As has been already been made clear, the Triple Frontier is known, first of all, as a flourishing centre of illegal and criminal activities. To understand the breadth of this phenomenon, one has only to see the statistics provided by Interpol showing that from 5 to 12 billion dollars are laundered each year by the many banks to be found in Ciudad del Este, as well as the fact that there are hundreds of illegal exchanges, one of which involves the buying and selling of human organs of minors.
Furthermore, the lack of the law in the zone, together with the conspicuous presence of 30,000 citizens of Arab origin – the most of whom are, it must be remembered, Lebanese Shias, has allowed such groups as Hezbollah to exploit the conditions of the territory to finance its activities. Hezbollah cells have been established in these territories since the eighties, concealing themselves among the influx of Lebanese and Palestinian refugees fleeing the conflict in Beirut. According to the views of many analysts, it would seem that there are some cells belonging to Hezbollah which, through illegal activities and using the logistical support of the Arabs of the zone, have proliferated under the umbrella of the community, cleverly using it both to gain new members and to collect funds.
It seems that the fundraising activities practised by Hezbollah (both in this region and in western Africa) have as their aim, to create a source of financing that is autonomous, secure and an alternative that allows them to survive if Iranian finance were to be cut off. For these reasons, therefore, the Triple Frontier has become a safe haven for the movement, a sort of South American base from where it is possible both to coordinate both its regional activities and to establish a range of relations with other political, terrorist and criminal organisations such as the FARC, Al Qaeda and other international mafias, one of which is that of Hong Kong. Again, according to what analysts say, it would seem that the organisation is dedicated, apart from the classical illegal activities they may carry out in the area (money laundering, drug trafficking and arms dealing), to buying up numerous parcels of land which are immediately converted into training camps for resistance fighters. During the nineties, the organisation was accused of being responsible, on behalf of the government of Iran, for the attacks on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992, and on the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) in Buenos Aires in 1994, attacks which cost the lives of 32 and 86 persons, respectively. Nevertheless, the judicial enquiry, after having followed various leads involving corrupt policemen, armed gangs operating in the suburbs of Buenos Aires and a string of theories concerning the broken promises of the former Argentine president, Carlos Menem, made to some Syrian-Lebanese groups during his mandate, never prosecuted anyone.
Besides Hezbollah, the presence of cells of other Islamic movements has been ascertained, such as Hamas, the movement for the Islamic Jihad, al-Qaeda, al-Gama al-Islamiyah, and al Muqawamah al Islamiyah; however, these cells, occupied mostly in fundraising, do not seem to be as widespread as those of Hezbollah. In any case, it is to be noted that the US publications such as The Washington Post reported that, according to Brazilian intelligence, Osama Bin Laden passed through the triple Frontier in 1995. Other sources say that, besides Bin Laden also Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the architect of the 9.11 attack, stayed for 20 days in the city of Foz do Iguacu. For these reasons, following the attack on the Twin Towers, the zone came under the scrutiny of American administration that was already planning to provide an incentive for the South Command to enter these territories to control and suppress the activities of international terrorists. It must also be said that, there are many reliable analysts who, on the contrary, sustain the idea that the Triple Frontier became of interest to the USA because of the water resources of the Guarani, recognised today as the third largest fresh-water reserve in the world. It covers an area of 1.2 square km: almost 840,000 belong to Brazil, 228,000 to Argentina, 72,000 to Paraguay and about 60,000 to Uruguay. It is said to hold sufficient water to provide for the needs of the world for the next 200 years.
The latter interpretation does not seem so outlandish when one considers the water crisis – one of the major threats to the earth – has been demonstrated many times and in reliable contexts (some examples chosen from the many available: the Davos Convention, in 2011; estimates of the World Bank; the Global trend 2030). If we add to this the scarcity of fertile land that gave rise to the spreading practice of land grabbing, we can agree that the area in question – and, more generally, the whole of Latin America, represents a strategic world reserve simply for the enormous amount of water and land available. This theory seems all the more exact when we consider that the USA have already begun to feel the effects of the lack of water, especially in the state of new Mexico, California and Texas. It has been strengthened by the views of the group of Three Plus One published after a series of meetings. This group, set up in 2002 by means of a written accord between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay ‘plus’ the USA – giving rise to the name Three Plus One – aimed at guaranteeing the security of the Triple Frontier by means of greater oversight of the territory, an increase in intelligence sharing, investigating crime and suppressing terrorism.
In conclusion, considering the structure, organisation, the workings and the financial emergencies of groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas, it is abundantly clear that such organisations exploit the favourable context of the Triple Frontier to carry out fundraising activities and, it has been as clearly demonstrated by the capture of persons close to these organisations in the area itself (Khalil Mehri, for instance, an important Lebanese businessman close to Hezbollah captured by the Paraguayan authorities). That the Hezbollah movement has put down roots is plainly seen from the fact that, inside the Triple Frontier, there exists a considerable Lebanese community both from the Bekaa Valley where Hezbollah began and from south Lebanon where the resistance is flourishing.
On the other hand, we must not underestimate the American strategy which, by means of emphasising the phenomenon, is looking for an excuse to launch an offensive aimed at taking control of the area. All this has two aims: to exploit the natural water resources (needed by the USA) of the Guarani basin and, at the same time, to destabilise Brazil and Argentina, its two great competitors in the region which, for years was seen as their back yard. (Filippo Romeo)