Hezbollah linked with cartels in Latin America

| Monday, November 19th, 2012 | No Comments »

Lebanon NowBY ANA MARIA LUCA

A new report submitted to the United States Congress links Lebanese Hezbollah to the drug cartels in Latin America. Besides warning of the usual terrorist threat posed by Iran and Hezbollah to the United States, the document also refers to criminal activities such as money laundering and drug trade.

The United States seem to have less and less friends in Latin America, while Iran’s popularity seems to be on a rise. Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela, which already have strong ties with Tehran, asked in June 2012 to be removed from the Inter –American Treaty for Reciprocal Assistance signed in Rio in 1947. Even Argentina and Brazil have been slightly warming up to ties with Iran.

The report presented by the United States House Committee on Homeland Security ought not to make the US intelligence agencies happy. It sees Hezbollah and Iranian agents working with drug cartels in Mexico and Colombia, as well as the FARC guerillas with the protection of the Venezuelan government. It is not a surprise that the US state agencies have been long trying to link Hezbollah to these activities. But the report doesn’t only provide vague intelligence information, but also a series of cases linking citizens of Lebanese origin who finance or work for Hezbollah’s interests to criminal activities.

Among them, the Barakat Network in Paraguay, linked to the drug trade, provided “a sizeable amount of the money sent annually from the TBA to finance Hezbollah and its operations around the world.”

The Colombian- Lebanese drug lord Ayman Joumaa, indicted in the state of Virginia in 2011 for drug smuggling in cooperation with the Mexican drug cartel Los Zetas and money laundering through the Lebanese Canadian Bank, is presumed to be hiding in Lebanon. The operation that links a drug lord like Joumaa, who bought cocaine from the FARC and sold it in the US, to Hezbollah was the money laundering operations through the LCB, with around $329 million transferred to the United States to purchase used cars, ship them to West Africa. The cash would then make its way to LCB in Lebanon and into the accounts of Hezbollah members, according to the indictment.

Just after the report was presented to Congress last week, US intelligence agencies received a blow when the Iraqi government decided to release and send to Lebanon the only Hezbollah member who had recently confessed that he masterminded an attack on a US military base in Karbala, Iraq, in 2007. After that, there can only be more funds for the intelligence agencies and we will see more cases targeting Hezbollah and linking it to crime.

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