Triple Frontier of South America
The Triple Frontier (Spanish: La Triple Frontera, Portuguese: Tríplice Fronteira) is a tri-border area along the junction of Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil, where the Iguazú and Paraná rivers converge. Near the confluence are the cities of Ciudad del Este (Paraguay); Puerto Iguazú (Argentina) and Foz do Iguaçu (Brazil). This area is near Iguazú Falls and the Itaipú hydroelectric plant.
The population in the Triple Frontier is concentrated in three border cities. Of these, the largest is Ciudad del Este in Paraguay, which in 2010 had a population of 390,000, while the smallest with a population of 82,000 is Puerto Iguazú, Argentina. The tourist-centric Brazilian city Foz do Iguaçu has a population of 300,000. The Arab and other Asian immigrant communities, which make up an important part of the urban population in the Tri-Border Area, are estimated to number approximately 50,000.
The Triple Frontier is an important tourist area, within the touristic subregion of the Región de las Aguas Grandes. Visitors can see the Tancredo Neves bridge, which connects the Argentine city of Puerto Iguazú and its Brazilian neighbor, Foz do Iguaçu. At the convergence of the borders, each of the three bordering countries has erected an obelisk, painted in the national colors of the country in which it is located. All three countries can be seen from each of the obelisks.
The Guarani Aquifer is arguably the biggest reservoir of fresh, potable water in the world – right under Triple Border soil (Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay). The majority (71%) of its 1.2 million square kilometers lies in Brazil.
The United States Government cited “clear examples” of Islamic groups in the tri-border region that “finance terrorist activities”. Groups like Egypt‘s al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and Al Qaeda are believed to draw some of their funding from activities in the Triple Frontier.
The particular geography of the border region, rampant political corruption and weak judicial system makes it very difficult to monitor organized crime and the illicit activities connected with it. Furthermore, the Paraguayan side of the triple frontier is a desirable haven for terrorist operations since it has no anti-terrorism laws. Thus, financially contributing to terrorist organizations is not punishable by law and terrorist groups operate freely in the region. According to U.S. officials and law enforcement familiar with the region, “Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia have been fostering a well-financed force of Islamist radicals in the region”
A counter-terrorism expert with the Pentagon’s National Security Study Group described the Tri-border as “the most important base for Hezbollah outside Lebanon itself, home to a community of dangerous fanatics that send their money to financially support Hezbollah.” Out of the 25,000 Lebanese Arabs who live in the region, not all of them support terrorism, but many openly acknowledge they send money to Hezbollah and that Shiite mosques have “an obligation to finance it.”
The Paraguayan authorities say they have evidence that money is being sent to organizations with terrorist connections because of the amount of money leaving Paraguay for the Middle East, said Carlos Altemburger, Chief of the Department for the Prevention and Investigation of Terrorism in Paraguay. In response to the situation, Paraguay approved the entry of 400 US soldiers “for joint military exercises, such as programs on fighting urban terrorists, public security and humanitarian assistance,” according to the Washington Post. However, in October 2006 Paraguay decided not to renew a defense-cooperation agreement.
In 2005, the governments of the three nations stated they would set up a joint intelligence center in Foz do Iguaçú specifically to monitor the situation.