The recent assassination of a prosecutor who was prepared to testify in court that the Argentine president assisted in a 1994 terrorist attack may only be the tip of the iceberg.
Local news outlets throughout South America have been releasing a stream of stories sourcing everything from leaked documents to fleeing officials that terrorist networks have not only taken root in their countries, but have also developed deep ties with high-level politicians and violent drug cartels.
Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman was prepared to testify against Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, with claims she tried covering up Iran’s role in the July 18, 1994, bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association building in Buenos Aires.
Nisman was found dead on Jan. 19 with a 22. caliber gun nearby and a final message sent to friends, saying in Spanish, “I’m better than ever and sooner than later the truth prevails.” He was one of two prosecutors who claimed in 2006 that the 1994 terrorist attack was carried out by Iran and Hezbollah.
The sudden death of Nisman propelled the story into global headlines, yet it unfortunately is just one of several developments now unfolding across Latin America that suggest a much broader conspiracy is at work, with Iran’s terrorist organization Hezbollah at its core. English-language media outlets have so far mostly chosen not to cover this story.
Terrorists and Politicians
In Venezuela, a top-level security chief recently fled the country to the United States with a story strikingly similar to Nisman’s. Leamsy Salazar was the chief of security for former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez for 10 years and held the same position for Diosdado Cabello, president of Venezuela’s national assembly and vice-president of the ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV), before he fled to Washington on Jan. 26.
Salazar claims that Cabello serves both as a high-level politician and as the kingpin of the notorious Cartel of the Suns, a narcoterrorist organization, and plans to testify against Cabello.
Just days later, on Jan. 30, the FBI placed a Lebanese national and Venezuelan diplomat, Ghazi Nasr al-Din, on its most-wanted list for allegedly raising funds for Hezbollah.
According to the Venezuelan news outlet el Nuevo Herald, al-Din “is a close associate of Aragua state governor Tarek El Aissami, who serves as the primary liaison between the Bolivarian regime and terrorist organization known as Hezbollah.”
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is also allegedly involved. The report claims that U.S. authorities are investigating connections between Maduro, the Cartel of the Suns, and Hezbollah—in a case that again bears a striking similarity to claims from the defected Venezuelan security chief and the assassinated Argentine prosecutor.
Unnamed sources told El Nuevo Herald that Maduro was the one who granted al-Din diplomatic cover, when Maduro was still chancellor, which gave al-Din diplomatic freedom to travel abroad and coordinate Hezbollah’s operations in Venezuela. It also claims al-Din “maintained a direct line of communication with Maduro when he was at the head of the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry.”
Around the same time the above connections surfaced, the conspiracy was growing deeper in Argentina. According to Argentine media, it turns out the assassinated prosecutor wasn’t the only person with information on Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s ties to terror networks.
Argentine news outlets have leaked recorded phone calls that show the connections between government officials and terror networks go beyond Kirchner.
According to El Observador, which posted audio of the calls online, the calls are between ex-union leader and Kirchner supporter Luis D’Elía and ex-president of the Islamic Arab Association Jorge Alejandro Khalil.
The calls, reports El Observador, suggest the Argentine government and the Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires are cooperating “in an alleged cover-up operation of the terrorists who had carried out the 1994 attack. …”
Drugs for Guns
In Brazil, similar news surfaced just a few months prior in November 2014—only there the connections are between Hezbollah and the largest and most powerful gang in South America.
One of Brazil’s largest media outlets, O Globo, obtained the documents, which were released by Brazilian police. They state the Brazilian cartel First Capital Command is working with Hezbollah weapons traffickers.
Terrorists with Hezbollah had worked out a deal with the powerful gang: Hezbollah supplies them with weapons, including C4 explosives, and in return, the gang members protect Lebanese prisoners who are part of Hezbollah’s network.
The deal has created a new problem in Brazil’s prisons, states O Globo, where the members of both organizations are developing personal ties while in prison and are developing a “dangerous association.”
Hezbollah’s connections to gangs and narcotraffickers run deep. According to several reports, the Tri-Border region, also called the “Triple Frontier,” which is the junction of Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil, is the place where the ties are strongest.
The region has “a strong presence of members of Hezbollah” and “was the operational base of the largest terrorist attack suffered by the region,” states a July 10, 2014, report from the Washington-based Center for a Free Society.
Hezbollah has several goals in the region, the report states. It raises funds through its links to drug trafficking, smuggling, and organized crime. It also aims to radicalize Islamic communities that will take orders from Lebanon or Iran to either attack targeted individuals or engage in larger operations against the United States and Israel.
The International Institute for Counter-Terrorism made similar claims in an October 2013 report. It states the geography, society, and economy around the tri-border region have created a kind of perfect “breeding ground for terrorists.”
It notes that the region “facilitates drug trafficking, as vast and impenetrable jungles allow groups to hide bases, training camps, plantations, laboratories, and clandestine runways.”
“The constant activity of border areas creates different spheres in which criminals and terrorists can blend in among businessmen, local residents, government authorities, and tourists,” the report states. “The fluidity of this environment also spurs corruption and a greater demand for smuggled goods and illegal documents.”