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Department of State Publication 10136

Office of the Secretary
Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism




Latin America continued to have one of the highest levels of international terrorist activity of any region in the world, but the rate has declined by over 30 percent since 1992. Government counterterrorism successes in Peru and Chile and continued disaffection with militant leftist ideologies throughout the region account, in part, for the lower numbers. Even so, the bombing of the US Embassy in Peru in July and of two American fast-food franchises in Chile in September - as well as continued anti-Western terrorism in other Latin American countries - are reminders that US personnel and facilities in the region remain vulnerable.

As in previous years, most terrorist attacks in Latin America were directed against domestic targets: government institutions and personnel, economic infrastructure, and security forces. The violence claimed several international victims, however, and the tendency for guerrilla groups to turn increasingly to crime has led to an abundance of kidnappings-for-profit throughout the region. Many of the targets of such schemes have been wealthy businessmen or diplomats. In Colombia, a German businessman was killed in a botched kidnap attempt in September, and the body of an Italian honorary consul, kidnapped in the summer, was found in November.

Violence continues to be most disruptive in Peru and Colombia, where guerrillas and narcotraffickers are often linked. Counternarcotics operations in countries such as Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru risk coming under fire as subversive groups seek to protect the revenue netted from their narcotics operations. In addition, US and other foreign companies involved in exploring and developing Latin America's natural resources have often been targeted for attack. Foreign-owned oil pipelines in Colombia again were targeted this year. Terrorist attacks against foreign religious missions and aid workers also continue to be a problem; churches were bombed in Bolivia, Chile, and Peru, and three missionaries were kidnapped in Panama.

In May, Nicaraguan authorities uncovered a large arms cache belonging to a faction of El Salvador's Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) guerrillas in an auto repair shop in Managua. The cache contained ammunition and several types of weapons--including surface-to-air missiles--and documents, some of which pertained to an international kidnapping ring operated by leftists in the 1980s. The investigation revealed that the Managua repair shop was owned by a Spaniard--who is still at large--with connections to Spain's ETA terrorist group. The Nicaraguan Government invited Interpol and eight interested countries, including the United States, to form an international commission to share information on the case. Individuals connected to the current Nicaraguan Government are not known to be involved in or aware of the arms caches or related terrorist activities.


Terrorist organizations in Chile were seriously eroded over the past year as a result of government counterterrorism successes and the continued strength of its democratic institutions. Some old- line leftwing groups remain active, but the number of attacks dropped dramatically this year, and many of these represented criminal efforts by rogue elements to stay afloat financially. Chilean terrorists planted bombs at several Mormon churches, two McDonald's restaurants, and a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant. The Dissident Faction of the Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front (FPMR/D) and the Lautaro Youth Movement (MJL) may have been responsible for these, as well as the vast majority of domestic terrorist attacks in the past year. The 20th anniversary of the military coup that toppled President Allende in 1973 sparked some terrorist violence in mid-September; 11 bombings in a two-day period injured 55 Chileans.

The Chilean Government arrested dozens of members of the remaining terrorist organizations in 1993. Various elements of the Lautaro group were captured, including Delfin Diaz Quezada, the organization's second in command; the group's logistic chief; and the number-two commander of Lautaro's elite squad, the Lautaro Rebel Forces. Chilean police were also successful in their fight against the FPMR/D in 1993, capturing its military chief, Mauricio Hernandez Norambuena. Norambuena is believed to be behind several anti-US attacks in 1990 and 1991, which seriously injured an American diplomat and included a LAW rocket assault against the Marine Guard Detachment.

In November, a verdict was rendered in one of the country's most contentious and longstanding terrorism cases. The intelligence officers accused of ordering the assassination of former Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier and his aide Ronni Moffitt in Washington in 1976 were found guilty. Gen. Manuel Contreras and Col. Pedro Espinoza were sentenced to seven and six years in prison, respectively, although both are appealing the case to the Chilean Supreme Court.


Colombia continued to be one of the most violent countries in the region in 1993, with numerous bombings against civilian targets attributed to insurgent and drug-related terrorism. Insurgents continued to attack foreign-owned oil pipelines on a regular basis, raising the number of international terrorist incidents in Colombia significantly above those of its neighbors.

Colombia's two major insurgent groups continued to demonstrate their capacity for violence. In the fall, the Army of National Liberation (ELN) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) waged a month long offensive they dubbed Black September against government targets, including ambushes on security forces in the countryside and stepped-up attacks on government targets in Bogota. Shopping centers, buses, and tourist hotels were targeted by guerrillas and narcotraffickers, sustaining the threat that foreigners could be injured in a bomb blast. Colombian guerrillas conducted cross-border attacks and kidnappings into neighboring countries. The 17-month hunt for Medellin narcotics kingpin Pablo Escobar ended with his death on 2 December in a shootout with a unit of the Government of Colombia's Special Security Task Force.

The fate of three US missionaries kidnapped in March remains unknown. They were taken from their New Tribes Mission (NTM) camp near the Colombian border in Panama, but officials have speculated that the captors may have been Colombian. The kidnappers originally demanded a $5 million ransom but have since reduced the amount. A message recorded during the Christmas holidays included all three men and satisfied NTM that they are alive.


A group calling itself Puka Inti, an indigenous term meaning Red Sun, gained attention in Ecuador by bombing several government buildings over the past year. Formed largely from dissident members of the defunct Ecuadorian AVC guerrilla organization, Puka Inti probably has fewer than 100 members, and there is no evidence of public support for the group. Puka Inti was responsible for scattered minor bombings in 1993. Ecuador had been nearly free from terrorist acts during the past two years.


Peru's two insurgent groups, the Maoist Sendero Luminoso (SL) and the smaller, Marxist, Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) suffered setbacks in the face of ongoing government counterterrorism operations.

SL--badly stung by continued government successes against it-- retains a much larger number of committed combatants than MRTA and is more difficult to dismantle. The group was caught offguard in the fall when the Peruvian Government publicized three letters written by imprisoned SL leader Abimael Guzman requesting peace talks. Guzman read the letters aloud in videotapes shown on national television. Guzman's hyperbolic praise for the Fujimori government in the second letter raised doubts about his intentions, and the videos did not halt the violence.

SL was disrupted but not dismantled by the setbacks in 1993 and continues to wage easy-to-plan attacks on vulnerable targets, including businesses and the tourist industry. Indeed, terrorist attacks in Lima proliferated during the year, as SL's damaged military capabilities led it to focus on less-well-protected civilian targets. In May, SL bombed the Chilean Embassy to protest talks between Santiago and Lima designed to resolve a border dispute; no one was injured. Two Swiss tourists were tortured and killed in early July. Also in July, the group set off a large car bomb in front of the US Embassy on the eve of Peruvian Independence Day celebrations. An Embassy guard was injured by shrapnel, and the building suffered considerable damage. In November, presumed SL terrorists tossed a satchel bomb in front of the US-Peruvian Binational Center, breaking several windows but causing no injuries.

Attacks by SL in 1993 were plentiful but much less lethal than in previous years and appeared to require fewer skilled operatives and less coordination. The group continued to lash out violently to show that neither Guzman's arrest nor his ``peace" letters have deterred them.

The government was more successful against MRTA, which was crippled by arrests, defections, and in-fighting. In mid-November, MRTA bombed an appliance store belonging to a Japanese-Peruvian entrepreneur the group had kidnapped earlier in the year. Some dedicated members of MRTA remain at large and are likely to continue trying to demonstrate the group's viability. The organization's actions over the past year, however, reinforced the view that it is nearly defunct.

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