WASHINGTON D.C. – The socialist government of Venezuela has been allowing drug traffickers, including the notorious Mexican Sinaloa and Zeta cartels, as well as potential terrorists and other unsavory individuals, to freely operate inside the South American country unabated, without fear of reprisal, according to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
In written testimony on Venezuelan drug connections prepared for a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Thursday, Dr. Shannon O’Neil Nelson from CFR noted:
In terms of security, Venezuela’s willingness to permit drug traffickers, organized crime networks, potential terrorists, and other nefarious actors within its borders affects U.S. national security as well. Reports show that Colombia’s Bandas Criminales (BACRIM), Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and National Liberation Army (ELN) all operate in the country, as do Mexico’s Sinaloa and Zeta cartels.
The nation has become a preferred drug smuggling route out of South America, with cocaine heading to the United States through Central America and the Eastern Caribbean, and to Europe through West Africa. The Venezuelan government effectively ended anti-narcotics cooperation a decade ago; since then Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Department of Justice (DOJ) investigations point to active collusion and collaboration between prominent government officials and drug traffickers.
In response to the alleged relationship between drug traffickers and the Venezuelan government, President Donald Trump’s Treasury Department has officially designated President Nicolas Maduro’s Vice President Tareck el Aissami a “Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker” under the “Drug Kingpin” regulations for his ties to a variety of continental drug trafficking organizations.
The Trump administration has also accused Venezuela’s vice president of having known ties to a variety of terrorist and drug trafficking outfits.
Sanctions have frozen el Aissami’s assets in the United States, which The New York Times estimates to be in the tens of millions and prevents U.S. persons from legally doing business with him.
Nevertheless, Venezuelan President Maduro has promoted high-ranking government officials accused of drug trafficking by the United States, namely General Néstor Reverol, to secure their loyalty.
Last year, the U.S. State Department noted that the South American country remains a “permissive environment” that promotes ideological and financial support for terrorist organizations, namely Hezbollah and ISIS.
Investigations citing Venezuelan embassy workers in Baghdad revealed that Venezuelan officials have sold hundreds of passports to various individuals, including members of the Iranian terrorist proxy Hezbollah.
Courtesy of the passports, Hezbollah militants are allegedly “moving freely” inside the United States and Latin America, using their Venezuelan documents.
The U.S. military, American lawmakers, and various experts, including think tank experts, have warned about the growing influence of Hezbollah in the Western Hemisphere where Iran has established a power base.
Venezuelan President Maduro has actually promoted high-ranking government officials accused of drug trafficking by the United States, namely General Néstor Reverol in an effort to secure their loyalty.
In October 2014, Gen. John Kelly, then a top American commander of U.S. military activities in Latin America, also acknowledged that Sunni al-Qaeda, in cooperation with its usual rival Shiite Hezbollah, raises “a lot of money” by allowing Latin American drug cartels to traffic cocaine into Europe through West Africa.”
“So we know that much of the cocaine that moves through West Africa, up the Maghreb and into Western Europe — al Qaeda and al Qaeda affiliates take a fair share, some amount of money, we don’t know how much, but a lot of money to allow it to flow,” revealed Kelly.
“We know that some of the [cocaine] money that comes out of the United States is laundered into the coffers of Hezbollah,” he added.