WASHINGTON, D.C.—Latin American countries have failed to register Iranian proxy Hezbollah as a terrorist organization despite the threat it poses to the region, a Peruvian official revealed during a discussion on Capitol Hill.
The Shiite group is involved in various illicit activities in Latin America to generate money that some experts believe is used to fund terrorist activities in the Middle East.
During a discussion Wednesday on Capitol Hill hosted by the Center for a Secure Free Society (SFS), Moises Vega de la Cruz, a public prosecutor for the Peruvian government specializing in terrorism cases, revealed that “in Latin America, Hezbollah is not recognized as a terrorist organization.”
“I think Hezbollah is a threat to Latin America. Hezbollah is a terrorist organization that is advancing not only in Peru but in other Latin American countries as well,” he told Breitbart News.
Joseph Humire, an expert on Iranian activity in the Western Hemisphere and executive director of SFS, noted that no Latin American country has registered Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
The United States and the European Union have deemed Lebanon’s Shiite group Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
In the United States, Hezbollah’s main supporter Iran has been officially labeled a state sponsor of terror.
Peru recently adjudicated a case involving an alleged Hezbollah operative accused of explosives-related crimes in 2014. The individual avoided prosecution, but De La Cruz has appealed the decision.
“Most Latin Americans don’t view Islamist terrorism as a significant threat in their region and little public pressure has been placed on the establishment, reform, or improvement of weak or non-existent anti-terrorism laws across the region,” SFS pointed out in a statement. “Consequently, the Islamic State [ISIS/ISIL], Hezbollah, and other Jihadist networks and sympathizers are spreading throughout South America with impunity.”
The U.S. government has acknowledged the presence of both Shiite Hezbollah and Sunni ISIS in Latin America.
De la Cruz noted that Hezbollah maintains a presence in Peru, where it is reportedly converting people and trying to get involved politically.
The Peruvian Latina news agency reported last year that the Shiite group has registered as an official political party in Peru’s Abancay province, home to the largest concentration the country’s small Muslim community.
Hezbollah has established itself as an official political party in its main base of Lebanon.
Argentinian authorities have linked Hezbollah to fatal attacks against the South American country’s Jewish community, including the 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA)—the deadliest terrorist attack in the Western Hemisphere before September 11, 2001.
The U.S. military and the Department of State have expressed concern about the group’s presence in Latin America.
According to the U.S. State Department, Venezuela has provided a “permissive environment” that has allowed Hezbollah to thrive in the region.
Last year Michael Braun, a former DEA operations chief, told American lawmakers that Hezbollah is generating hundreds of millions from a “cocaine money laundering scheme” in Latin America that “provides a never-ending source of funding” for its terrorist operations in Syria and elsewhere.
Hezbollah is fighting on behalf of Iran on the side of the Russian-backed Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
In an annual report to Congress issued earlier this year, U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) noted that “Hezbollah members, facilitators, and supporters engage in licit and illicit activities in support of the organization, moving weapons, cash, and other contraband to raise funds and build Hezbollah’s infrastructure in the region.”
SOUTHCOM is charged with overseeing American military activity in most of Latin America.
The group is believed to be operating throughout the Western Hemisphere.