U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence failed to explicitly address the growing threat linked to the intensifying operational presence in Latin America of state-sponsor of terror Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah while speaking to regional leaders during the Summit of the Americas over the weekend.
However, during his speech on Sunday, Pence did acknowledge the terrorism menace stemming from Latin America, reiterating in his prepared remarks, “The United States actually refuses entry to seven known or suspected terrorists every day — nearly 2,500 a year are stopped.”
The U.S. vice president added:
Despite our progress, as we gather here for this historic summit, the challenges facing the Western Hemisphere remain. We see the gangs and criminal syndicates that plague our cities and towns. We see the illegal drugs that poison our children and tear families apart. We see a flow of migrants fleeing hardship and oppression in their homelands. And we see the migration of criminals, human traffickers, drug traffickers, and even terrorists making their way across our borders.
While highlighting Iran’s support for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad overseas soon after President Donald Trump authorized strikes against the regime, Pence did not mention ongoing operations linked to the Islamic Republic and its Shiite narco-terrorist ally Hezbollah in the United States’ backyard — Latin America.
U.S. government and independent assessments reveal that Hezbollah is using the millions of dollars it generates from money laundering activities in the Western Hemisphere to support its global terror operations, including those on behalf of Assad in Syria.
Last week, former CIA director Mike Pompeo, U.S. President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Department of State (DOS), warned during his Senate confirmation hearing that Hezbollah “threatens” Americans in the U.S. homeland.
“Iran’s activities in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon threaten the very existence of Israel, and the global reach of Hezbollah threatens us right here in the homeland,” Pompeo told lawmakers.
The U.S. military and DOS have repeatedly warned against the presence of Iran and Hezbollah in Latin America.
Early this year, Adm. Kurt Tidd, the top American commander who overseas American military activity in most of Latin America and the Caribbean, cautioned that Hezbollah “maintains an established logistical, facilitating, fundraising and operational presence in this region that can be quickly leveraged with little or no warning.”
Pence primarily focused on the “essentially failed state” of Venezuela, which the Trump administration has acknowledged continues to maintain “a permissive environment” that benefits Hezbollah.
“Venezuela’s ongoing collapse is already affecting economies across the region. It’s giving drug traffickers and transnational criminal organizations new opportunities to endanger our people,” the vice-president conceded, without mentioning Hezbollah’s activities in the troubled socialist country.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, recently revealed that the number of Iranian “cultural centers,” reportedly used by Hezbollah to recruit members across Latin America, have proliferated, nearly tripling from 36 in 2012 to “more than 100” today.
After Politico reported that the Obama administration “derailed” a U.S. federal operation targeting Hezbollah’s multi-million-dollar drug trafficking activities in Latin America to secure approval of the controversial Iran nuclear deal, some GOP lawmakers demanded a probe into the allegations.
Supporting Pence’s claim that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) denies entry to about seven known or suspected terrorists daily, the Trump administration revealed in January:
In fiscal year 2017, DHS had 2,554 encounters [at and between all official U.S. ports of entries] with individuals on the terrorist watchlist (also known as the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database) traveling to the United States.
Of those encounters, 335 were attempting to enter by land, 2,170 were attempting to enter by air, and 49 were attempting to enter by sea…This data only includes individuals of which the United States encountered and not all of those who may have entered or attempted to enter the country undetected.
According to a Breitbart News tally gleaned from federal data released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the most recent figures available, U.S. border authorities apprehended at least 916 illegal immigrants from countries linked to terrorism, known as special interest aliens (SIAs), trying to sneak into America across the U.S.-Mexico international boundary alone in 2014 and 2015.
Early this month, Breitbart Texas highlighted a surge in U.S. Border Patrol arrests along the Southwest border of individuals from Bangladesh, which the United States has deemed an SIA origin country.