Hezbollah operating in Venezuela
By Yuri Hernandez/Diálogo May 12, 2019As the political and humanitarian calamity Venezuela continues, evidence of illicit activities conducted by Lebanese militant group Hezbollah in the country has become apparent, Nicolas Maduro has maintained a close relationship with Hezbollah and has empowered Hezbollah financially.
According to Venezuela's permanent representative to the Organization of American States (OAS), Gustavo Tarré, appointed by Interim President Juan Guaidó, Hezbollah is operating in Venezuelan territory and has become "an important center of global terrorism." He warned that this "threat" of foreign interference "is not limited to Venezuelan borders, and is spreading across the American continent, and the Western Hemisphere."
During a session of the Permanent Council of the OAS, Tarré stated that Venezuela has become "a destabilizing factor for the peace of the entire region," and the need to analyze "the role of external actors" in the South American country. He pointed out that Venezuela also "has become involved in external conflicts such as that of Syria, in activities against the existence of the State of Israel, and a very privileged relationship with Iran."
Tarré declared that "We also know of the existence of training and identity supply centers for Hezbollah terrorists, of the Islamic State, known by its acronym in English as ISIS, which have made Venezuela an important center of world terrorism."
Hezbollah, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, has been increasingly targeted by U.S. sanctions. In a recent interview with Fox Business Network, U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo said "People don't recognize that Hezbollah has active cells — the Iranians are impacting the people of Venezuela and throughout South America. We have an obligation to take down that risk for America."
According to a an article published by the New York Times May 2nd, Tareck El Aissami, a former vice president of Venezuela, who is now Mr. Maduro’s industry minister and one of Mr. Maduro’s closest confidants, has also been the target of wide-ranging investigations by his own country’s intelligence agency into his ties to the criminal underworld. Moreover, the article says Mr. El Aissami and his father, Carlos Zaidan El Aissami, a Syrian immigrant who had worked with Hezbollah on return visits to his country, were involved in a plan to train Hezbollah members in Venezuela, “with the aim of expanding intelligence networks throughout Latin America and at the same time working in drug trafficking.”
Phillip Smyth, a research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said Hezbollah's financiers "have integrated themselves into [the Venezuelan] government in a variety of different ways." "Everyone is kind of getting a cut from the apparatus. So, it wouldn't shock me if there are reverberations down to Hezbollah's finance network. The way [the U.S.] Treasury has done this is they've targeted certain individuals that are kind of key brokers of the Hezbollah money, so it will have its effect," he told VOA.
Smyth said "Ideologically speaking, [Maduro] has thrown his lot in with groups like Hezbollah and with the Iranians. They have the same motivations, which are anti-American."
U.S. Navy Admiral Craig S. Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command, told the U.S. Senate Armed Services recently that Iran's "proxy Lebanese Hezbollah maintains facilitation networks throughout the region that cache weapons and raise funds, often via drug trafficking and money laundering."