This is serious, and has been reported on here from time to time, and the problem isn’t going away any time soon…
My colleague Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, has been researching Iranian and Hezbollah penetration of Latin America. In May, he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, detailing the growing cooperation between “Islamic terror networks” and “violent drug cartels.” Such alliances, he noted, are often facilitated by “corrupt political elites” that provide Hezbollah’s trafficking networks “safe harbor.”
He told the legislators that Hezbollah now “plays a central role in a new landscape where drug and human trafficking, gun running, illicit cigarette trade, trade-based money laundering, and terror financing can no longer be treated as distinct phenomena.”
Instead, Hezbollah’s infrastructure and activities should be understood as “an integral part” of a comprehensive and long-term strategy to “export” Iran’s Islamic Revolution to the Western Hemisphere and establish forward operating bases to be used against the United States.
Latin America’s socialist-Islamist-narco-terrorist alliance
To stem its growing power will require serious action
At the U.N. last week, President Trump had harsh words for the “socialist dictatorship” that has impoverished Venezuela. He railed against “Islamist extremism” and “radical Islamic terrorism,” the former a supremacist ideology, the latter a weapon being used to mass-murder Muslims, Christians Yazidis, Jews and Hindus. He took note, too, of the threat posed by “international criminal networks” that “traffic drugs, weapons, people.”
What may not have occurred to Mr. Trump or most of his audience: the extent to which these evils are now being combined.
No one personifies this poisonous cocktail better than Tareck El Aissami, Venezuela’s 43-year-old vice president. Mr. El Aissami comes from a Lebanese-Syrian family with ties to Shia jihadi groups in Iraq. He also has been linked to a list of South American drug traffickers. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, he was appointed to the No. 2 government job in January by Venezuela’s dictator, President Nicolas Maduro.
One month later, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Mr. El Aissami, saying he “played a significant role in international narcotics trafficking.” At least some of his assets — estimated at around $3 billion — were frozen.
Investigators also revealed that he had issued hundreds of Venezuelan passports to members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and to operatives of Hezbollah, Iran’s Lebanon-based international terrorist proxy. That may be one of the reasons Mr. Trump on Sunday added Venezuela to the list of countries from which immigrants and visitors should be restricted.
Penetrating Latin America has been an Iranian and Hezbollah project for decades. They have been recruiting allies and agents in the Lebanese Shia diaspora communities, setting up “cultural centers” and mosques, establishing media outlets and “educational” institutions, sending missionaries to preach and convert, and selecting individuals for indoctrination and training in Iran.