One morning in Panama, I heard on the news that there had been a small number of South Africans detained sneaking through the Darien jungle heading north. Having worked in Iraq for a number of years with South Africans of numerous ethnicities, I was curious for a look. I stepped back into the room to see on the TV what was being reported as several “South Africans” with SA passports and a large number of crisp $100 USD bills on the way out to be deported.

As soon as I saw them standing in Tocumen International Airport, ready to be escorted to SA, I knew they were Havashas, an ethnic group that lives around the horn of Africa—primarily Somali, Eritrean, and Ethiopian. I immediately contacted the U.S. embassy and an old friend there, notifying him that A.) They were NOT South African, B.) The bills were most likely counterfeits from Venezuela (I will explain this in a minute, starting with an experience I had back in 2005), and C.) They probably had ties to al-Shabaab. Three days later I received a phone call from my trusty friend. “Dude, how did you know?”

That was an eye-opener to what had become a serious problem: officials selling visas for transit purposes to presumably East African farmers, but who were, in actuality, linked to Hezbollah and al-Shabaab, both known for their role in the drug trade and narco-terror. [1]

Back in 2005, I had been given photos to hand over to the U.S. embassy. They showed an individual from the then Ministry of Labor in Panama receiving a large payoff (envelope) from a Suntracs senior official. Suntracs is a labor union suspected of being funded in part by the former Chavez regime, and is rumored by many within the “barrios” (where the majority membership resides) to be behind counterfeit money influxes. Chavez had even been found to be supplying the FARC with weapons—possibly even missiles. (Colombian authorities discovered evidence of this on Raul Reyes’s laptop and several others after he was killed in 2008. The information showed hundreds of millions of dollars of weaponry transferred into FARC hands by Chavez.) [7] This demonstrates a correlation in regards to some Islamist group activities and drug smuggling and socialist subversion.

By 2006, 70 out of 96 East African detainees apprehended transiting Latin America to gain entry into the United States at the southern border crossings were of Somali descent. According to WikiLeaks,

Smugglers employ the same methods used in transporting narcotics from Colombia, moving people into Panama in small boats which hug the isolated shorelines of Darien province. Throughout the year, small groups of migrants, ranging in size from 11 to 28, have been abandoned on Panama’s coastlines by smugglers. In one instance a group was deposited on the beach and told that they were in Canada. The migrants pay somewhere between $3,000 and $10,000 to be smuggled to Latin America and onward to the United States.”

Just a few years ago, while driving to Colon using the new corredor (freeway) from Panama City to the free zone in Colon, I saw a van with 10 illegals pulled over and detained by local police and immigration officers. I later confirmed through a contact within the national police that they were all East African.

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According to a WikiLeaks-reported comment from the former U.S. ambassador to Panama, “African migration to Latin America is a complex phenomenon that is in a state of flux. Many migrants appear willing to settle in Brazil, Argentina, or other countries willing to accommodate them. However, the surge of Somali immigrants as far north as Panama and Costa Rica may signal both a new source and a new route for attempted illegal entry into the U.S. In the context of the emerging global economy, as Panama transitions from developing to developed nation and seeks to improve its democratic governance it will likely face further challenges from African migration.”

Nov 2008: Seven Somalis and two Colombians were detained in the Panama-Colombian border region. This is a continuing problem that has not gone away. The Panamanian and U.S. governments have both downplayed this problem.

Currently in the Caribbean port city of Porto Limon, Costa Rica, Somali pirates/al-Shabaab-tied criminals are battling Costa Rican and Colombian drug lords for control of the trafficking on their eastern seaboard. This has been confirmed by a Panama Nacional source and a Venezuelan informant in Panama, the latter who had discussed this very issue with me as recently as September of last year. [2]

As it has been stated in numerous press articles and in some reports in the past, Venezuela and Iran have signed oil trade agreements, and Iran has also been linked directly to Hamas and Hezbollah. This is not news to anyone. But how does this tie in to Panama? Read the following excerpt from an article published in November 2013 stating Mr. Kenneth Rijock’s viewpoint.

One of the dirty little secrets that the government of the United States prefers to ignore is the bustling trade between Latin America and the Republic of Cuba. That is how the fifty-year-old U.S. embargo is evaded. U.S.-made goods are shipped to Panama’s Free Trade Zone, and then conveniently transshipped to Cuban end users. America is powerless to stop this arrangement, and frankly it does result in increased sales of U.S. products. There is a more disturbing aspect to this scenario; some of the goods purportedly destined for Cuba are themselves transferred to other vessels and sent directly to Iran. A number of Panamanian companies have been sanctioned by OFAC after evidence of their illicit activity became known to U.S. law enforcement agencies. So, are your clients’ U.S.-manufactured products being used in Iran? Are any of them classified as dual-purpose goods that could be used to advance Iran’s WMD or ballistic missile programs? If so, is your bank potentially exposed to draconian fines and penalties?” [3]

These are very interesting points that can lead to many possible conclusions as to what is happening on the drug trade and terrorism fronts, as well as how this has begun to affect our southern neighbors and how our own system is being used against us.

In 2010, frontpagemag.com discussed the ties between the FARC rebels and Venezuela, Brazilian drug gangs, and Hezbollah, and explained further that even though the FARC has no interest in the U.S. itself, it does have interest in the drug trade that supplies the Mexican drug cartels and a willingness to conduct business with other terror organizations.

The instability in Mexico is directly benefitting Hezbollah, which is now tied to the Venezuelan government and possibly the FARC. The smuggling routes used by the Mexican drug lords are being utilized by Hezbollah, using the same criminal weapons smugglers, document traffickers, and transportation experts as the drug cartels. The terrorist group has a long history of engaging in drug trafficking in order to fundraise.

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“They [Hezbollah] are doing the same thing in Latin America that they are doing in the Middle East, particularly in Lebanon, and providing medical and social services,” Dr. de Berliner said.

She also mentioned that the FARC is working with Chinese gangs in the tri-border area of Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. These gangs could potentially buy and upgrade the FARC’s semi-submersibles and use them in their human-trafficking efforts, allowing them to potentially insert operatives into the U.S.

Al-Qaeda likely benefits from the FARC’s new ventures, and could conceivably pay them, or the Mexican drug lords, to help them smuggle operatives.In fact, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, al-Shabaab, has apparently been caught doing so, as someone connected to the group oversaw the smuggling of 270 Somalis into the U.S. through Mexico. [4]

FARC has already begun using al-Qaeda members in West Africa in order to deliver drugs to Europe. Three members of al-Qaeda have been arrested in West Africa and were extradited to the U.S. in December. The DEA’s director of South America’s Andean region says, “All of the aircraft seizures that have been made in West Africa, and we’ve made about a half a dozen of them, had departed from Venezuela.”

Furthermore, the country of Uruguay has legalized marijuana, which seems harmless, however its neighbors have not, so this fuels an already active trade that has been long suspected of funding Hezbollah in the region. [5] It is also common knowledge that Hezbollah had at one point a training camp in Paraguay supporting EPP. [6]

After President Obama penned an agreement with Uruguay in which the latter would receive eight or more Gitmo detainees as political refugees [7] in May of 2014, narco-terror issues became a more visible issue to many in the region. (The Paraguay matter is a different story that I will go into depth on in a future article.)

So now I ask, what should our focus be on? At this point, it is my opinion that we have a much larger security issue at stake than the social issues being touted along the southern border. And after decades of ignoring the southern hemisphere and withdrawing from involvement, we have inadvertently created a much larger security threat. Handing over of the Panama Canal at the time seemed like the thing to do, however, is it really secure? What would this do to the world economy if it were ever shut down—even for a couple of days—or if a dirty bomb was detonated or even just located? How long would it take to clear the canal? How can this be prevented?

Is our isolationist attitude and noninvolvement really working for us with our neighbors in the south whose social issues are becoming ours as well? These issues are facilitating possible terror threats that are increasingly apparent, yet nothing is being done.

These are all things we need to ponder, and it is my belief that we don’t have much time to do so. We need to be involved and active. If you are not present, your interests will not be looked after. The world is no longer a place where what happens somewhere far away has no effect on us at home; we are all interconnected by the internet, trade, and modern transportation.

References:

  1. Frontpagemag.com 2010/Wordpress.com 2012.
  2. The anonymous informant.
  3. Nov 2013 with Mr. Kenneth Rijock’s view point on the Worldpress.com website.
  4. Frontpagemag.com /Dr. de Berlinerand the Washington Examiner
  5. Local press organizations, Reuters/CNN Dec 11 2013 Uruguay first Latin country to legalize marijuana.
  6. Aljazeera article chasing terrorism/ Paraguayan Official anonymous (Ministry of Interior)/Article by NBC Hezbollah builds Western Base, is about sympathizers and members of Hezbollah in Paraguay.
  7. mercopress.com May 13 2014/ also published in numerous local press releases, and subject of a Paraguay security briefing. Again, an anonymous source.