Latin American transnational criminal organizations (TCOs), including Mexican drug cartels, are paying Iran’s narco-terrorist proxy Hezbollah a “tax” to move people, narcotics, weapons and other contraband in and out out of the Western Hemisphere, an expert on Iranian influence in the region tells Breitbart News.
The TCOs are paying a “Hezbollah tax” to move narcotics and people into Europe and the Middle East through West Africa and to traffic guns from the Middle East into Latin America, declared Joseph Humire, the expert and executive director at the Center for a Secure Free Society (SFS).
Humire told Breitbart News:
Hezbollah, above and beyond whatever Iran’s doing, has a longer presence actually in Mexico. They’ve been operating there for a very long time and they obviously got involved in the illicit narcotics trade. They pretty much found every illicit trafficking network in Mexico that wants to push their product out East, that wants to get either drugs, weapons, people, or whatever out towards Africa and into the Middle East or Europe. Anyone who wants to do that, they have to pay what is known as the ‘Hezbollah tax.’ They have to deal with Hezbollah because Hezbollah controls that trafficking network…
Particularly, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East – those are really the markets that Hezbollah has been able to dominate. So they’ve built this close relationship with most of the cartels in Mexico, particularly Los Zetas.
He identified the Lebanese-based Shiite group Hezbollah as one of the networks in Latin America that the U.S. military says are focused on bringing illegal migrants from terror-linked countries, officially known as special-interest aliens (SIAs), into the United States.
Humire’s comments are consistent with recent assessments provided to Breitbart News by retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC), chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare who has visited the region.
“We’re very concerned about the emergence of the nexus between the drug lords, the criminal groups, and the Islamic terrorist organizations,” Pittenger told Breitbart News.
Gen. Flynn, in an exclusive interview with Breitbart News Daily, recently warned that state-sponsors of terror, such as Iran, were “cutting deals” with Mexican drug cartels for access to smuggling routes into the United States.
He added that Hezbollah is illegally smuggling humans, drugs, and other contraband into the United States.
The remarks by Humire, Pittenger, and Flynn echo reports by the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), which is in charge of American military activity in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Although SOUTHCOM has also acknowledged the activity linked to the Sunni groups al Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in Latin America, their traditional rival Hezbollah is believed to be the most prominent and well-established Islamic terrorist group in the region.
Rep. Pittenger agreed that Mexican drug cartels were “likely” paying Hezbollah to move contraband into Europe, saying, “Hezbollah is involved in extortion in every form, call it a tax, whatever you want to call it.”
“I think Hezbollah working with Mexican drug cartels is a real possibility,” noted the North Carolina Republican.
The U.S. military and Michael Braun, a former DEA operations chief, have acknowledged that the illicit smuggling route from Latin America into Europe and beyond, used by Hezbollah and other groups, goes through Africa.
Once the drugs reach Africa, Hezbollah cooperates with its traditional enemy al Qaeda to move the drugs into Europe and elsewhere, according to Humire.
SOUTHCOM has suggested that such collaboration exists, noting that al Qaeda uses the services of Hezbollah to launder money.
“Hezbollah has become more of a service provider. So, basically, they have an access network and if you want access, you have to pay for that access,” explained Humire, adding that the traditional Sunni-Shiite rivalry in the Middle East does not translate to Latin America.
Besides moving drugs out of the Western Hemisphere, Hezbollah is also moving people and weapons into the region, according to the expert: “Arms trafficking has historically been Hezbollah’s biggest market. They are bringing arms from the Middle East into Latin America. They are also very interested in human trafficking networks [into the United States].”
Gen. Flynn recently warned that Hezbollah was helping people sneak into the United States.
Humire suggested most people being illegally trafficked through these territories are from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. “That doesn’t mean those are the only people being smuggled,” he added. “Those are all the countries that Hezbollah operates in.”
Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan are on a U.S. government list of “specially designated countries,” a label that refers to nations that “have shown a tendency to promote, produce, or protect terrorist organizations or their members.”
Individuals from those countries are the special interest aliens, or SIAs. Breitbart News recently found that U.S. border authorities apprehended 916 SIAs in 2014 and 2015, including some from the Hezbollah-linked nations highlighted by Humire. Using a government estimate, Breitbart News projected that about 370 SIAs may have successfully entered the United States illegally during those two years.
“Hezbollah has the strongest capacity to move people in and out various countries across Latin America. That’s the key because when you talk about U.S. border security, it’s not really just about the borders along the country, it’s about illicit networks all across Latin America that facilitate the logistics to be able to smuggle people and products into the United States,” explained Humire. “If you want to stop those networks you have to go beyond the border and into these countries, some of which are located as far south as Venezuela.”
The U.S. State Department and SOUTHCOM did not immediately respond to Breitbart News’ requests for comment.