WASHINGTON, DC — Venezuela’s Vice President Tareck El Aissami, an official of Syrian-Lebanese origin sanctioned by the United States for his connections to drug trafficking, is a “huge” monetary contributor to Iran’s narco-terrorist proxy Hezbollah.
Citing sources on the ground in Lebanon during an event late last week hosted on Capitol Hill by the Center for a Secure Free Society (SFS), Dr. Vanessa Neumann, a leading expert on drug cartels and terrorist groups in Latin America, told Breitbart News, “Tareck El Aissami is one of Hezbollah’s great bagmen, a sort of huge funder, and the money goes through the networks, and then, as you say, that money comes back through investments. … [Ground sources] have told me that, based on their perspective, he is a big player on the funding side, rather than the operations side.”
Joseph Humire, an expert in Iranian activity in Latin America who serves as executive director of SFS, explained to Breitbart News that the relationship between the Venezuelan vice president is covert, behind closed doors. Humire noted, “Tareck El Aissami is protected to some degree by Hezbollah, and through that protection, they’re not going to show up at his office because then, they would be easily detected. His financial systems do benefit Hezbollah. In general, I don’t think Tareck himself, at least I don’t know about him, has a direct connection to Hezbollah on a personal level.”
The U.S. government has determined that the Shiite terrorist group is heavily involved in money laundering, human trafficking, and drug smuggling across Latin America.
Analysts have found that Hezbollah works with the leftist terrorist guerrilla, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), one of the top cocaine trafficking groups in the region, and notoriously violent Mexican cartel Los Zetas, which smuggles the heroin that is killing tens of thousands of Americans annually. Colombia recently legalized the FARC through a “peace deal” that guarantees them at least ten seats in Congress as a political party.
The U.S. military has long warned against the nefarious activities by Hezbollah and the region.
Venezuela’s “permissive environment” under socialists President Nicolás Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chávez, has allowed Hezbollah to flourish, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) warned in its latest country reports on terrorism.
Echoing DOS, Humire and Neumann told Breitbart News that Venezuela has become a sanctuary for terrorism, posing a threat to U.S. national security.
Neumann said, “Venezuela is viewed as a sanctuary for Hezbollah, and it’s a terrible thing because that does not align with the interests of most Venezuelans. They don’t want that. It’s a small elite that has turned the country and its mineral wealth and its financial system and its distribution system into a haven for Hezbollah.”
Referring to the current state of the troubled country, Humire stated, “It’s become a [Hezbollah] safe haven. It’s become a sanctuary. It’s become a support network. Hezbollah has relied on Venezuela for very much to increase their presence throughout the Western Hemisphere.” He added, “It’s the Syria of the Western Hemisphere. Same reason Hezbollah is fighting to protect [Iran’s ally Bashar al] Assad [in Syria]: They don’t want to lose the logistical advantage — what they call the land bridge to Iran. They don’t want to lose their power in Venezuela.”
Last year, CNN obtained a confidential intelligence document revealing that El Aissami issued 173 Venezuelan passports to several people who were not Venezuelan citizens, most Syrians, Lebanese, Jordanians, Iranians, and Iraqis, including individuals affiliated with Hezbollah.
Hezbollah helps “provide support for keeping” El Aissami “in power,” hoping he “would be the next president of Venezuela,” Neumann declared, adding that the Venezuelan vice president “is a devout sympathizer of the [Hezbollah] cause.”
Venezuela is an oil- and mineral-rich country with access to the Atlantic Ocean.
Under the ruling socialist regime’s mismanagement, corruption, and bad investments, the country has squandered its wealth, leading to food and medicine crises that have prompted an exodus.