Latin America’s socialist-Islamist-narco-terrorist alliance

Article Appeared in The Washington TimesAt the U.N. last week, President Trump had harsh words for the “socialist dictatorship” that has impoverished Venezuela. He railed against “Islamist extremism” and “radical Islamic terrorism,” the former a supremacist ideology, the latter a weapon being used to mass-murder Muslims, Christians Yazidis, Jews and Hindus. He took note, too, of the threat posed by “international criminal networks” that “traffic drugs, weapons, people.”

What may not have occurred to Mr. Trump or most of his audience: the extent to which these evils are now being combined.

No one personifies this poisonous cocktail better than Tareck El Aissami, Venezuela’s 43-year-old vice president. Mr. El Aissami comes from a Lebanese-Syrian family with ties to Shia jihadi groups in Iraq. He also has been linked to a list of South American drug traffickers. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, he was appointed to the No. 2 government job in January by Venezuela’s dictator, President Nicolas Maduro.

One month later, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Mr. El Aissami, saying he “played a significant role in international narcotics trafficking.” At least some of his assets — estimated at around $3 billion — were frozen. …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and elsewhere. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, Russia, and even transnational criminal organizations.

We are a group of concerned policy experts that fear the results of these destructive agendas for individual freedom, prosperity, and the well-being of the peoples of the region. Our goal is to inform policymakers and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.