War on the Southern Border

by MAJ. GEN. PAUL E. VALLELY, US ARMY (RET) June 22, 2011
“The Collapse of Mexico and Its Civil War Comes to America” is being reported by an article in Newsmax Magazine this week. We at Stand Up America raised the threat level of Mexico and the Southern Border to the second biggest threat to the United States last month. Financial collapse in 2011 is the number one major threat. The threat from our Southern Border is greater now than the Middle East (except for Iran and proxies) and the continued war against radical Islam. With the reported death of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, it is apparent that we have to be posturing for increased attacks on innocent civilians, our overseas bases and worldwide US assets.

While  vigilance, border security and defensive measures are necessary and essential, these measures are only part of the national strategy that we need now to protect America from the Southern Border of Mexico to Venezuela. We need superb human intelligence to be able to mount Special Operations and Joint Force Strike against these enemy threats from black and white global Lily Pads. We must be offensive minded and preempt any planned cartel narco-terrorists and jihadist operations. Our National Security team must be adaptive and creative in national strategy planning and execution.

The bloody battle between ruthless Mexican drug cartels threatens to turn America's southern neighbor into a failed nation-state that is spilling deeply into U.S. territory, threatening American citizens and our way of life. The raging drug wars have claimed nearly 40,000 lives since 2006 in a nightmare of beheadings, mass graves, kidnappings, and endemic corruption at the highest levels of Mexican society, as cartels rake in $12 billion a year. Newsmaxmagazine's eye-opening special report, "The Collapse of Mexico — Its Civil War Comes to America," delves into the people and politics along the treacherous border. Newsmax spent two months conducting more than 20 interviews during visits to border areas in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, and found that despite the administration's reassurances, Mexico's drug cartels have penetrated deep into our nation's heartland, striking fear in ordinary Americans. Frightening fact: Even the Government  Accountability Office concedes that the United States can prevent or interrupt illegal entry along only 129 miles of our 1,954-mile southern border.

"The Collapse of Mexico" report:

       * One couple's deadly confrontation with Mexican smugglers
       * Obama's empty boast about border security
       * Cartels threaten the "rapid and sudden collapse" of Mexico
       * Troubling number: 1 in 5 border crossers has criminal record
       * Lawlessness is "new normal" along the border
       * The most worrisome sign of Mexico's chaos
       * Cartels' savagery toward migrants
       * Border fence lands U.S. residents in "Mexico"
       * Cartels use high-tech surveillance gear in U.S.
       * Government's ominous warning to visitors on federal lands
       * Apprehensions of illegals have plunged in last 10 years
       * Terrorists seep through border — 409 caught from Pakistan
       * WikiLeaks reveals: Mexico  re-sells U.S. arms to cartels
       * Slain rancher's widow's message to Janet Napolitano
       * 9-11 Commission's "worst-case scenario" on the southern border
       * Drug lord Joaquin Guzman: world's most powerful trafficker
       * The deadliest town in Mexico
       * Five  states hardest hit by illegal immigration
       * Border Patrol's bogus claim of "acceptable control"
       * Judith Miller: Super rich imperil Mexico's growth
       * Illegal aliens cost Americans $113 billion a year
       * Cartels' links to Hezbollah operatives
       * Sheriff: Obama's "near betrayal" of local law enforcement
       * Mexicans' cruel choice: "silver or lead"
       * Americans fear the cartels — 70 miles from Mexican border

Our leadership in Washington, DC despite the Osama slaying appears to still be on a rudderless course when it comes to National Security especially along our Southern Border.  According to some already leaked documents, Venezuelan General Hugo Carvajal and other members of the  armed forces have been in direct contact with and lending financial support to the late FARC leader Antonio Mar¡n, aka "Tirofijo" ("Sure Shot") and "Manuel Marulanda."   FARC continues to enjoy ideological support from the governments of Ecuador and Venezuela.  Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa have both argued that the FARC should not be considered a terrorist organization.

While supporting the insurgents next door , Venezuelan  military and terror alliances are spanning the globe and expanding at a worrying rate in  relation to US interests in the region. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Russian President Dimitry Medvedev jointly announced that they had reached an agreement for Russia to build two 1200-megawatt nuclear reactors in Venezuela. Also part of the deal was the latest installment of $6.6 billion of conventional weapons purchases since 2005: ninety-two T-72 and T-90 tanks that will replace the aging French MX-30s, ten Ilyushin Il-76 MD- 90 planes, two Il-78MK refueling aircraft, as well as five S-300 missile systems. Iran had also sought the S-300 but Medvedev banned the sale for fear of violating U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929, concerning sanctions on Iran. The S-300 missiles and their attendant Smerch multiple rocket launchers are considered far more powerful than the Tor M-1 missile systems that both Venezuela and Iran have previously purchased in the past five years. Caracas has also confirmed plans to purchase up to 10 Mi-28NE attack  helicopters on top of the 10 Mi-35M helicopters purchased in the past half- decade. That is an awful lot of weaponry for a country that has not fought a war since its independence from Spain in 1821.

While Chavez has said that he is arming his citizen militias, known as Bolivarian Circles, rumor has it that the weapons may also be going to agents and fighters from the Colombian FARC, the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah and Cuban security and intelligence services, whose numbers, according to many think tanks and U.S. security sources, have swelled in Venezuela. Interpol has confirmed evidence that Venezuela has funneled well over $300 million to the FARC and has built an ammunition plant to supply AK-103s, the FARC weapon of choice.  That is only one piece of the puzzle; the other is Iran, where Venezuelan money has also been flowing.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud  Ahmadinejad publicly call each other "brothers" and last year signed 11 memoranda of understanding for, among other initiatives, joint oil and gas exploration, as well as the construction of tanker ships and petrochemical plants. Chavez's assistance to the Islamic Republic in circumventing U.N. sanctions has got the attention of the new Republican leadership of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Connie Mack (both R-FL) have said they intend to launch a money-laundering investigation into the Venezuelan state oil company Petr¢leos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA). In July 2010, the EU ordered the seizure of all the assets of the Venezuelan International Development Bank, an affiliate of the Export Development Bank of Iran (EDBI), one of 34 Iranian entities implicated in the development of nuclear or ballistic technology and sanctioned by the Treasury Department. In the meantime, Tehran and Caracas have  announced that PDVSA will be investing $780 million in the South Pars gas field in southern Iran.

Uranium, sought by both Iran and Russia, is a key aspect of the two countries' strategic relationship: Iran is reportedly helping Venezuela find and refine its estimated 50,000 tons of uranium reserves.  So, on one side Venezuela is funding and arming the FARC; on the other it is purchasing nuclear reactors and weapons from the Russians; on yet another, it is sending money to Iran and helping it find and enrich uranium. And then there is Hezbollah, Iran's Lebanon-based proxy.

Reports that Venezuela has provided Hezbollah operatives with Venezuelan national identity cards are so rife, they were raised in the July 27, 2010, Senate hearing for the recently nominated U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, Larry Palmer. When Palmer answered that he believed the reports, Chavez refused to accept him as ambassador in Venezuela. Meanwhile, Iran Air, the  self-proclaimed "airline of the Islamic Republic of Iran," operates a Tehran-Caracas flight commonly referred to as "Aeroterror" by intelligence officials for allegedly facilitating the access of terrorist suspects to South America.  The Venezuelan government shields passenger lists from Interpol on that flight.

Iran, meanwhile, has developed significant relationships elsewhere in Latin America - most prominently with Chavez's allies and fellow Bolivarian Revolutionaries: Bolivian President Evo Morales, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.

In December 2008 the EDBI offered to deposit $120 million in the Ecuadorean Central Bank to fund bilateral trade, and Iran and Ecuador have signed a $30 million deal to conduct joint mining projects in Ecuador through the Chemical-Geotechnical-metallurgical Research Center in Ecuador. Even as that deal carefully avoids mentioning uranium, the IAEA's March  2009 plans to help Ecuador explore its vast uranium reserves were largely intended to highlight and preclude Iranian involvement. In February 2010 the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force, a multilateral organization that combats money laundering and terrorist financing, placed Ecuador on a list of countries that failed to comply with its regulations.

Middle Eastern terrorism, however, is not new to Latin America and has been on the US Army's radar for many years. Latin America's Tri-Border Area (TBA), bounded by Puerto Iguazu, Argentina; Ciudad del Este, Paraguay; and Foz do Iguacu, Brazil, has long been an ideal breeding ground for terrorist groups. The TBA, South America's busiest contraband and smuggling center, is home to a large, active Arab and Muslim community consisting of a Shi'a majority, a Sunni minority, and a small population of Christians who emigrated from Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, and the Palestinian territories about 50 years  ago. Most of these Arab immigrants are involved in commerce in Ciudad del Este but live in Foz do Iguacu on the Brazilian side of the Iguacu River.

In 2005, six million Muslims were estimated to inhabit Latin American cities. However, ungoverned areas, primarily in the Amazon regions of Suriname, Guyana, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil, present easily exploitable terrain over which to move people and material. The Free Trade Zones of Iquique, Chile; Maicao, Colombia; and Colon, Panama, can generate undetected financial and logistical support for terrorist groups. Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru offer cocaine as a lucrative source of income. In addition, Cuba and Venezuela have cooperative agreements with Syria, Libya, and Iran.

Today, one of the masterminds of Argetnian attacks, the Iranian citizen and Shia Muslim teacher, Mohsen Rabbani, remains not only at large, but extremely active in recruiting young Brazilians,  according to reports in Brazilian magazine Veja.  "Now based in Iran, he continues to play a significant role in the spread of extremism in Latin America," prosecutor Alberto Nisman, head of the special unit of the Argentine prosecutors charged with investigating the attacks, said to VEJA. The enticement of Brazilians for courses abroad has been monitored for four years by the Federal Police and the ABIN, the government's secret service.

One hundred eighty kilometers away from Recife, in rural Pernambuco, the city of Belo Jardim remains the most active center for the recruitment of extremists in Latin America.  Along with the recruits in Belo Jardim, youth from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Mexico also travel to Iran for religious instruction under Rabbani.

The Federal Police has information that Rabbani has been to Brazil several times in recent years.  In one of those visits, almost three years ago, he  boarded the Iran Air flight from Tehran to Caracas, Venezuela and then from there, entered Brazil illegally.

Even ahead of the IISS dossier's publication, the most shocking revelations into the global interconnectedness of Latin American governments and Middle Eastern terrorist groups have come from Walid Makled, Venezuela's latter-day Pablo Escobar, who was arrested on August 19, 2010 in C£cuta, a town on the Venezuelan-Colombian border. A Venezuelan of Syrian descent known variously as "El Turco" ("The Turk") or "El Arabe" ("The Arab"), he is allegedly responsible for smuggling 10 tons of cocaine a month into the US and Europe - a full 10% of the world's supply and 60% of Europe's supply. His massive infrastructure and distribution network make this entirely plausible, as well as entirely implausible the  Venezuelan government did not know. Makled owned Venezuela's biggest airline, Aeropostal, huge warehouses in Venezuela's biggest port, Puerto Cabello, and bought enormous quantities of urea (used in cocaine processing) from a government-owned chemical company.

Indeed since his arrest and incarceration in the Colombian prison La Picota, Makled has given numerous interviews to various media outlets, in which he has claimed that he paid more than a million dollars a month to various high-ranking Venezuelan government officials who were his partners in trafficking FARC cocaine - amongst the named: Venezuelan Minister of the Interior and also Minister of Justice, Tarek El Aissami, the General-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Unified Command, General Henry Rangel Silva, and the Director of Military Intelligence, General Hugo Carvajal.

Although the US had issued an arrest warrant and subjected him to sanctions under the Kingpin Act, Makled is being  extradited to Venezuela, not the US. While the US dithered on Colombia's offer of extradition to the US, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez requested Makled's extradition to Venezuela, where he is (in the ultimate ironic twist) wanted for cocaine trafficking and at least two murders.

When asked on camera by a Univision television reporter whether he had any relation to the FARC, he answered: "That is what I would say to the American prosecutor." Asked directly whether he knew of Hezbollah operations in Venezuela, he answered: "In Venezuela? Of course! That which I understand is that they work in Venezuela. [Hezbollah] make money and all of that money they send to the Middle East."[5]

Makled's extradition to Venezuela rather than the US is thus a terrible loss for both the United States's Global War on Terror (GWOT) and the world's intelligence communities: in Venezuela's heavily politicized judicial system Makled will never receive a fair trial and any testimony he might give will certainly be concealed.

The problem now is that Latin American support for terrorism has growing state support-and this should worry everyone in Washington DC and understand the current threat and vulnerabilities to the America people.. America…We must act NOW for the welfare and security of our precious nation.

FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Paul E. Vallely, Major General (USA/Ret.) is an author, military strategist and Chairman of Stand Up America and Save Our Democracy Projects. 

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