CIA Director Mike Pompeo warned that Iran and Hezbollah’s growing presence in Venezuela poses a serious threat to the United States.
In an interview with Fox News Sunday, Pompeo observed that the chaos in Venezuela has the potential to negatively impact the U.S. “The Cubans are there; the Russians are there, the Iranians, Hezbollah are there.” He continued, “This is something that has a risk of getting to a very, very bad place, so America needs to take this very seriously.”
Hezbollah has used Latin America as a base for its terror-financing network for years, and long benefited from Caracas’ fragile institutions and rampant corruption. Venezuela’s government has facilitated economic and logistical operations for the Iranian terror proxy through money laundering and other illicit activities, making the once-prosperous nation a haven and operating base for Islamic extremist groups.
Meanwhile, the Venezuelan regime continues to expand its connections with Hezbollah. Earlier this year, Tareck El Aissami was appointed by President Nicolas Maduro as vice president. American intelligence officials believe that he has close ties with Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah.
Venezuela and Iran have developed a strategic partnership and both share anti-American sentiments. For Iran and Hezbollah, maintaining a presence in Latin America is critical for continuing their regional operations. For Maduro, Iran is a key ally that would help in his regime’s survival.
According to a 2016 report by The Washington Institute, Iran and Hezbollah continue to be “hyperactive” in the region. While Hezbollah operates terror cells in well-known hotspots such as the Tri-Border Area, its logistics, financing, and planning efforts are also ongoing elsewhere.
Last week, Iranian Parliament speaker Ali Larijani announced that an Iran-LatAm joint work group has been formed to enhance economic and political cooperation between Tehran and Latin America.
Iranian intelligence has been operating in Latin America since at least the 1980s, soon followed by Hezbollah. The networks these two established helped carry out the 1994 bombing of the AMIA, a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.
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