The United States plans to join forces with its Latin American neighbors to press for concrete ways to combat international terrorism.
When the nations of the Western Hemisphere come together in Miami for the Summit of the Americas beginning Friday, terrorism will be on the agenda, according to Philip Wilcox, coordinator of the State Department’s Office of Counterterrorism.
Efforts to combat terrorism are a “high priority” at the State Department, Wilcox said in an interview this week.
Following the terrorist attack against the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in July, which left nearly 100 people dead, Secretary of State Warren Christopher began the push to include terrorism on the summit’s agenda, according to Wilcox.
In addition, leaders from Uruguay and Panama wrote to the Clinton administration last month, urging that summit participants address the issue.
Among those who wrote Clinton was Joseph Harari, a leader of Panama’s Jewish community and chairman of the Latin American section of B’nai B’rith International.
Panama’s Jewish community was also stung by terrorism over the summer, when a bomb exploded a commuter plane carrying 21 people. All the passengers and crew, including 12 Jews, were killed.
The community is still not certain whether the attack was an act of terrorism aimed at Jews in general or an act of revenge by Colombian drug lords aimed against one Jewish businessman.
“Terrorism is not just a problem localized to the Middle East,” Wilcox said. “Terrorism is a global problem that can strike anywhere at any time as we all saw here with the World Trade Center bombing.”
Wilcox refused to reveal what specific proposals will be under consideration at the three-day summit in Miami.
But in a letter to the World Jewish Congress, Uruguay’s President Luis Alberto Lacalle outlined his country’s position and said that he hoped a similar resolution would be adopted at the summit.
Lacalle called for cooperation among the American states to adopt international norms that aim “at regulating the prevention and elimination of terrorism.”
He said that the assessment of the cause of terrorism “should not be an obstacle to the adoption of practical, concrete, global and urgent measures” necessary to fight terrorism.
Meanwhile, Wilcox is spearheading an effort to combat terrorism the United States.
Plans are afoot to introduce anti-terrorism legislation early in the next Congress that among other areas will give law enforcement officials “new and important ways to go after terrorists receiving funds from American citizens,” he said.