The Brazilian government is considering labelling the Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, as President Jair Bolsonaro seeks to closer align his country’s foreign policy with the United States.
According to a report from Bloomberg on Monday, senior Brazilian officials are considering the idea but are not convinced it could be easily implemented. Aside from the fact that the proposal does not retain widespread support, the proposal may also struggle to overcome the intricacies of Brazilian law.
Under current legislation, the only two groups considered terrorist organizations are those marked by the U.N. Security Council, those being the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. Should Hezbollah be classified as such, it would give Brazilian authorities the right to refuse entry, arrest, and freeze assets of those suspected of being members.
The proposal forms part of Bolsonaro’s wider efforts to align Brazil foreign policy with the United States, with previous left-wing administrations more sympathetic to groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. Yet the move risks upsetting Iran, who use Hezbollah ally as their terror proxy while funding them to tune of millions of dollars.
Iran’s relationship with Brazil is complicated by their strong trading relationship, with the former importing around $2 billion a year worth of goods the South American country, being their largest buyer of corn and also among their top buyers of soybeans and beef. Last month, the two countries had a minor diplomatic dispute over state-run oil company’s refusal to refuel an Iranian cargo ship, before eventually releasing it following a Supreme Court ruling.
The government reportedly has other concerns, including the potential adverse impact on relations with Shia countries such as Lebanon, as well as fears it could make the country a target of terrorism.
Last month, Argentina designated Hezbollah an “Entity Tied to Acts of Terrorism” in the run-up to the anniversary of the 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) headquarters, which was at the time the deadliest terrorist attack in the modern history of the Western Hemisphere, killing 85 people between five and 73 years old.
A decision is expected to be made before Bolsonaro’s visit the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in October, two countries vehemently opposed to Hezbollah and who would support such a decision.