(AFP) BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The United States and Argentina are to work together more closely to cut off Lebanese Hezbollah’s funding networks in Latin America, both nations’ top diplomats said Sunday.
Argentina has a large Lebanese expatriate population and US authorities suspect groups within it of raising funds through organized crime to support the Iranian-backed terror movement.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in Buenos Aires for talks with his Argentinian counterpart Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie, and afterward they confirmed that the issue had come up.
“With respect to Hezbollah, we also did speak today in our discussion about all of the region about how we must all jointly go after these transnational criminal organizations — narcotics trafficking, human trafficking, smuggling, money laundering — because we see the connections to terrorist financing organizations as well,” Tillerson said.
“And we did specifically discuss the presence of Lebanese Hezbollah in this hemisphere, which is raising funds, obviously, to support its terrorist activities.
“So it is something that we jointly agree we need to attack and eliminate,” Tillerson said.
Faurie, standing by Tillerson’s side at a joint news conference, agreed, saying that South America had become a “zone of peace” and that outside groups must not be allowed to jeopardize this.
“And, as Secretary Tillerson said, we need to intensify every possible exchange not only in terms of dialogue, but also in terms of information on the actions of these groups which take advantage of transnational crime to foster their interests, which Argentina certainly does not agree with,” he said.
In 1992, bombers attacked the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29 people. Two years later, an attack on a Jewish community center in the city left 85 dead.
None of the bombers was ever convicted, but international investigators followed a trail that appears to link them to Hezbollah — a group which Washington has designated a terrorist organization — and to senior Iranian officials.
The bombings did not continue, but US experts believe that Hezbollah, working under close Iranian supervision, has built a fund-raising network in Latin America that profits from drug smuggling to fund its political and military activities.