State: Latin America ‘Confronted with Hezbollah Plots on a Regular Basis’

hezbollah
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WASHINGTON, DC — Several Latin American countries are facing terrorist plots linked to Iran’s narco-jihadi proxy Hezbollah on a “regular basis,” Deputy U.S. Secretary of State John Sullivan warned on Tuesday.

Senior officials from 12 countries across the Western Hemisphere traveled to the U.S. Department of State (DOS) headquarters on Tuesday to participate an event focused on counterterrorism cooperation in the Western Hemisphere, which also included personnel from the Departments of Justice, Treasury, Homeland Security, and the U.S. intelligence community. 

Specifically, the participating governments discussed the threat that transnational terrorist organization like the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), al-Qaeda, and the Lebanese Hezbollah, pose to Latin America, the United States, and the Western Hemisphere as a whole.

During the event, Sullivan said: 

Several of your governments are still confronted with Hezbollah plots on a regular basis. Just this September, Brazil arrested a Hezbollah financier in the Tri-Border Area [TBA] near Paraguay and Argentina. In 2016, Hezbollah arrested another Hezbollah operative smuggling out 39 kilos of cocaine, which we in the United States are prosecuting in Miami. 

Hezbollah has targeted the United States as well. In June 2017, the FBI arrested two Hezbollah operatives in the United States, one in New York and one in Michigan. The New York operative was surveilling military and law enforcement facilities there while the Detroit based operative surveilled U.S. and  Israeli targets in Panama as well as the Panama canal. 

U.S. authorities have deemed Latin America’s TBA region — which includes Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay — as a safe haven for transnational crime and terrorist organizations like Hezbollah. 

Sullivan’s comments came after Nathan Sales, the top counterterrorism official at State, cautioned lawmakers last month that Hezbollah has established “large caches of military equipment and explosives” in Bolivia and deployed jihadis to Peru. 

The Trump administration has intensified U.S. efforts against Hezbollah in Latin America, designating the group as a top transnational criminal threat to the American homeland. 

In December 2017, Politico reported that former President Barack Obama’s administration “derailed” a DEA operation targeting Hezbollah’s multi-million-dollar drug trafficking activities in Latin America to secure approval of the controversial Iran nuclear deal. 

DOS and the U.S. military have long warned against the growing presence of state sponsor of terrorism Iran and its Hezbollah proxy in Latin America and the United States. 

U.S. authorities have linked Hezbollah to money laundering and drug trafficking activities in Latin America. 

Although ISIS is also operating in the region, Hezbollah is the most prominent Islamic terrorist group with a presence in Latin America, U.S. government and independent assessments show.  

The deputy secretary of State urged Latin American governments to join the United States in combating the Islamic terrorist threat gripping the Western Hemisphere. 

Sullivan proclaimed

We seek to continue leading the fight against groups like ISIS, al-Qaeda, and Lebanese Hezbollah, but we’re also asking our allies and partners to join us in that fight and do more as well. Our safety depends on working with all of you on security as we continue to improve our own. … Protecting our own individual countries means protecting the entire region. We must each do our part and work together to defend our citizens, our countries, and the values we hold dear.  

In its most recent annual report to Congress, U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) — charged with overseeing American military activity in most of Latin America and the Caribbean — warned, “Lebanese Hezbollah maintains an established logistical, facilitating, fundraising and operational presence in this region that can be quickly leveraged with little or no warning.”

“Venezuela has long provided a permissive environment for narco-terrorist groups and Lebanese Hezbollah supporters, and is a transit country for the smuggling of illicit drugs and SIAs [special interest aliens],” it added. 

SIAs refers to aliens from terrorism-linked countries seeking to enter the United States.

In 2016, SOUTHCOM conceded, “Lebanese Hezbollah also maintains an infrastructure with the capability to conduct or support terrorist attacks. As with every aspect of our counterterrorism efforts, the U.S. Government remains vigilant against these threats, working closely with our partners to protect the southern approaches to the United States.” 

Hezbollah reportedly generates hundreds of millions of dollars from its criminal activities in Latin America, namely drug trafficking. The group uses the proceeds to fund its terrorist activities in the Middle East.

This year, Forbes designated Hezbollah as the richest terrorist group in the world with an annual income of $1.1 billion, generated primarily by “aid funding from Iran, drug manufacture and trade.”

Nathan Sales, the top counterterrorism official at State, recently said, “Iran spends $700 million a year on Lebanese Hezbollah.”

Breitbart News has learned that Tehran is operating up to 100 so-called cultural centers across Latin America manned by recruiters from Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies.

Officials from several countries on the Western Hemisphere, including Argentina, the Bahamas, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Trinidad and Tobago and Brazil participated in the event on Tuesday. 

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