Latin America and the Caribbean 1540 Reporting

October 19, 2017

Region Overview

For the purposes of this overview, the Latin America and Caribbean region includes the thirty-two states in Central America, South America and the Caribbean. Differences exist within and between these sub-regions in terms of both technological capabilities and nonproliferation and terrorism challenges. The more advanced industries in Brazil and Argentina contain significant dual-use nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) materials and know-how that could be stolen or misappropriated, while the less developed countries in Central America, South America and the Caribbean face greater threats from weak domestic institutions and the presence of non-state actors involved in illicit trafficking networks. However, the region is also united by cooperation in regional organizations such as the Organization of American States and the Treaty of Tlatelolco that cut across the North-South divide. Smaller regional groups, including the Central American Integration System and the Caribbean Community, have programs related to regional UNSCR 1540 implementation.

Although many countries in the region are plagued by criminal activity and suspected terrorist presence within their borders, some have been reluctant to adopt specific antiterrorism legislation due to the difficulty of defining terrorism in a way that does not encompass political activities taken against past military regimes. [1]

Colombia cooperates with the United States in counterterrorism initiatives, but terrorist groups still operate within the country. In March 2008, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) attempted to buy uranium. While the material in question turned out to be depleted uranium, the incident raised concerns that a professional terrorist organization with significant smuggling experience in the region might become active in trafficking nuclear materials. [2] The FARC have reportedly taken refuge, purchased arms, and recruited members in the northern areas of Ecuador and Peru. Limited quantities of arms and ammunitions from Venezuelan stockpiles have found their way to Colombian terrorist groups. Though the FARC disarmed in 2017 after reaching a peace deal with the Colombian government, other organizations like them still exist and operate in a similar capacity.

The Tri-Border Area (TBA) is the rural convergence of three South American countries near the cities of Puerto Igauzu (Argentina), Foz do Iguazu (Brazil), and Ciudad del Este (Paraguay). This region serves as a haven for arms smuggling, money laundering, illicit trafficking, and fundraising for extremist organizations – including the Islamist terrorist group, Hezbollah. [3] In 2002, at the invitation of these countries, the United States joined in forming the “3+1 Group on Tri-border Area Security,” created to enhance the capabilities of South American states to combat cross-border crime and thwart potential terrorist fundraising opportunities. [4] In 2007, the group established a Joint Intelligence Center to combat trans-border criminal organizations in the TBA. Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay made efforts in law enforcement in the TBA via their Trilateral Tri-border Area Command. [5]

Relatively weak border controls could make it easier for terrorists to operate in Central America. The 2006 Central America-4 (CA-4) Border Control Agreement between El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua allows individuals to transit between these states without going through additional checkpoints or border security. The Panama Canal represents another potential security concern because of its importance in shipping goods, and its vulnerability to terrorist attacks.

For detailed information on this region’s NBC and delivery system capabilities, see the relevant country profiles.

WMD-Related Illicit Trafficking

While very few states in Latin America and the Caribbean possess capabilities of direct proliferation concern, the existence of well-established human and drug trafficking networks, as well as a high volume of container-based trade, could be exploited to move NBC-related materials.

In South America, Brazil’s Santos is one of the world’s busiest ports. Approximately 3.78 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of container traffic arrived at or departed from Santos in 2015. [6] Brazil, which has an active civilian nuclear sector, is a transshipment point for narcotics and weapons smuggling, and could be exploited to facilitate WMD proliferation. Chilean authorities are also monitoring links between Chile’s Iquique Free Zone (which is one of the largest duty-free commercial port centers of South America), and the Tri-Border Area (Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay). Trade links between these two areas are increasing, which could provide opportunities for illicit activities.

Several states in Central America and the Caribbean serve as transshipment points for narcotics and other illicit trafficking, which could be utilized for WMD proliferation. The two large ports on either side of the Panama Canal handle a high volume of container traffic, 6.87 million TEUs in 2015. [7] Several states in Central America and the Caribbean are utilized as offshore financial centers for money laundering, raising the prospect of financing for activities related to NBC-related proliferation or terrorism. According to the 2010 edition of the Anti-Money Laundering Atlas, Costa Rica, Cuba, Honduras and Nicaragua pose rising risks in the global fight against money laundering and related security threats. [8]

1540 Implementation

When UNSCR 1540 was adopted, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile had already taken significant steps to prevent the proliferation of NBC-related materials. UNSCR 1540-related activities by other countries in the region vary. It took substantial time for the Caribbean states to submit UNSCR 1540 reports. [9] Given the small size of these states and the need to address more pressing socio-economic problems, their governments have few resources to allocate to nonproliferation efforts. Despite such socio-economic and political challenges, all states have submitted reports to the 1540 Committee, being the final submitter with a report in December 2016. [10] Within the region, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Grenada, Guatemala and Jamaica have requested financial and technical assistance through the 1540 Committee’s matching mechanism. Brazil, Cuba and Mexico have offered assistance. [11] Recently, two sub-regional organizations, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Central American System for Integration (SICA) have advanced sub-regional approaches to 1540 implementation that tailor assistance to bolster other security and development priorities beyond combatting NBC proliferation.

Export Controls and Related Measures

The clear regional leaders on export controls and related measures are Argentina and Brazil. Argentina is a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the Zangger Committee (ZAC), the Australia Group (AG), the Wassenaar Arrangement (WA), and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). The criteria and lists devolving from these organizational obligations have all been incorporated into national legislation (1992 Decree Number 603). [12] The National Commission for the Control of Sensitive Exports and Military Material provides for an interagency process including the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, International Trade, Defense, Economic Affairs and Production, and the General Customs Directorate. [13] The National Commission has also adopted a catch-all principle that allows Argentina to deny exports it believes pose a proliferation risk. Also of note is Argentina’s use of its chairmanship of both the WA (September 2003- October 2004) and the MTCR (September 2003 – December 2004) at the time of UNSCR 1540 adoption to promote its full implementation. Brazil is a member of the NSG and the MTCR. The General Coordination Office for Sensitive Materials within the Ministry of Science and Technology is responsible for controlling the import, export and re-export of sensitive goods. National lists are updated in accordance with NSG and MTCR guidelines. [14]

Export controls and related measures in the Central American and Caribbean sub-regions are comparatively underdeveloped. Numerous countries in both regions have participated in the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and the Container Security Initiative (CSI). Participation in these U.S. initiatives addresses obligations stemming from operative paragraphs 3c and 10 of UNSCR 1540, and provides indirect capacity-building opportunities related to implementation of appropriate and effective export and border controls. In Central America, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, and Panama participate in PSI. [15] Ports in Panama and Honduras are part of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection CSI. [16] The small Caribbean states of Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines are listed as PSI participants. [17] Ports in the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica participate in CSI. [18]

Regional Cooperation and Outreach

Outreach both within the region and from outside states and international organizations have been instrumental for implementation of UNSCR 1540. Between 2015 and 2017, the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) hosted 12 events on regional implementation of 1540. [19] In May 2014, the United Nations Regional Center for Peace and Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC) requested assistance in the areas of comprehensive legal studies for UNSCR 1540 implementation, technical work to advance legal reforms, development of a national 1540 implementation action plan, and the promotion of a regional dialogue on nonproliferation, WMD, strategic trade controls, and licensing. [20]

The United States provides assistance to Latin American countries for strengthening their counterterrorism capabilities through programs such as the State Department’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA) program, the Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) program, the Counterterrorism Financing (CTF) program, and the Terrorist Interdiction Program (TIP). [21] The Department of Energy Megaports Initiative actively deploys and monitors radiation detection equipment to detect and interdict illicit trafficking in nuclear and radioactive materials in regional CSI ports. [22]

Beginning in 2007, the IAEA established a regional nuclear security assistance program to increase the awareness and capacity of countries in the region for the prevention, detection and response to malicious acts involving nuclear and other radioactive materials or facilities. Countries involved in the IAEA program include Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. [23] As a part of the program, in 2009 the IAEA undertook a technical cooperation project to build human resource capacity for developing a sustainable nuclear security infrastructure. Training in this area included prevention and response to illicit trafficking and nuclear threats; safety and security of radiation sources; security of nuclear and radioactive materials; and physical protection of nuclear facilities. [24]

In February 2009, the IAEA organized a regional seminar for 25 Caribbean and Latin American countries; the seminar underscored the indispensable role of UNSCR 1540 in international nuclear security, and encouraged all participants to comply with their UNSCR 1540 obligations. [25] Since then a number of workshops have been held to assist states in implementing the resolution. The IAEA hosted a “Technical Meeting on Effective Border Control Coordination for Latin American Countries” in June 2013. [26] By focusing on a range of relevant issues such as emergency management and disaster response, port/maritime security, and illicit trafficking, implementation of UNSCR 1540 benefits more citizens, and increases the likelihood of sustained cooperation by Caribbean states. [27]

The Organization of American States (OAS) plays an important role in the implementation of UNSCR 1540. The OAS Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE), created in 1999 to facilitate cooperation on terrorism issues and disrupt terrorist funding mechanisms, already addresses many issues related to Resolution 1540. [28] The CICTE has provided over $5 million in aid for counterterrorism and capacity-building assistance in the region. In 2012, CICTE conducted port security, air cargo interdiction, and aviation security training courses in Barbados, Mexico, Colombia, El Salvador, Costa Rica, the Bahamas, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago, in order to strengthen these countries’ capacities to combat WMD terrorism. [29] In cooperation with the government of Mexico, the U.S. EXBS program and UNODA, CICTE hosted a “Specialized Workshop on International Best Practices on Export Controls” in April 2013. [30]

In July 2003, following an assessment of security threats facing the Caribbean, CARICOM states established a Ministerial Subcommittee on Resource Mobilization for Crime and Security. In June 2008, the CARICOM Caucus of Ambassadors proposed a regional approach to the implementation of the Resolution. The CARICOM-UNSCR 1540 Implementation Programme provides a number of services including the training and resources necessary to detect, identify, and prevent transfers that violate export control laws and regulations. [31] In July 2011, with funding from the Canadian government, the Central American Integration System (SICA) installed a UNSCR 1540 Coordinator. The objective of the SICA coordinator was to help sub-regional organizations to integrate UNSCR 1540 implementation with their border security enforcement. [32] In 2012, CARICOM and SICA actively pursued regional approaches to the UNSCR 1540 implementation process. With assistance from the UNSCR 1540 Committee, CARICOM developed a Reference Legal Framework (RLF), which can assist regional countries in building institutional controls to combat the potential illicit transfer of WMD-related materials. [33] In cooperation with the government of the Bahamas, UNODA and the Stimson Center, CARICOM hosted a workshop on “Public and Private Sector Avenues to Building Maritime and Port Security Infrastructure and Facilitating Secure Trade in the Caribbean.” [34]

1540 Implementation Challenges

In a region still struggling with issues of drug smuggling, organized crime, and corruption, the implementation of UNSCR 1540 has often taken a subordinate role to other more pressing concerns. However, in recent years leaders in the region have begun to recognize that full implementation of UNSCR 1540 would likely have positive spillover effects for the capacity of their domestic systems to deal with problems related to those pressing issues such as securing borders and enforcing anti-smuggling laws. Regional organizations have also recognized this approach and have linked the implementation of UNSCR 1540 with overall capacity-building aimed at increasing development. As noted in a recent report by the Stimson Center, this region in particular should take a “‘whole of society’ approach to bridging the security/development divide that would leverage donor investments in both security and development assistance, so as to ensure recipient state buy-in and an enduring return on investment.” [35]

[1] Peter J. Meyer, “Brazil-U.S. Relations,” Congressional Research Service, 9 February 2011, p. 18.
[2] “FARC’s Uranium Likely a Scam,” The Washington Times, 19 March 2008,
[3] Cyrus Miryekta, “Hezbollah in the Tri-Border Area of South America,” Small Wars Journal, 10 September 2010.
[4] Lawrence Scheinman (ed), “Implementing Resolution 1540: The Role of Regional Organizations,” UNIDIR, 2008.
[5] “Country Reports on Terrorism 2014,” U.S. Department of State, June 2015,
[6] “Top 50 World Container Ports,” World Shipping Council,
[7] “Top 50 World Container Ports,” World Shipping Council,
[8] “Latin American States among Money Launderers,” UPI, 21 October 2010,
[9] “National Reports,” 1540 Committee, United Nations,
[10] “National Reports,” 1540 Committee United Nations,
[11] 1540 Committee, “Summary Requests of Assistance from Member States,” United Nations,
[12] “Argentina’s Report to the 1540 Committee,” 1540 Committee, 28 October 2004,
[13] “Argentina’s Report to the 1540 Committee,” 1540 Committee, 28 October 2004,
[14] “Brazil’s Report to the 1540 Committee,” 1540 Committee, 29 October 2004,
[15] “Proliferation Security Initiative Participants,” U.S. Department of State, 20 November 2012,
[16] “Container Security Initiative Operational Ports,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection, May 2011,
[17] “Proliferation Security Initiative Participants,” U.S. Department of State, 20 November 2012,
[18] “Container Security Initiative Operational Ports,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection, May 2011,
[19] 1540 Committee, “Event List and Related Documents,” United Nations,
[20] UNLIREC, “Areas of Assistance,” United Nations,
[21] Mark P. Sullivan, “Latin America: Terrorism Issues,” CRS, 23 February 2011,
[22] Mark P. Sullivan, “Latin America: Terrorism Issues,” CRS, 23 February 2011,
[23] “Awareness Raising and Training for Nuclear Security: TC Number RLA/9/059,”
[24] “Developing Human Resources in Nuclear Security: TC Project Number RLA/9/063,” IAEA,, accessed 14 March 2011.
[25] “Measures to Prevent Terrorists from Acquiring Weapons of Mass Destruction,” Report of the Organization of American States to the United Nations on Steps Taken to Implement General Assembly Resolution 63/60, 2008,
[26] 1540 Committee, “Event List and Related Documents,” United Nations,
[27] Monte Reel, “Paraguayan Smuggling Crossroads Scrutinized,” The Washington Post, 3 August 2006,
[28] “History,” Inter-American Committee against Terrorism,
[29] “Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE) Newsletter,” CICTE, 6 August 2012,
[30] 1540 Committee, “Event List and Related Documents,” United Nations,
[31] Support for the implementation at the Hemispheric Level of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004), OAS, 14 February 2010,
[32] “Government of Canada Announces SICA 1540 Coordinator,” Stimson Center, 26 July 2011,
[33] “CARICOM UNSCR 1540 Implementation Programme,” CARICOM, 22 March 2012,
[34] 1540 Committee, “Event List and Related Documents,” United Nations,
[35] Brian Finlay, “WMD, Drugs, and Criminal Gangs in Central America: Leveraging Nonproliferation Assistance to Address Security/Development Needs with UN Security Council Resolution 1540,” Report by the Stimson Center and the Stanley Foundation.

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