In an interview with Voice of America, U.S. Department of State spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said that it was necessary for more countries in the region to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Ortagus added that the Nicolás Maduro regime provides a safe haven to Hezbollah members.
Two decades ago, the U.S. government designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Countries in Latin America have slowly started to follow suit. Argentina and Paraguay made the designation in 2019, Colombia and Honduras made the official declaration in January 2020.
“This is really important because you have a terrorist group backed by Iran in our region. People think that Hezbollah’s threat is confined to the Middle East, but it’s not. Hezbollah is in our region. It is a present threat, and it is important for all countries in the region to follow the initiative of Colombia and Argentina, and others, in naming Hezbollah as a terrorist organization because we know that Hezbollah has nothing but bad intentions for the United States and for our allies,” Ortagus said during the interview.
At the recent counterterrorism conference in Bogotá, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was emphatic in denouncing the Maduro regime for protecting Hezbollah operators in Venezuela.
“We know that Maduro and his cronies are trying to provide a safe haven for Hezbollah and the ELN [National Liberation Army] and other terrorist organizations. At this time we are focused on denouncing the behavior of the Maduro regime for allowing Hezbollah to have a safe haven, and at the same time we are also focused on supporting Juan Guaidó and all those who in Venezuela want to see a legitimate return to democracy,” the U.S. Department of State spokesperson said.
The designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, which the United States is requesting of Latin American countries, allows countries to freeze the financial assets of people in the region who are connected to Hezbollah.
The U.S. Department of State’s spokesperson also spoke about Russia’s relationship with Maduro, which she considers detrimental to Venezuelan interests.
“They have a detrimental influence in Venezuela. They are not there to support the people of Venezuela. Look at the atrocities we see by the Russian regime in Syria. Indiscriminate bombing, death of civilians, which is what we are seeing in Idlib and other places,” Ortagus told VOA.
She added that the United States does not intend to impose a government in Venezuela, but that the citizens of that country should choose their leaders freely, without the interference of Russia, the United States, or any other country.