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  • Jon Purizhansky

Hezbollah in Latin America

The government of the United States has recently offered a reward of up to $10 million for information that disrupts the financial infrastructure of Hezbollah. The payments will be made by the State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program, which until now has focused on offering cash rewards for information that leads to the capture of wanted terrorists. As is commonly known, Hezbollah was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department back in 1997.

Hezbollah in Latin America

To truly understand how Hezbollah operates, one must examine its connection to Latin America.

One noticeable event is the resistance that the Lebanese Embassy in Paraguay has created aimed at blocking the extradition of alleged Hezbollah financier Nader Mohamad Farhat. Although Hezbollah’s military infrastructure is mostly centered in Lebanon and Syria, Latin America is the base for the criminal activities that generate cash flows that Hezbollah needs to operate and exist.

The Triple Frontier is where Paraguay borders Argentina and Brazil. According to the perception of Jon Purizhansky, not only Hezbollah’s global drug trafficking activities are coordinated in the Triple Frontier, but Hezbollah dispatches senior military personnel from Lebanon and Syria to the Triple Frontier to supervise and coordinate these activities.

It’s also worth noticing that in May 2019, Paraguayan authorities raided Unique SA, a currency exchange house in Ciudad del Este, on the Paraguayan side of the Triple Frontier, and arrested Farhat, its owner, for his role in an alleged $1.3 million drug money laundering scheme. Now the U.S. authorities want to extradite Farhat to the US, which indicates that the US Government has established requisite nexus between Farhat and the US. The Lebanese government, however, is doing all it can to prevent the extradition.  On May 28, the Lebanese charge d’affairs in Asunción, Hassan Hijazi, sent a letter to Paraguay’s attorney general intimating that she should reject the U.S. request to extradite Farhat. Why isn’t Lebanon cooperating with the US? Is it because Hezbollah is Lebanon and Lebanon is Hezbollah now? Jon Purizhansky says that, Clearly, Latin American governments are not doing all they can to fight terrorism. Otherwise, Hezbollah would not operate openly in Latin America the way it does today. These operations would be impossible without the assistance of local governments that are notoriously corrupt.

Unquestionably, Jon Purizhansky is of the opinion that the United States will do all it can to have Farhatextradicted, but without the assistance of the government of Paraguay it will be very tough and the fact that the government of Lebanon is putting up obstacles does not help the cause. With the US border still porous and open for infiltration from Latin America not just by economic migrants and refugees, but also by terrorists, things may get worse before they get better.

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