Country Report on Terrorism 2018 - Chapter 1 - Argentina

Overview: Argentina continued to focus its counterterrorism strategy on its remote northern and northeastern borders, which include the Tri-Border Area (TBA) of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, where Hizballah financial networks are active. Robust U.S.-Argentine law enforcement and security cooperation continued. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs merged its counternarcotics and counterterrorism offices into the Human Security Directorate. The Government of Argentina systematically issued statements condemning major acts of terrorism.

2018 Terrorist Incidents: On November 14, Argentine authorities arrested two individuals after an IED detonated as they placed it at the Recoleta Cemetery in the City of Buenos Aires, a major tourist attraction. One of the individuals planting the bomb was injured when the device exploded unexpectedly. No bystanders were killed or injured. Argentine media reported the perpetrators appeared to be part of a local anarchist cell.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Argentina delayed plans to introduce changes to the penal code to reform its counterterrorism legal framework. The executive branch prepared draft legislation that included penal system reforms, a new approach to combating terrorism financing, and a modernization of security and intelligence capabilities, but this draft legislation was not submitted to Congress for approval. Legislation on non-conviction-based asset forfeiture that would include forfeitures related to terrorism and terrorism financing stalled in the Argentine Congress.

Hizballah’s 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) remained in the news and prompted a separate proposal to reform the penal code by authorizing trials in absentia as a mechanism for prosecuting fugitives. In December 2017, an Argentine federal judge issued pre-trial detention orders for former Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and several former associates accused of treason for allegedly covering up Iran’s involvement in the AMIA attack. The Argentine Senate decided not to vote to remove Kirchner’s parliamentary immunity, and the pre-trial detention order lapsed in November 2018.

Multiple security agencies maintained specialized law enforcement units that have substantial capabilities to respond to criminal activities, including terrorist incidents. The Argentine government established a Counter Narcotics Task Force in Salta province composed of the four federal law enforcement agencies and provincial forces. As a result of its success, the Ministry of Security (MOS) created a second task force focused on the northeastern provinces covering the TBA.

Throughout 2018, the Argentine National Directorate for Migration (DNM) improved its capacity to use API data to identify known and suspected terrorists attempting to enter Argentina by means of commercial carriers. Thanks to enhanced security protocols and information sharing, the DNM was well prepared to identify and disrupt travel by such individuals and other potential threats in advance of the November 30 to December 1 G-20 Leader’s Summit.

By deploying additional technology, personnel, and equipment, the Argentine MOS improved its law enforcement capacity at high-risk ports of entry along its northern border. The MOS worked with its federal security forces to incorporate biometric data into its fight against international terrorism and transnational crime, including into its security vetting process to prevent known and suspected terrorists from exploiting its immigration system.

On July 13, the Attorney General of Argentina took a significant step in advancing Argentina’s ability to identify, investigate, thwart, and prosecute terrorism by issuing a resolution to create a Counter-Terrorism Secretariat within the Argentine Federal Prosecutor’s Office.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Argentina is a member of the FATF and the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America (GAFILAT), a FATF-style regional body. Argentina held the presidency of FATF from July 2017 through June 2018. Argentina’s FIU, the Financial Information Unit Argentina (UIF), is a member of the Egmont Group. Reforms have empowered UIF to act as the lead agency on all financial intelligence matters.

In July, UIF issued an administrative order directing financial institutions to freeze assets belonging to 14 individuals linked to an organization led by Assad Ahmad Barakat, a U.S. Treasury-designated foreign sanctions evader with respect to Iran. UIF, with assistance from its U.S. Treasury counterparts, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), detected money-laundering activities by the Barakat Group through Argentine casinos in the TBA that had possible links to terrorism financing. Information sharing between Argentine authorities and their counterparts in Brazil and Paraguay appear to have increased significantly, resulting in actions in all three countries that included the abovementioned UIF freeze order and the arrest of Assad Barakat by the Brazilian Federal Police (DPF) based on an arrest warrant issued in Paraguay.

The Department of Justice, with funding provided by the Department of State, implemented capacity-building activities and training that focused on strengthening Argentina’s ability to identify and disrupt trade-based money laundering, smuggling, and other transnational crimes linked to terrorist financing; deepening Argentine understanding of the involvement of transnational criminal organizations in public corruption; and discussing international best practices on judicial cooperation to combat terrorism and its financing. Argentine law enforcement, border security, the judiciary, and prosecutorial agencies involved in combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism attended these activities.

For additional information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

Countering Violent Extremism: There were no changes in 2018.

International and Regional Cooperation: The Government of Argentina and the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism signed a Memorandum of Understanding in which the UN pledged to support Argentina’s efforts to adjust its penal code to comply with “international standards on cyberterrorism and terrorist financing.” Argentina became chair of The Organization of American States/Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (OAS/CICTE) in May 2018 and participated in the Southern Common Market Special Forum on Terrorism. In November, the MOS and OAS/CICTE hosted a five-day regional workshop on combating cybercrime with participation from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Secret Service cyber experts. Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay coordinated law enforcement efforts in the TBA by means of their Trilateral Tri-Border Area Command.

The United States and Argentina co-hosted an Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Terrorist Financing Practitioners’ Workshop September 17-19 in Puerto Iguazú on the Argentine side of the TBA. The three-day workshop brought together prosecutors, judges, law enforcement investigators, financial intelligence/sanctions officials, and intelligence officials from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and the United States.

Argentina also participated in the Department of State-hosted Western Hemisphere Counterterrorism Ministerial December 11 in Washington, D.C., and committed to hosting a follow-on ministerial in Buenos Aires in July 2019.