When Organized Crime Connects to International Terror

TownhallIn a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing held June 14, Rep. Mike McCaul, R.,TX, asked Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to comment on the troubling issue of connections between transnational criminal organizations and terrorist networks.

McCaul quoted Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly as saying “…cartels share ties with terror networks…and they have the ability to sneak drugs and people, including potential terrorists and dirty bombs” into the U.S.

McCaul asked Tillerson if he agreed that these ties represent a real national security threat, to which Tillerson replied: “Yes, I do…We clearly see the connections, extending all the way back to ISIS and al-Qaida.” He then discussed joint U.S.-Mexico efforts to combat illicit financial networks that support transnational crime and terror.

In the Balkans, prior to WW1, several criminal organizations doubled as guerrilla and terrorist groups, so the phenomenon isn’t new. …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the elections of radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, and lackluster support for regional counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics initiatives.

We are a group of concerned policy experts that fear the results of these destructive agendas for individual freedom, prosperity, and the well-being of the peoples of the region. Our goal is to inform American policymakers and American and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.