WASHINGTON, DC — The Iran-backed Lebanese terror group Hezbollah is among the terrorist organizations that are benefiting from the illegal drug trade in Latin America, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Tovo, deputy commander of the U.S. Southern Command (Southcom), told lawmakers.
Illegal drug trafficking in Latin American generates at least “tens of millions” for Hezbollah, which uses the funds to fuel its operations in the Middle East, explained the Southcom general.
During a hearing this afternoon held by the Senate Homeland Security & Government Affairs Committee, Ron Johnson (R-WI), the panel’s chairman, asked the general to comment on the nexus between drug traffickers and terrorist organizations in Latin America.
“Mr. Chairman certainly in a classified setting we can give you a lot more detail. Suffice it to say from open source, I think we know that in at least several occasions over the past decade and a half, terrorists have attempted to use our borders, our open borders, to do us harm,” Gen. Tovo testified before the panel.
“On a broader scale, we know that some of these [terrorist] organizations do receive financial benefit from the drug trade — a topic of much discussion amongst the intel community about how much cooperation and convergence, as we call it, there really is,” he added. “There is dispute about that, but I think it’s fair to say that there is a good amount of profit that Lebanese Hezbollah makes off of illicit trafficking writ large on at least the order of tens of millions and much of it is funneled through the money laundering system and fuels their operations back in the Middle East.”
Besides Hezbollah, Lt. Gen. Tovo did not identify other terrorist organizations benefiting from the illegal drug trafficking in Latin America.
He also warned that terrorist groups like the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) may exploit the knowledge of smugglers in Latin America to infiltrate the United States.
Breitbart News reported that Hezbollah operates across Latin America.
Experts said the Shiite movement organization, which is officially listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, generates millions of dollars through drug trafficking, money laundering, and other criminal activities in the Americas.
Southcom’s area of responsibility covers 31 countries and 15 areas of special sovereignty in Latin America and the Caribbean.
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