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Column 120406 Brewer

Monday, December 4, 2006

Global Terrorism has Key Roots in Latin America

By Jerry Brewer

While the September 11, 2001 tragedy in the United

States remains a vivid reminder to most people of the
inhumanity and devastation of such a cowardly attack,
America’s amnesia of the specter of terrorism is quite
curious. Many still feel that U.S. intervention in the
Middle East brought on this wave of violence. Others
prefer to place blame on the political leadership for
partisan political reasons.

Much of the intellectual impetus surrounding terrorism

has deep roots in Latin America. Ilich Ramirez
Sanchez, also known as Carlos the Jackal, was born in
Venezuela in 1949. His October 12 birth date is the
“Day of the Race” (Columbus Day in the U.S.), and a
national holiday in Venezuela.

Carlos’s great grandfather, on his mother’s side (Elba

Maria), led groups of guerrillas against a succession of
Venezuelan rulers in the late 1800s. Carlos’s father,
Jose Altagracia Ramirez Navas, admired Lenin’s
philosophy and studied the Russian Revolution. In
1948, a year before Carlos was born Jose was moving
in circles of supporters which included a young Fidel

In school in the early 1960s, Carlos met with other

students to express support for guerrilla movements
and chant antigovernment slogans. At the age of 14 he
was head of the Communist Youth movement in
Caracas, Venezuela. Carlos claimed to have gotten his
first “combat experience” in Venezuela, saying he took
an active role in confrontations between students and
police while learning how to set fires, and use Molotov
cocktails and guns.

Carlos the Jackal was reportedly sent to Cuba in the

mid-1960s by the Venezuelan Communist Party, for
training at a location known as Camp Matanzas that
was run by the Soviet KGB and Cuban DGI intelligence

The Venezuelan Communist Party then funded the

Jackal’s studies at Patrice Lumumba University in
Moscow. At the time the university was known as a
school for terrorism and called “Killer College,” with
two-thirds of its 6,000 or so students coming from Latin
America, Africa and Asia.

And subsequently Carlos spread death and terror

throughout the world.

Carlos the Jackal was unexpectedly spotted in the

Sudan, and captured in August 1994 by CIA officers
assigned to a specialized unit from the agency’s
Counterterrorism Center.

In 1972 Carlos was linked to planning the attack at Lod

Airport, near Tel Aviv, Israel, when Japanese Red Army
terrorists killed 24 people. Also in 1972, he was tied to
the Arab group Black September in an attack on the
Israeli Olympic team in Munich, Germany — killing 11
athletes. Yet again, in 1973 he organized the attack by
two Arab guerrillas who boarded a Moscow to Vienna
train and seized hostages.

Further links to terrorism in Latin American thought and

ideology occurred in 1976. An Air France flight
rerouted from Tel Aviv to Paris was hijacked with more
than 250 passengers aboard, and although Carlos was
determined to have masterminded the event, one
hijacker, German Wilfried Böse, described his group as
the Revolutionary Cells’ “Che Guevara Force” of the
Liberation of Palestine Front.

The Jackal’s exploits continued to mature as he was

linked to the killing of Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio
Somoza Debayle in Asunción, Paraguay in 1980. His
next planned target was thought to be U.S. President
Ronald Reagan. Reagan would shortly expand the role
of the CIA in the Counterterrorism Center in taking
proactive and strategic initiatives. This shortly after
Pan Am flight 103 from London to New York was blown
out of the sky over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 259
passengers and crew.

Terrorism has decades old roots and the United States

has not been immune to the violence. A declassified
study done by the FBI in 1977 showed late 1960
terrorists traveling frequently to North Vietnam, Cuba
and Eastern Europe. Weapons used by the Macheteros
terrorist group in Puerto Rico, on a U.S. courthouse in
1983, had been captured in Vietnam and sold to Cuba.

Between 1982 and 1985 bombings and attempted

bombings occurred in the Washington, DC and New
York areas, many blamed on U.S. laws or policies in
South Africa, Central America and Puerto Rico. And as
late as February 1986, the CIA did not have enough
manpower to aggressively pursue the many terrorist
groups simultaneously.

The Omnibus Crime Control Act of 1986 mandated the

U.S. legal right to capture terrorists abroad who have
committed acts against American citizens, and to bring
them to the United States for prosecution. As for our
Latin American neighbors, they should stand united in
not allowing the harboring of terrorists within this

Jerry Brewer, the Vice President of Criminal Justice
International Associates, a global risk mitigation firm
headquartered in Miami, Florida, is a guest columnist with He can be reached via e-mail at