Homeland Security and the Bilateral Relationship between the United States and Argentina
Deborah McCarthy, Senior Advisor for Counterterrorism, State Department
Jerry Kloski, Director, TD International
Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, Dean, University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law
Emilio Cárdenas, Editor-in-Chief, Agenda Internacional and former chairman of the Committee on Terrorism of the International Bar Association
Moderator, Paul R. Pillar, Professor of Security Studies, Georgetown University
Luis Tibiletti, Secretary for Security, Ministry of the Interior, Argentina
Amb. Victor Beauge, Special Representative for Terrorism and International Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Argentina
Eugenio Burzaco, President, Fundar Foundation
Juan Carlos Frías, Secretary, Bicameral Intelligence Commission, Argentine Congress
Moderator, Ana Baron, Clarin
Since the terrorist attack of 9/11, the United States has shifted its foreign policy to focus on countering terrorism and spreading democracy. Throughout the Western Hemisphere, government responses to this new approach have ranged from full agreement and cooperation to sharp disagreement and open hostility. On Tuesday, September 20th, the Latin American Program convened a group of scholars and policymakers from the United States and Argentina to discuss the current state of bilateral relations in the realm of counterterrorism. The conference consisted of a morning panel that addressed more general security issues, such as international criminal groups in the region, and an afternoon panel focused on Argentine policies and strategies for combating terrorism.
Deborah McCarthy began the morning session by highlighting the significance of Latin America in U.S. counter-terrorism efforts. McCarthy outlined the ongoing strategies currently supported by the U.S. to help local governments counter international criminal groups in the region. These include improving border security, developing more stringent "entry-exit" systems, tracking and halting global financing of illegal groups, and tightening visa restrictions. McCarthy also noted a variety of partnerships between the U.S. and other countries in the Western Hemisphere that were specifically established to plan and coordinate anti-terrorism efforts. These mechanisms include the "Port Security Initiative," the "three plus one" counter-terrorism dialogue, and the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism.
Jerry Kloski spoke of the growing threat posed by international criminal groups in Latin America and argued that in countries with authoritarian pasts, such as Argentina and Brazil, the public distrust of the police and military has affected efforts to respond to these groups. He also noted that the political "right" has been largely discredited in much of the region and that the left-leaning governments have struggled to define their response to protests movements, like the piqueteros in Argentina, that could be infiltrated by terrorists elements. Kloski concluded by noting that the influence and geographic reach of international criminal organizations is spreading in the region and that governments need to recognize the risks that these groups pose to regional stability.
Turning to the legal aspects of the "war on terror," Dean Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker presented an argument for judicial reforms to better equip countries for counterterrorism measures. She noted that the reputation of the US judicial system has been tarnished since 9/11 and suggested that the U.S. is still grappling to find the right balance between legitimate law enforcement activities and protection of constitutional liberties. Parker suggested that the U.S. legal system, as it is currently constituted, is not adequately suited for addressing the new challenges posed by terrorism and many reforms are necessary. These include the need to find a balance between protecting sensitive evidence and ensuring an open judicial process, responses to disasters where an over-reliance on the military could be overwhelming and demoralizing, and the use of transnational criminal courts with wider jurisdictions to address the cross-border nature of modern terrorism. Parker argued for a national conversation to devise new legal means for dealing with these challenges and develop solutions to the problems involved in combating international terrorism.
Ambassador Emilio Cárdenas began his presentation by recounting the inability of the international community to reach a consensus on the definition of terrorism at the recent United Nations Summit in New York. Cárdenas argued that there is an "unambiguous need for a universal definition" of terrorism. Turning to Latin America, he stressed the need to address terrorism more openly, given the history and impact that terrorism has had (and continues to have) on many countries in the region. Cárdenas noted that should terrorism be deemed a "crime against humanity," many current government officials could be prosecuted due to their involvement with groups that used violent means to oppose the military governments of the 1970s. He concluded by highlighting a list of urgent priorities that need to be undertaken by countries in Latin America to deal with international criminal organizations. These priorities include cutting off international financing to these groups, increasing border security, strengthening the rule of law, improving intelligence gathering, and working towards a consensus as to the definition of terrorism.
The afternoon session, which focused on the war on terrorism and Argentine foreign policy, was opened by Luis Tibiletti who began by expressing Argentina's eagerness to participate with the United States in continued bilateral discussions on international terrorism, affirming the position of Argentine President Dr. Nestor Kirchner. He continued by saying that Argentina has worked hard to strengthen internal security, and has never been reluctant to work bilaterally to fight terrorism. According to Tibiletti, the implementation of national and international law as well as multilateral coalitions should be used to combat terrorists. Examples of domestic counterterrorism action undertaken by Argentina include the development of inter-agency cooperation within the federal system, the creation of a Secretariat of International Security, and the bolstering of security at air and maritime ports. At the regional level, Argentina has paid particular attention to terrorism in the tri-border area and worked with Paraguay and Brazil to cut down on problems such as narcotrafficking and money laundering. He stated that despite differing ideological opinions on how to confront terrorism, the US and Argentina are still capable of working together, and their ability to combat terrorism lies fundamentally in this bilateral cooperation.
Further supporting the official view of the Argentine government, Ambassador Victor Beauge, began by explaining that Argentina has been proactive in the fight against terrorism. He argued that international terrorism must be fought through the use of multilateral, bilateral, regional and sub-regional coalitions, all of which Argentina has successfully created and maintained. He also stressed that these coalitions must be mindful of international and human rights and cited the UN Security Council as the primary facilitator of multilateral and bilateral cooperation addressing these issues. The Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE) will provide a forum for regional action to be taken, and sub-regional coalitions will be formed between the primary MERCOSUR countries, Bolivia, Chile, and Peru—paying particular attention to the tri-border region. Expanding upon Tibiletti's presentation, Beauge stressed the importance of strengthening security at home, while adding that a fundamental aspect of the fight against terrorism also lies in the fight against social exclusion and extreme poverty.
In contrast, Eugenio Burzaco openly commented on Argentina's shortcomings in the realm of counterterrorism. He began by explaining that it is institutional weaknesses, such as limited budgets, political corruption, a lack of common enforcement laws between MERCOSUR countries, and the absence of advanced security technology, which allow terrorists the opportunity to perpetrate crimes. He argued that a lack of interagency coordination further frustrates the situation, explaining that Argentina does not have the institutional framework to deal with the type of terrorism facing the world today. Burzaco ended his presentation by agreeing with his fellow panelists that multilateral cooperation is the only way for terrorism to be stopped.
Reexamining a theme raised by Amb. Cárdenas, Dr. Juan Carlos Frías spoke of the difficulty faced when trying to define the term "terrorism". He offered that it is impossible to find a definition that truly captures its reality, and referenced the confusion that arises when attempting to differentiate it from other crimes. Presenting an example, he explained that terrorism is often confused with organized crime, and can be deciphered only through a close look at the criminal motives; terrorism is driven by a political, or ideological agenda, where as organized crime is motivated by financial or personal gain. Although a series of domestic laws was created to combat terrorism, Argentine law itself has similarly failed to clearly define terrorism, thus impeding efforts to counter it.