Muslim Hate in Bolivia
Bolivia Becoming a Hotbed of Islamic Extremism, Report Concludes
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
By Nora Zimmett
poor, agrarian, landlocked country in South America with a nearly 100
percent Christian population is hardly the place one would expect to
become a hotbed of Islamic extremism in the Western Hemisphere.
But a recent report by the Open Source Center (OSC) of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence says it's so.
are only 1,000 Muslims in Bolivia, a country of 9.7 million people, but
the connection between some of the community’s religious leaders and
Iran — as well as with fundamentalist factions in the Palestinian
territories — has U.S. officials and terror experts keeping a watchful
eye on them.
report revealed a number of Muslim organizations in Bolivia whose
leaders have publicly denounced U.S. foreign policy and have direct
associations with extremists in the Middle East.
a theory that they may believe — Latin America, particularly with its
Leftist leanings in recent years, may be more receptive to the
anti-American-type rhetoric that we’ve been accustomed to hearing from
Iran,” said a U.S. intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of
Muslim leader named in the OSC report is Mahmud Amer Abusharar, founder
of the Centro Islamico Boliviano (CIB) in Santa Cruz. Abusharar
emigrated from the Palestinian territories in 1974 and claims to have
built Bolivia’s first mosque in 1994 so that he would not lose touch
with his religion.
public statements by Abusharar and other members of his mosque reveal
clear anti-US sentiments. In a 2007 interview with a local Bolivian
university, Abusharar told a student that he didn’t know Muslims in
jail who weren’t there “especially due to the United States’ influence
in Bolivian politics.” The CIB’s Web site also posts an article by its
administrative director, Isa Amer Quevedo, that rebukes the U.S. for
launching an attack on the Taliban after 9/11, stating: “Today we see
the U.S. declaring armed Jihad against terrorism. They aim their bombs
at UBL and Afghanistan, whom they financed and trained.”
CIB is also the Bolivian headquarters for the World Assembly of Muslim
Youth (WAMY), a Saudi-based major fundraiser for the Muslim community.
According to U.S. State Department documents, one of its regional
offices in Northern Virginia was raided by the FBI in connection with
terrorist activities in 2004.
Muslim leader in Bolivia, Husayn Salgueiro, is a staunch supporter of
the Palestinian government and a known critic of Israel. While there
are no public records of Salgueiro speaking out against the U.S., a
local news interview earlier this year shows him urging Palestinians to
continue their armed struggle against the Israeli people.
leaders of Islamic groups in Bolivia, according to the OCS report, have
shown evidence of sympathies with Islamic radicals. Fayez Rajab Khedeer
Kannan, leader of the Asociacion Cultural Boliviana Musulmana (ACBM),
has openly praised Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi and asked the
wealthy Islamic organization, The Libyan International Center for
Studies and Research of the Green Book, to heighten its missionary
efforts in Bolivia. Roberto “Yusuf” Chambi Calle, president of the
Fundacion Cultural Islamica Boliviana (FCIB) is friendly with a
possible associate of Moshen Rabbani, a known Iranian terrorist and the
former director of a Buenos Aires mosque.
Some Latin America analysts say religious organizations like these could provide cover for more radical groups.
jihadists, or potential jihadists, would look very intensely at ways of
diversifying their sources of revenue, potential candidates for
missions — intelligence missions, infiltration — people whose profile,
whose point of origin leads people to be less suspicious,” said Ray
Walser, a senior policy analyst specializing in Latin America at the
Heritage Foundation. “I think there is a potential in these types of
organizations — that may exist in Bolivia or elsewhere — of becoming
the kind of points of diversification of radical groups in the Middle
America has already seen the influence of Muslim extremists. In 1994,
Hezbollah — the Islamic terror organization based in Lebanon — bombed
the Argentine-Jewish Mutual Association in Buenos Aires, killing 85
people and wounding many more. Moshen Rabbani was believed to be one of
the main operatives. In 1992, Hezbollah bombed Argentina’s Israeli
embassy, killing 29.
aware that certain groups have the capability to conduct operations in
the region,” the U.S. intelligence official told FOXNews.com. “So that
is something that we’re constantly on the look-out for — signals that
something like that could be going on. So it’s a definite concern on a
general level that could be used again in the future or for an
operation by similar groups as well.”
relations with Bolivia have deteriorated since President Evo Morales
took office in 2005. In 2008, Morales kicked U.S. Ambassador Philip S.
Goldberg out of Bolivia, claiming that the ambassador was plotting a
coup d’etat to overthrow him. Three months ago, Bolivia broke
diplomatic ties with Israel, a close U.S. ally, to protest Israel’s
treatment of Palestinians.
Morales has found support and camaraderie in Iran and its president,
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In the past year, Iran has made some large
investments in the impoverished Andean nation, pouring millions into
various sectors: Bolivia’s natural gas reserves (the second largest in
South America); the agricultural sector, by setting up new milk
processing plants and donating agricultural tools; and the medical
industry, by planning two clinics in Bolivia that will employ Bolivian
staff but be managed by Iranians. Morales recently announced he will
build a new embassy in Iran.
“It’s about anti-Americanism,” Mr. Walser told FOXNews.com. “It’s about, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
Latin America watchers are wary of the influx of Iranian money into
Bolivia and warn that economic investment could provide a convenient
mask for extremist groups’ illicit activities.
always a concern from a security perspective when there’s the
perception of extremism being exported to other nations in innocuous
forms — whether that’s by charitable works of social services or
educational efforts,” said Marisa Porges, former policy adviser on
counterterrorism at the U.S. Defense Department. “It does have a
radicalizing influence. And we see the populations that are receiving
medical services or educational services or religious support then
having more and more extremist tendencies. And eventually that can lead
to radicalization and violence.”
goal of the revolution is not just for Iran, but they feel an
obligation to spread it,” the U.S. intelligence official told
Foxnews.com. “So we see their outreach as not just an economic one, but
also a cultural one. Now, is there potential that that could be
capitalized by some other for some more nefarious purposes? There’s a
lot of possibilities out there.”
But other foreign policy experts say that the warm relationship betweenIran and Bolivia is based not on terror, but on trade.
certainly is one of many countries — and that includes Russia,
India,South Africa — who are extremely anxious to lay their hands on
South American commodities,” said Larry Birns, Director of the Council
on Hemispheric Affairs.
Birns says, strong economic ties between Bolivia and Iran — with or
without the spread of radical Islam ideology — could nonetheless pose a
threat to U.S. interests.
terms of the pending worldwide shortage of commodities, there’s a real
... the equivalent of an arms race," Birns said. "But it’s a
commodities race, to sew up as many commodities dealers as they can
find. There’s a genuine fear in the United States of being left out.”
WORD FAITH INDEX
CATHOLIC CHURCH INDEX