region,” Gen. Fraser said. “I stay focused on it just because I’m paid to be skeptical. What we see right now is support - financial support - to parent organizations in the Middle East.”

“I don’t see any ops,” the SOUTHCOM commander said. “I don’t see anything like that. It still remains an issue and a concern for the supply they are doing. But on a skeptical basis, because of the amount of illicit trafficking that happens throughout the region - the ability to move people, goods, capability across the border of the United States - makes it a concern that I will continue to monitor.”

The cable also asks requests information on Paraguay’s ” elations with Iran and information on Islamic facilities, including mosques, cultural centers, etc., supported by Iran.”

Iran, bolstered by strong ties with Venezuela and its regional allies, has a larger diplomatic profile in the Western Hemisphere than it did a few years ago.

“From an Iranian standpoint, they are increasing their presence in the number of embassies that they have within the region,” Gen. Fraser said in July. “They’ve gone from seven. I think they’ll open their twelfth embassy this year. My concern there is just their traditional support to Hamas and Hezbollah and whether or not that then has an impact in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

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