Fusion of terrorists, drug gangs is worrisome for U.S. officials

A merger of terrorist with Latin American crime syndicates is raising concern in Washington because it would give those with designs to damage the United States access to a cash cow.

The latest person to voice the concern is Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, who heads the U.S. Southern Command. He told reporters at a Pentagon briefing last week that increase in Iranian influence in Latin America is worrisome and an example of the peril that the combination of criminal networks and states that sponsor terrorism, like Iran, could pose.

This is according to a summary prepared by the Southern Command.

Iran has been trying to increase its influence in Latin America for years and has increased the number of its diplomats, reached trade treaties and targeted those countries that are unfriendly to the United States.

Among these have been Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Kelly stopped short of saying that Iran was engaged in terrorism in the Western Hemisphere.  According to the Southern Command summary Kelly said “we do know that some terrorist organizations are able to skim off fairly substantial sums of money from the drug profits. And so there has to be kind of a network for that to happen.”

The criminal networks in Latin America are very sophisticated and very well financed, he said.

Kelly said his command is working to build military-to-military contacts throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the summary.

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