LATIN AMERICA – Interpol is expressing concern that Al-Qaeda cells may link up with Central America’s “mara” gangs to strengthen their drug-trafficking networks.
According to AP, Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble, speaking at the organisation’s 20th Americas Regional Conference in Viña del Mar, Chile, warned that there was a serious danger of false passports being used by terrorists to enter the Americas.
He said that it was vital to check passports more thoroughly to prevent crimes like people smuggling and drug trafficking.
According to Notimex, Noble added that authorities in Central American countries lost track of dozens of people from Islamic countries who entered the region with false passports and who could be members of Islamic terrorist groups. “Al-Qaeda terrorists”, he said, “can easily enter to plan acts of terrorism, and they have also made contact with the maras”.
AP reported that Interpol discovered 74 cases of fraudulent passports from different European countries being used by Iraqi nationals. Only 24 of these passports had been reported to Interpol as lost or stolen. Noble said that in 2008, only a third of travellers entering a country in the Americas had their passports checked against Interpol’s global database of stolen and lost travel documents. In other words, close to 100 million people crossed the borders without having their identities verified.
Because of this, reported EFE, Interpol wants more countries to share information and to check more passports. Noble said that the danger of the region becoming a haven for terrorists needed to be looked at closely because of the ease with which people can travel from Iraq to Europe and Latin America.
El Mercurio de Valparaíso reported that the meeting, which was held behind closed doors, was attended by more than 150 professionals from some 40 countries, among them top policemen from North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean. Its goal was to improve cooperation and join forces against drug trafficking, people smuggling, cybercrime, and environmental crime.
According to EFE, Noble, who visited Panama, Costa Rica, and Argentina in January, will now examine police cooperation elsewhere in the Americas on a two-week tour that will take him from Chile to Bolivia, Colombia, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.