Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro met the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, in Damascus in 2007 to discuss “drug trafficking, money laundering, the distribution of arms and issuing of passports… to terrorists,” according to a new book citing witnesses and Venezuelan diplomatic cables.
The revelations are featured in the new book Boomerang Chávez: The Frauds that Led to the Collapse of Venezuela, by Spanish reporter Emili J. Blasco. ABC, the newspaper for which Blasco works, published a preview this week of the book, highlighting that specific meeting between Maduro and Nasrallah that occurred under late dictator Hugo Chávez, when Maduro served Venezuela’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.
According to former Viceminister of Finance Rafael Isea, who fled to the United States in 2013 after Maduro’s rise to head of state, Chávez flew him to Damascus in secret to attend the meeting with Maduro, Nasrallah, and a translator. In his account, the two negotiated the secure return of Hezbollah operative Ghazi Nasr al Din to Venezuela. Al Din, who possesses both Lebanese and Venezuelan citizenship, would then organize a project that would secure hundreds of passports for Middle Eastern citizens with ties to Hezbollah.
Al Din, Argentine website Infobae notes, was responsible for acquiring proper paperwork for at least 300 Hezbollah operatives to travel to Latin America, which made potential entry into Canada and the United States much easier. The 300 members of the terrorist group are listed in a document by current Venezuelan second-in-command Diosdado Cabello, published in Boomerang Chávez.
Al Din is on the FBI’s terrorism watch list for fundraising for Hezbollah and engaging in drug trafficking activities, much of which is believed to have occurred on Venezuelan soil.
Both Venezuela and its strongest ally, Cuba, have been accused of working to issue falsified Latin American passports to Middle Eastern operatives with ties to Hezbollah. A report by the Secure Free Society released in June claims that among the beneficiaries of this passport program was Suleiman Ghani Abdul Waked, a high-ranking Hezbollah member. A separate report in the Brazilian daily Veja claimed that another terrorist issued a Venezuelan passport during the project was Mohsen Rabbani, an Iranian mullah widely believed to have planned the 1994 attack on the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association, the deadliest terrorist attack in that nation’s history.
In addition to accusations that Hezbollah was actively operating in Venezuela during Chávez’s tenure into today, the book claims that drug trafficking was a major source of “fundraising” for the group. Israel National News highlights this other revelation, noting that Hezbollah’s ties to Venezuela led them to attempt negotiations with Mexican drug cartels in order to access the American drug market. “Hezbollah has worked wherever there is a Lebanese diaspora community to build its international networks for drugs, intelligence and terrorist operations,” Israel National News adds.
Venezuelan socialist government officials have long been accused of drug trafficking, particularly with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) terrorist group. However, in January, defecting Chavista security chief Leamsy Salazar accused second-in-command Cabello not of working with drug traffickers, but of being himself the kingpin of the Cartel de los Soles, one of the most powerful cartels in Venezuela, believed to be made up of mostly soldiers.