Is Venezuela Harboring Hezbollah?

That deadly serious question is increasingly troubling foreign policy and security experts as the South American country and Iran – which funds Hezbollah – move ever closer.

Despite deep cultural differences, a shared antagonism toward the US has drawn Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, into an unlikely political friendship in recent years.

“The current regime issues Venezuelan passports or visas to thousands of Middle Eastern terrorists offering safe haven to Hezbollah trainers, operatives, recruiters and fundraisers.”

That Hezbollah has been active in Latin America is hardly news. Argentine investigators have linked the group to two deadly bombings in Buenos Aires in the 1990s.

Meanwhile, according to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a Washington, DC, nonprofit research group, there’s growing evidence that Hezbollah is infiltrating other parts of Latin America, taking advantage of widespread corruption and drug trafficking to raise funds for its activities in the Middle East.

The Buenos Aires attacks took place years before Chavez, now cancer-stricken but recently re-elected, came to power in Venezuela. He was even in jail, awaiting trial for his role in a failed coup, at the time of the first bombing, on the Israeli embassy.

Nevertheless, a jigsaw of data, put together by everyone from Karmon to Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, paints a disturbing picture of apparent bilateral cooperation in areas such as Iran’s outlawed nuclear ambitions and the Venezuelan military’s adoption of Tehran’s defense doctrine of “asymmetrical” warfare; in other words, guerrilla resistance to a potential US invasion.

Now canceled, there was also a secretive weekly flight from Caracas to Tehran, with a stopover in Damascus, operated jointly by Iran Air and Conviasa, the state airlines in Iran and Venezuela respectively. Karmon and others say the passengers did not pass through customs.

Full article: Is Venezuela Harboring Hezbollah? (Real Clear World)

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