Sunday, July 17, 2011
Hezbollah Gaining Strength in Latin America
The Iranian-backed terrorist organization Hezbollah is expanding its influence in Latin America with the aid of Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, according to testimony before the Committee on Homeland Security.
At a July 7 committee meeting, Roger Noriega — former American ambassador to the Organization of American States — said Hezbollah has been establishing alliances with Mexican and other drug cartels.
Noriega told the committee that the Venezuelan government is encouraging Hezbollah activities in several Latin American nations. A key operative in the Hezbollah network, he pointed out, is the second highest ranked diplomat in the Venezuelan embassy in Syria, Ghazi Nassereddine.
Nassereddine, who was born in Lebanon, reportedly manages a network that raises and launders money and trains operatives to expand Hezbollah’s influence in Venezuela and other Latin American countries.
Noriega also noted that an Iranian overseer of Hezbollah is Mohsen Rabbani, who is wanted by Argentinian prosecutors for his role in the 1992 and 1994 terrorist attacks against the Israeli embassy and the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires.
“Noriega’s main point seems to be that the presence of Hezbollah in the region has metastasized,” Luis Fleischman observed in The Americas Report, a project of the Center for Security Policy.
“As a result of the support Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia and others are giving to the terrorist organization, a more active role for Hezbollah should be expected in the future.”
Also appearing before the committee was Douglas Farah, senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center. He said Hezbollah is helping to build tunnels used by drug smugglers along the U.S.-Mexican border.
These tunnels could be used to smuggle terrorists and weapons of mass destruction into the United States, he warned.
Ilan Berman, vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council, told the committee that Hezbollah has established terrorist training camps in Venezuela and is setting up a camp in Mexico to illegally infiltrate operatives into the U.S.
According to Berman, Hezbollah already has a presence in 15 American cities.
Berman said: “Over the past decade, Hezbollah’s regional activities have shown a clear pattern of targeting U.S. interests and assets throughout Latin America.”