Photo: Subcommittee on Counterterrorism to Hear Tesitmony of Hezbollah Dealings in Latin America
Congress’ fear that the radical Islamic group known as Hezbollah has reached into Latin America has brought together a number of public policy groups to discuss defense options with the House Homeland Security subcommittee on counterterrorism and intelligence. Hezbollah is classified as a terrorist organization by the State Department, and before the events of 9/11, it was responsible for the majority of U.S. terrorism attacks.
The groups will testify in front of the subcommittee, and statements are expected to align with those made by Air Force General Douglas Fraser, who stated that Iran and its close allies in Hezbollah are taking full advantage of their relationship with Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela, and outspoken critic of the U.S.
Fraser added that Iran has increased its number of Latin American embassies and is teaching the ways of Islam to the low-income resident.
“There are flights between Iran and Venezuela on a weekly basis and visas are not required for entrance into Venezuela or Bolivia or Nicaragua,” Fraser said. “So we don’t have a lot of visibility in who’s visiting and who isn’t, and that’s really where I see the concerns.”
Fraser heads U.S. military operations throughout Latin America, and describes Iran as a growing influence, and warns of the “potential risk” this poses to the region.
Congress is also worried about Iran’s influence and the part it may play in the region’s deadly drug war.
Last year, Jameel Nasr was arrested by police in Mexico for allegedly traveling to Venezuela and other Latin American countries to set up Hezbollah-influenced networks with the intention of targeting Israel and Western nations.
Nasr was the reputed head of Hezbollah’s Mexico operations. He was reportedly living in Tijuana, just south of the U.S.-Mexico border when he was arrested.
Additional intelligence reports show Hezbollah has been financing training and propaganda operations in South America.
In 2007, Venezuelan President Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad agreed to use part of a joint $2 billion investment fund to ward off what they referred to as U.S. domination in developing countries. Details were not released about the agree, though the fund was initially meant to build infrastructure and fund oil production.