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Backgrounder #495 on Latin America

March 14, 1986

March 14, 1986 | Backgrounder on Latin America

Nicaragua's Terrorist Connection


(Archived document, may contain errors)

495 March 14, 1986 NICARAGUA'S TERRORIST CONNECIlON INTRODUCTION International terrorists have established a base in Central America. Their patron is Nicaragua's communist Sandinista regime.

Since coming to power nearly seven years ago, the Sandinistas have been providing bases, training, weapons, and 1ogistical.support for numerous Latin American revolutionaries and have been working with such international terrorists as the Palestine 'Liberation Organization PLO the Basque' ETA, and Libyan dictator Muammar Qadhafi. The Sandinistas also work closely with Cuba's Castro regi m e in supporting terrorism and smuggling narcotics from Latin America into the United States. Drug trafficking is used not only to addict American society but to provide operational funds for terrorism As a haven for terrorists on the mainland of the Ameri cas Nicaragua represents a serious threat to the U.S and to the growth of democracy and economic development in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Terrorist attacks in El Salvador have been ysed to intimidate voters while such actions elsewhere cause economic disruption by destroying infrastructures and scaring away foreign investors.

U.S. policy makers must join with their counterparts in Latin America to devise a comprehensive strategy for dealing with this terrorist threat.

DEVELOPING THE SANDINISTA BRAN D OF TERRORISM There are many types of terrorism. That fostered by the Sandinista government is the deliberate and systematic policy and tactic of violence or the threat of violence to attain strategic and political objectives by acts intended to create o verwhelming fear in a targeted population, especially in democratic countries.

The goal of psychological terror and physical violence employed by totalitarian dictatorships is to maintain total control o'f their own peoples and to expand this kind of contr ol over other regions and other peoples. V. I. Lenin, who is greatly admired by the Sandinistas, viewed terrorism as a ''science saying ;we have never rejected terror in principle, nor can we ever do so.11 The Sandinistas (Frento Sandinista Liberacion Nac i onal, or as they are more popularly known, FSLN) have had international terrorist connections since the movement was founded in the early 1960s. In 1966, Fidel Castro brought to Havana more than 500 representatives of radical international leftist groups f or the Tri-Continental Conference. There the Sandinistas, the PLO, and others met to formulate a strategy for what they called ''the global revolutionary movement I2 Three years later, Tomas Borge, now Nicaragua I s Interior Minister, was one of the 50 to 70 Sandinistas sent to Lebanon for training by Cubans and the PLO. Other Nicaraguan leftists received training at Pzx) camps in Libya. PLO-trained Sandinistas took part in several terrorist operations in the Middle East during the early 1970s, includtng a n attempt to overthrow the government of Jordan's King Hussein.

In addition to guerrilla training and Marxist-Leninist indoctrination in Cuban and Middle Eastern camps the Sandinistas forged ties with a variety of Soviet-allied governments and organizations, who provided them with the arms and funding to conduct the i n surgency against Nicaragua's Somoza government. the Sandinistas' main liaison in obtaining weapons from North Korea Vietnam, and the PLO. On March 6, 1978, the Sandinistas and the I I Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) issued a joint c ommunique in Havana proclaiming a mutual declaration of war against I i Borge served as 1. Milorad M. Drachkovitch, ed., Marxism in the Modern World (Stanford, California Hoover Institution Press A jp. 83-139 2. U.S. Department of State, The Sandinistas a n d Middle Eastern Radicals, August 1985, p. 1. 3 2 Yankee imperialism, the4racist regime of Israel," and the Somoza government of Nicaragua. Early the following year, Libya's Qadhafi invited the Sandinistas and other Central American revolutionaries to a m e eting in Libya, where he promised substantial financial and political support for their ''wars of national liberati~n Within weeks of taking power in Managua, the Sandinistas began turning Nicaragua into an operational center for llrevolutionary internati o nalism"--a euphemism for terrorism on a global scale. Cuban and Soviet bloc specialists in subversion and low-intensity warfare assisted the FSLN in establishing Managua's two main bodies for the conduct of such operations: the Fifth Directorate of Intell igence of the FSLN's General Directorate of State Security (DGSE) and the Sandinista government's Department of International Relations (DRI).

The chief of the Fifth Directorate is Andres Barahona, a career Cuban intelligence officer from the Cuban Communist Party's espionage and subversion arm, the Americas Department (DA).

The Sandinistas and their Soviet bloc supporters almost immediately launched their Marxist revolutionary offensive days after Somoza left Nicaragua, Salvadoran guerrilla leaders met wi th Borge, Daniel Ortega, and other Sandinista leaders to plan guerrilla operations in El Salvador. Shortly afterwards, a PLO gembassyll was established in Managua with the senior Palestinian representative holding the title of One year later, PLO chief Ya s ser Arafat made a four-day "state visit" to Managua to formalize full diplomatic ties between the Sandinistas and the PLO. By May 1981, the PLO was deeply involved in military and guerrilla training activities in Nicaragua. One month later, the FSLN stage d a lavish celebration to mark the Qadhafi's regime's ouster of U.S. bases from Libya eleven years earlier arms and funding for Sandinista terrorist activities. these funds are used for the training and international travel of major European terrorist grou p s such as Germany's Baader-Meinhof Gang Italy's Red Brigades, and the Basque ETA. All are believed to have used Nicaraguan passports to enable them tostravel in Western countries without detection by authorities Only four Iran's radical Khomeini regime al s o is believed 80 be providing Some of Nicaragua's borders with other Latin American countries allow the easy infiltration of terrorists and revolutionaries throughout Central 4. The Detroit Jewish New& December 29, 1978, p. 18 5. The Washington Post, Janu a ry 25, 1985, p. Al 6. The Sandinistas and Middle Eastern Radicals, 9 cit., p. 13 3and South America. The destabilization of those nations, which form the "southern flank of the U.S serves MOSCOW'S interests well THE SANDINISTA TERROR CONNECTION IN LATIN A M ERICA Sumort for Colombia's M-19 Colombia's radical April 19 Movement (M-19) has attempted to overthrow the elected government of this South American county for a decade. The M-19 and the FSLN have been allies since 1976; Colombian guerrillas fought in th e Sandinista ranks during the Nicaraguan Revolution. Since 1979, the Sandinistas have provided training, arms and financial assistance to the M-

19. Example in 1984, at least 60 M-19 guerrillas were trained in Nicaragua. One member of the M-19 now works at the General Directorate of State Security (DGSE) in Managua as a liaison with revolutionary groups in other countries; another M-19 operative, also epployed by the DGSE is "on loan" to the Salvadoran guerrillas.

Colombian Palace of Justice in Bogota, tak ing hostage many of the country's supreme court justices along with other civilians the two-day siege that followed, 120 people were'killed, including the President of the Colombian Supreme Court and all the guerrillas.

An investigation into the bloody in cident revealed that a five-man Sandinista commando unit coordinated the operation and gave tactical instructions to the M-19 guerrillas. Using false passports the FSLN team had entered'Colombia one month before the assault establishing an operations cent e r in a Bogota safehouse from which they communicated with Cuba and Nicaragua via codes and radio frequencies smuggled into the country with them. For two weeks, the Sandinistas drilled the M-19 assault group using a scale mofel of the Palace of Justice co n structed in the yard of the safehouse On November 6, 1985, about 70 M-19 terrorists seized the During I Of the 40 weapons found in the Palace of Justice at the end of the siege 20 were identified as supplied directly by Nicaragua, as were all the ammuniti o n and explosives used in the attack remainder of the weapons originated in the U.Sg, where they reportedly were traded for a shipment of Colombian drugs The The weapons 7. Bogota El Tiemoo, December 20, 1985, p. 8c FBIS. Latin Al&iiCt, December 26 1985, p . F1 8. Diario Las America% December 22, 1985, pp. 1 and 15A 9. E1 TiemDo, December 20, 1985, p. 8a 4supplied by the Sandinistas included U.S. M-16 and AR-15 rifles left behind after American forces withdrew from Vietnam. These rifles were sold by Viet;,am to Libya and were shipped by the Qadhafi regime to Nicaragua. The weapons were then smuggled into Colombia by a terrorist named Rosenberg Pbbon, who had received training in Libya during the preceding months international law and their overt support for t e rrorism by holding a special service for the slain M-19 guerrillas at a church in Managua only two days after the siege ended. During the service, an M-19 flag was displayed on the altar, and a Sandinista official delivered a homilylpraising the terrorist s.

Borge The Sandinistas demonstrated both their contempt for The ceremony was attended by Tomas Although the Colombian government temporarily recalled its ambassador from Managua and sent a formal note of protest to the Sandinistas detailing their involve ment, the matter was quickly dropped.

Contadora Process, the effort by eight Latin perican states to negotiate an end to the Nicaraguan Civil War Apparently Colombia feared that it would jeopardize the The IIAmericas Battalion1 The Sandinistas play an act ive role in-unifying various Latin American revolutionary and terrorist groups into a single command structure dominated by Nicaraguan and Cuban advisors. The most recent example is the creation of the I'Americas Battalion,Il the military wing of the Colo mbian-based National Guerrilla Coordinating Board (CNG).

The members of the CNG are repgrtedly from five Western Hemisphere countries, including the U.S and they established the IIAmericas Battalion in 1985 for combat operations in Colombia, Panama Venezue la, Ecuador, and Peru. The Unit is also designed to provide military training and Marxist-Leninist indoctrination for Ilsubversive personnel to extend their antisocial influence along the 10. Bogota El Esoectador, December 19, 1985, pp. IA, 13A; FBIS. Lat in America.

December 30, 1985, p. F2 11. Bogota Emisoras Caracol Network, January 4, 1985; FBTS. Latin America, Janusrv 6 1985, p. F1 12. The Washington Post, January 6, 1986, p. A14 13. Lima El Com ercio, January 28, 1986, p. A2; FBIS. Latin America Febru ary 13 1986, p. J1 5-subcontinentl'--meaning that it seeks to replace traditional Latin American social, cultural, and religious values with a Soviet-style system.

Colombian M-19, the Ecuadorean Alfaro Vive Caraio, the Peruvian Tupac Amaru I1 movement, an d the Venezuelan Red Flag. The Colombian authorities report that at-least two U.S. citizens are members of the terrorist organization. Communiques intercepted by the Colombian military indicate that the 'IAmericas Battalion soon may be strengthsned by a d e tachment of Palestinians, almost surely members of the PLO The "Americas Battalion is composed of guerrillas from the Nicaragua's role in the National Guerrilla Coordinating Board and the Americas Battalion extends beyond command, control, and conrmunicat i ons. Sandinista advisors from an elite commando unit modeled on the Cuban Directorate of Special Operations (DOE which serves in the field with.guerrillas. As such, the Nicaraguans are engaged in military operations against Latin American nations that mai ntain friendly relations with Managua.

The Narcotics Connection Sandinista involvement in international narcotics trafficking aims at subverting the U.S. through drug use and destabilizing other Western Hemisphere nations by financing revolution with narco tics profits against the West. Indeed, Fidel Castro has boasted: "We are going to make the eo le up there [the United States] white, white with cocaine Ips $e Cuban dictator reportedly coordinated this strategy with Tomas Borge and other Sandinistas durin g a 1982 meeting in Havana The drug trade is part of a Soviet-Cuban-Nicaraguan strategy Sandinista drug trafficking is handled by the Ministry of the Interior under Borge's direct control In 1982, this ministry ruled that all cocaine, precious metals, and U .S. dollars recovered by the Ministry's Department of Criminal Investigations (DIC) must be sent to Borge's office. The proceeds from the sale of this cpptraband is used to help finance international clandestine operations 14 15. Lima El Comericio, Januar y 28, 1986, p. A2 16.

Uri Ra'anan, Robert L. Pfaltzgraff, et al, Hydra of Carnage (Lexington Massachusetts: Lexington Books, 1986 p. 330 17. U.S. Department of State, Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean, Inside the Sandinista Rep ime: A SDecial Investipator's Persbective, p. 19 6Borge made contact with Colombian cocaine dealers though Captain Paul Atha, manager of a Nicaraguan Interior Ministry front operation called Holding Investment Corporation, which handles business activitie s in Managua and abroad to obtain U.S. dollars. The Nicaraguan government provides aircraft for cocaine traffickers and allows them to use Nigaraguan airports for refueling stops between Colombia and the U.S A number of middle level Sandinista officials in the Interior Ministry have records of drug dealing and other criminal activities.

These include Lt. Mauricio Aguilar, chief of the DIC, Lt. Dean Dixon Buttigan DIC deputy chief, and two DIC operations officers. The Interior Ministry's network of secret police informants throughout Nicaragua have a dual purpose: informing the police abo ut persons who use or deal in drugs and then often reselling the drugs when confiscated by the police; these informants control and manage the local drug IpQarket in an almost monopolistic fashion under DIC protection.

Terrorist Attacks in Costa Rica Newly elected Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez has stated a2$esire "to remain outside the military conflicts" of Central America. Nicaragua ignores his desire In the past five years Managua has triggered-a number of terrorist attacks that violated Cos ta Rican sovereignty.

In January 1982, two members of the Central American Revolutionary Workers' Party PRTC a multinational coalition of Latin American revolutionaries, were arrested in Costa Rica in connection with the attempted kidnapping of a Salvadoran businessman.

When interrogated by Costa Rican police, they said that they had received %ilitary and political trainingw1 in Nicaragua and that the Sandinistaszlhad provided them with false identity documents to enter Costa Rica. Later that year, three N icaraguan Embassy officials were expelled from Costa Rica for their involvement in the bombing of the San Jose offices of SAHSA, the Honduran national airline. The Costa Rican investigation of the case implicated a Colombian terrorist recruited by the San d inista officials in Costa Rica. The Sandinistas 18. Ibid, p. 18 19. Inside the Sa ndinista Regime, p. 20 20. The New York Times February 26, 1986, p. A3 I 21. U.S. Department of State Revolution Beyond Our Borders," Special Report No. 132 September 1985, p p. 17-18 7-have also been named in several assassination attacks on Nicarag#an exiles in Costa Rica, including Alfonso Robelo and Eden Pastora in strategy sessions for the subversion of Costa Rica and other neighbors of Nicaragua. In an interview given at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, he said Former Sandinista DGSE officer Miguel Bolanos Hunter was involved The Sandinistas are trying to destabilize Costa Rica by advising the Unions to make unreasonable demands in their negotiations with the gov ernment. They are trying to force a confrontation between the government and the unions which would lead to repressionis Repression would justify the creation of armed bands.

POLICY OPTIONS Only ending the use of Nicaragua and Cuba as bases for terrorism a nd subversion will'eradicate the growing menace they pose to the Western Hemisphere. In the case of Nicaragua, the most effective means of dealing with the problem would be the replacement of the Sandinista regime with a democratic government truly reflec ting the legitimate aspirations of the Nicaraguan people. If "people power1

worked in the Philippines it could work in Nicaragua. To set the preconditions for this, the U.S. must continue supplying the anti-communist Nicaraguan democratic resistance-fight ing on several fronts in Nicaragua-with enough military and economic assistance to allow them to win the same type of freedom from tyranny that the people of Haiti and the Philippines recently have achieved.

The U.S. also must help its Western Hemisphere neighbors expand their counterinsurgency and counterterrorism capabilities obstacle to this is Section 660 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 which prevents training and assistance to the police forces of Colombia, Ecuador, and other nations, despite t h eir proved record of respect for democracy and human rights shipments to North America, there is still a need for closer cooperation with drug enforcement agencies of other nations in the Western Hemisphere. The Reagan Administration should increase the n u mber of Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officers now serving in Latin America and the Caribbean, and should also push for a special A major Although the U.S. has improved its ability to interdict narcotics 22. Ibid 23. Ra'anan OD. cit, p. 318 aanti-narcotic s body with police powers to be created within the framework of the Organization of American States (OAS CONCLUSION Sandinista support for regional and international terrorism and subversion is founded on the strategic objective of exporting Marxism-Lenini sm. Such a strategy ignores the sanctity of human life the rights of individuals, and the strictures of international law.

Nicaragua has become one of the world's terror capitals its neighbors and the U.S remove this terrorist threat to the Americas It threatens A prudent U.S. foreign policy must seek to Timothy Ashby, Ph.D.

Policy Analyst 9-

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