Monday, 23 July 2007

the triple frontier

So here goes, here is a place that brings MadMax, Pablo Escobar and Tintin to a head-on collision. Some lawless tri-border area where contraband is king and women wearing burquas walk in the heat of the surrounding jungle. A place where arms, women and drugs pass through unnoticed. And where nearby, a UNESCO heritage site, the Iguazu Falls, with its dramatic falls and cascades draws thousands of tourists every year, most of which spend an average of two days there. It is a completely transient zone.

The Triple Frontier -not to be confused with Las Triples Fronteras, the border of Brazil, Peru and Colombia- is where Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil join near the cities of Ciudad del Este, Alto Parana, Misiones and Foz do Iguazu. The area is routinely characterised as a lawless land and a hub for terrorist activities though there remains to be much proof for the sake of the latter. It has a large Arab community, some of which are Christian, of about 30 thousand. There are also large Taiwanese and Korean populations. It is said the Colombian FARC (terrorist liberation army known to deal in coke) and the Triads are there. Not to mention, as the CIA say, Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda.

Characteristics of the tri-border area, taken from outlines given by Thomaz G.Costa of the National Defense University of Brazil concerning organised crime are:
• The central geographic location tying three countries with unstable economics, mixing four currencies systems.
• Centers of tourism: the falls of Inuacu, with 3-4 million visitors/year, and the Itaipu Dam, with 500,000 visitors/year.
• Weak exercise of customs and immigration control.

The resulting dynamics of the region:
• Trade hub; extensive import and export of products sensitive to currency exchange fluctuations, counterfeit products and high value goods.
• Extensive currency exchange opportunities.
• Illegal activities.
• Extensive social mobility.

The resulting issues:
• Illegal activities are not salient when compared to other problems.
• Terrorism is not perceived as a direct threat.
• Illegal economic activities are perceived as a social valve.
• Bottlenecking of the judiciary system weakens law enforcement.
• The intelligence dilemma: can anyone confirm the presence of terrorists in the region?

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