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Argentinian warns of potential terrorism

Nov. 16, 2006

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Abbie Rosen/Lariat staff
Dr. Andres Fontana, the director of international cooperation at the Universidad Nacional de La Matanza, speaks Wednesday at the Baylor Starbucks.
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By LAURA FRASE
Staff writer

Still living in the same Argentina neighborhood where he grew up, Dr. Andres Fontana battles terrorism every day by delving into government attack plans and terrorists' minds.

As part of the Global Issues Lecture Series, Fontana will speak on "Terrorism, Organized Crime and Narcotrafficking as Major Threats in Latin America's Southern Cone" at 4 p.m. today in 116 of Draper Academic Building.

Fontana is the director of international cooperation at the Universidad Nacional de La Matanza and dean of graduate studies at the Universidad de Belgrano.

"Try to imagine what would happen if a number of terrorist attacks take place in a certain area," Fontana said, foreshadowing his discussion today. Many countries, he said, would not be prepared.

"Terrorism was not looked at as a threat to us," he said. "And I consider that a mistake."

Fontana spent years studying terrorism in Latin American countries with a small group of colleagues. One of the conclusions the group came to was that you "cannot have peace all over the world, but we can reduce a significant number of conflicts," Fontana said.

In light of this, Fontana wants to raise his voice and inform students and faculty alike about the severity of terrorism and how to be prepared.

"I plan to talk about why we decided to study these dimensions of international security, which is mainly looking at the attitudes of Argentina, Chile, Paraguay ... in front of the terrorist threat," Fontana said. "Are they prepared? Are they concerned? Have they developed policies, instruments, specific legislations? I'm going to try to explain why this is important to study."

He noted that many countries are targets because of citizens' commitments to one another.

"Terrorists take advantage of our commitment to human values and humanity as something central in our idea of human beings and being in the world," Fontana said. "They transform it into vulnerability. They believe it is a weakness."

"We have to demonstrate that it's not," he added. "And that we can continue to commit ourselves to humanity, and we'll not submit to those extortions."

Dr. Lizbeth Souza-Fuertes, Baylor director of Latin American Studies and associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese, invited Fontana to share his findings.

"It's a very current thing that's going on in the world today and the world that we live in, and it's a globalized world," Fuertes said. "It's important to be exposed to all areas and, of course, we concentrate on Iraq and the Middle East because of what's going on there."

Fontana was thrilled by Fuertes' invitation to come to Texas and speak on his expertise.

"I don't have to think twice to come to Texas," Fontana said who spent several years as a graduate student in Austin.

But Texas wasn't the only reason that drew him to Baylor.

"I'm interested in taking the opportunity of this visit to establish links between our universities," Fontana said.

And Fontana agrees with Fuertes that people should be involved and exposed to what's going on around the world because terrorist attacks are far from over.

"I believe that this is not the end; it is the beginning of a major confrontation between societies and terrorist organization," Fontana said. "I'm sure we haven't seen the worst scenario yet."