U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
1996 APRIL: PATTERNS OF GLOBAL TERRORISM, 1995
Office of the Secretary
Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Philip C. Wilcox, Jr.
LATIN AMERICA OVERVIEW
International terrorist activity rose in Latin America mostly due to the
high number of attacks against international entities in Colombia. In
1995 the number of attacks in that country increased by 85 percent to 76
attacks. In all of Latin America, however, a total of eight
international terrorist attacks last year were lethal.
Guerrillas continued to target the democratic process in Colombia
through intimidation and violence. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia (FARC) held at least four US citizens hostage at the end of the
year. The group killed two US missionaries in June after kidnapping them
in 1994. Ransoms continued to provide guerrillas with significant
income, making up for a decrease in protection payments from coca
growers, who had lower production as a result of the government's
eradication program. Government efforts to negotiate a peaceful
settlement were met with increased guerrilla violence.
There were no international terrorist incidents reported in Argentina
during 1995. The investigation into the bombing in 1994 of the Argentine
Jewish Mutual Association remains unsolved. The Government of Argentina
organized and hosted a regional counterterrorist conference in August in
an effort to encourage cooperation in countering the international
Peru successfully continued to counter its terrorist organizations,
significantly lowering the level of violence in the country. While
Peru's terrorist organizations, Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path or SL)
and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) have significantly
declined in strength, they still have the capacity to inflict damage
against international targets. At year's end, the Government of Peru was
planning to host an Organization of American States (OAS) conference on
terrorism in 1996, which will focus on promoting cooperation among
Western Hemisphere nations in combating terrorism while protecting human
Throughout 1995 the Argentine Government continued its investigation of
the bombing in July 1994 of the Jewish community center building (AMIA)
that killed nearly 100 persons. In September, Investigating Judge Juan
Jose Galeano filed additional charges against detained suspect Carlos
Telleldin, accusing him of criminal conspiracy relating to the stolen-
car ring that allegedly provided the van used in the attack on the AMIA.
The police detained other suspects in December to review their possible
roles in the bombing attack.
The investigation into the bombing in March 1992 of the Israeli Embassy
failed to develop any new leads. Paraguay extradited seven suspected
terrorists to Argentina, where they were released after questioning. The
Argentine Supreme Court now has responsibility for the case. The
Iranian-backed Lebanese Hizballah remains the key suspect in both the
1992 and 1994 attacks.
One of Argentina's most wanted fugitives, Enrique Gorriaran Merlo, was
detained on 28 October in Mexico and expelled shortly thereafter to
Buenos Aires to stand trial. Gorriaran was involved in the kidnapping of
the general manager of an Exxon refinery and managed the negotiations
for the captive's release after a ransom was paid. Gorriaran was also an
organizer of an attack on a military base in 1989 that left nearly 40
dead. He had been a leader of Argentina's People's Revolutionary Army
(ERP), a largely leftist urban terrorist group that operated in the
1970s, and he personally took responsibility for the assassination of
former Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza in Paraguay in 1980. If
convicted of the several charges, Gorriaran faces life imprisonment.
Argentina took a leading role in regional cooperation against
international counterterrorism in 1995. Buenos Aires hosted a regional
counterterrorist conference in August to improve cooperation among its
neighbors - Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay, as well as the United
States and Canada. The Government of Argentina also is pressing for
greater cooperation with Brazil and Paraguay to improve border controls
in the "triborder" area, where their three frontiers meet. Argentina
will introduce a new machine-readable passport in early 1996.
Colombia continued to be wracked by violence in 1995, suffering numerous
terrorist bombings, murders, and kidnappings for ransom. Drug
traffickers, leftist insurgents, paramilitary squads, and common
criminals committed scores of crimes with impunity, killing their
targets as well as many innocent bystanders. Although most of the
politically motivated violence was directed at local targets, Colombia
recorded 76 international terrorist incidents during 1995, the highest
number in Latin America and nearly twice the 41 such incidents in 1994.
The nation's two main guerrilla groups - the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) - intensified
political violence during the year, ignoring offers for peace talks with
the government. Rebel attacks against oil pipelines owned jointly by the
Government of Colombia and Western companies escalated, accounting for
most of the international incidents in Colombia in 1995.
Kidnapping for ransom continued to be a profitable business in Colombia;
leftist guerrillas conducted approximately half of all abductions in the
country, increasing their war chests by several million dollars.
Colombians were the primary victims, but many foreign nationals also
were abducted. At year's end, FARC rebels held at least four US
citizens, three of whom were detained in 1993 and one in 1994. In August
presumed FARC guerrillas released one US citizen kidnapped near Cali in
1994. Another US citizen, kidnapped in January, was released in April.
Kidnappings of foreigners sometimes have ended with the murder of the
hostage. A British citizen kidnapped by guerrillas in June was found
dead in August near Bogota. The guerrillas also kidnapped and
subsequently released a UK Embassy employee. In June, FARC guerrillas
murdered two US missionaries, held since January 1994, during a chance
encounter with a Colombian army patrol. Police have issued arrest
warrants for eight guerrillas suspected of kidnapping the two
Despite President Samper's willingness to negotiate with the nation's
guerrilla organizations, FARC and ELN insurgents did not demonstrate a
sincere desire to pursue a negotiated settlement in 1995. Instead, they
continued to attack government forces and other targets. On the
anniversary of President Samper's inauguration in August, FARC rebels
attacked a police counternarcotics base in Miraflores (in Guaviare
Department), killing six and wounding 29 police officers. Unknown
assailants, possibly guerrillas, bombed a sculpture in a crowded
Medellin square, which left 28 persons dead and injured more than 175.
FARC guerrillas operating in areas of heavy coca cultivation often fired
on - and in one case shot down - government aircraft engaged in US-supported
drug eradication efforts.
Twice during 1995, President Samper declared a "state of internal
commotion," invoking exceptional measures because of increased violence
nationwide and the assassination on 2 November of Conservative Party
patriarch Alvaro Gomez Hurtado. On that date, President Samper announced
that he was empowering the military, governors of the 32 departments
(states), and all mayors to authorize the evacuation of civilians from
municipalities to combat illegal armed groups, including the guerrilla
organizations operating in Colombia.
Guatemala's 35-year-old insurgency continues at a low level, as talks
toward a negotiated settlement progress. The three major armed guerrilla
groups - the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), the Revolutionary
Organization of the People in Arms (ORPA), and the Guerrilla Army of the
Poor (EGP) - are allied in the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Union
(URNG), along with the Communist Guatemalan Workers' Party (PGT).
In April a bomb was detonated outside the Presidential Palace during a
visit by UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Evidence points to
guerrilla involvement, but no group claimed responsibility. In May
presumed guerrillas fired on a US Embassy antinarcotics helicopter on a
training flight over Palin. The aircraft sustained minor damage.
The bombing in July 1994 of a commuter airliner that killed all 21
persons aboard, including three US citizens, remained under
investigation in 1995. Panama has made no arrests but continues to
cooperate closely with US authorities.
Progress was made in two other terrorist cases. Pedro Miguel Gonzalez,
one of the suspects in the murder in 1992 of US Army Corporal Zak
Hernandez, turned himself over to Panamanian authorities in January
1995; his case had not yet gone to trial by the end of the year. Two
others sought in connection with the murder of the US serviceman
remained at large. Juan Barria, who confessed to having murdered a US
citizen and a US Embassy employee during Operation Just Cause in 1989,
was convicted after a jury trial on 19 November.
Peruvian Government security forces in 1995 continued to reduce the
activities of Peru's terrorist organizations - Sendero Luminoso (Shining
Path or SL) and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). Numerous
detentions, casualties, and defections further weakened the two groups,
and continued arrests of several terrorist leaders kept the level of
violence by these groups low compared to previous years. Most of the
violence in 1995 took place in rural areas, particularly the coca-rich
Upper Huallaga Valley. Violence in Lima and other cities declined. In
Lima there were two car bombings, the lowest number in years.
Police arrests helped disrupt Sendero's terrorist plans for the national
elections in April 1995. In a major coordinated operation,
counterterrorist police arrested approximately 20 members of Sendero
Luminoso in the cities of Lima, Callao, Huancayo, and Arequipa. Among
those captured was Sendero Central Committee member, and number-two
leader of Sendero militants still at large, Margi Clavo Peralta. Clavo
later publicly announced her support for peace talks with the
government, which jailed Sendero leader and founder Abimael Guzman first
advocated in 1993.
Three years after the capture of SL chieftain Guzman, the Maoist
terrorist group is struggling, attempting to rebuild and resolve its
leadership problems. Sendero Luminoso has become less active, its
operations smaller and less sophisticated. While SL's capability to
target international targets has diminished, it retains the capability
to cause considerable harm, and its "anti-imperialist" animus has not
changed. In May the group detonated a car bomb in front of a luxury Lima
hotel, killing four and injuring several dozen persons. In July, Sendero
terrorists killed a Peruvian employee of a US mining company after
seeking by name a US geologist who had left the site a few days earlier.
On 1 December the number-two leader of MRTA still at large, Miguel
Rincon, surrendered to police after a firefight that followed a raid of
a MRTA safehouse. The police arrested more than a dozen other MRTA
members and uncovered weapons and explosives in the residence. The
police effort inflicted a severe blow to the weakened terrorist
organization, disrupting its plans to conduct attacks.