WASHINGTON, DC — Socialist Venezuela is quietly fueling the proliferation of an expanding “clandestine jihadist network,” consisting of tens of thousands of Hezbollah affiliated Syrians, Lebanese, and Iraqis, allowing them to establish a stronghold in the South American region from where they can potentially infiltrate the U.S., warns an expert.
Joseph Humire, the executive director of the Center for a Secure Free Society (SFS), revealed that the United States is only beginning to acknowledge the growing Islamic terrorist threat stemming from Latin America—and continuously cultivated by the rogue Nicolás Maduro regime in Venezuela.
His comments came during an annual discussion on Thursday titled, “Western Hemisphere Security Forum 2017.”
“What we are beginning to learn is that Venezuela employed propaganda tactics to conceal its relationship with Arabic countries, particularly the exchange of thousands of people between the South American country and Muslim nations,” he continued.
“In a small Syrian city, there are an estimated 250,000 Venezuelans who now live there, making up the majority of the population,” he revealed.
“Meanwhile, in just one Venezuelan city, an estimated 300,000 Syrians reside there,” he added.
That figure excludes the number of Iranians, Lebanese, and Iraqis who have also been imported into Venezuela by the socialist dictatorship.
Venezuela’s Vice President Tarek El Aissami, who was born to Shiite Muslim parents, facilitated the influx of Islam adherents to the South American country.
“Over the years, Tarek El Aissami has developed a sophisticated and multilevel financial network that functions as a criminal terrorist pipeline for bringing Islamic radicals to Venezuela and its neighbors, and to send illegal funds from Latin America to the Middle East,” noted an SFS think-tank report.
The Hezbollah-linked vice president “has used his political prominence to establish intelligence and financial channels with Islamic nations, especially Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Iran,” the report added.
Humire noted that Venezuela had employed propaganda tactics to keep the import of Muslims from terror-affiliated countries quiet and to promote a false narrative that Latin America-based Islamic terrorism is an insignificant threat.
Meanwhile, the influx of Muslims from terrorism-linked countries continues to flock into Venezuela, said the expert.
Echoing other panelists, Humire warned that Hezbollah jihadists and other potential Muslim extremists living in Venezuela might exploit the massive refugee flow fleeing Venezuela to enter the United States and other countries in the Western Hemisphere.
Misael López Soto, a former official at the Venezuelan embassy in Baghdad, revealed that Venezuela had sold birth certificates, passports, and other identifying documents to Syrian, Lebanese, Iraqi, and other nationals, including many with ties to Hezbollah.
The documents would allow the potential Islamic terrorists to pass as Venezuelan nationals.
Besides nationals from Muslim countries trying to pass as Venezuelans, the U.S. military has warned that groups like the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) and Hezbollah are converting members of the local population into potential jihadists.
Moreover, the U.S. military has cautioned that jihadists with cash in hand in may exploit all too willing human smugglers in Latin America to illegally enter the United States.
Despite ISIS’s presence in the region, Shiite Iran’s long relationship with the socialist regime in Venezuela and other countries in the region makes it easier for Hezbollah to establish a prominent footprint in Latin America.
Breitbart News learned from active and former U.S. military officials that Iran had established more than 80 so-called “cultural centers” across Latin America, including in Venezuela. They are operated by Hezbollah and Tehran’s Revolutionary Guards-Quds Force as covert recruitment centers.
According to the State Department, Venezuela is home to one of the most significant concentrations of Muslims (100,000), primarily from Syria and Hezbollah’s base country Lebanon.
That number does not appear to include the 300,000 Syrians who have reportedly recently moved to the country.
U.S. officials believe Iran’s narco-terrorist proxy Hezbollah, which has a close relationship with the terrorism-linked countries of Lebanon and Syria, poses a threat to the United States.
“Lebanese Hezbollah also maintains an infrastructure with the capability to conduct or support terrorist attacks,” warned the U.S. military in 2016.
Humire noted that terrorism concerns should not prevent countries from taking in refugees from Venezuela, but added that it is essential to remain vigilant.
In July, the U.S. State Department conceded that Venezuela has long refused to cooperate fully with the United States on counterterrorism efforts, saying, “There were credible reports that Venezuela maintained a permissive environment that allowed for support of activities that benefited known terrorist groups … as well as Hizballah supporters and sympathizers.”
The prospective terrorist have capitalized on the deteriorating security conditions to cement their presence, enhance their operations, and avoid detection.