Merchant of Death
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Blood from Stones

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The Hezbollah-Latin American Ties Become More Evident
I have been traveling, but am somewhat surprised at how little attention the recent multi-country drug bust firmly tying Hezbollah to Latin American drug trafficking structures has received.

This is the clearest publicly-available case that shows how organized criminal groups and terrorist organizations are broadening and strengthening their links. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), responsible for several significant busts recently, led this one too.

The operation has been underway for several years, and has yielded a trove of information on Hezbollah's ties to the Lebanese diaspora in Latin America, and the money ring that stretches through Venezuela, Panama, Guatemala, Hong Kong, the United States, Europe and Lebanon. The size of the network, the ability to function across religious and ethnic lines, and ability of all groups to profit from the criminal enterprise should give one pause.

The profits from the sales of drugs went to finance Hezbollah," said Gladys Sanchez, lead investigator for the special prosecutor's office in Bogota, in an interview. "This is an example of how narco-trafficking is a theme of interest to all criminal organizations, the FARC, the paramilitaries and terrorists."

Ms. Sanchez is exactly right. The contours of the pipeline are easy to identify. The regime of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela has allowed Iranian banks to operate, brought in flights whose passengers are not registered, and issued multiple identification cards to Iranian and Syrian individuals.

The FARC, in Colombia, in turn, exporting some 250 tons of cocaine through Venezuela, who allows the rebels to pay off generals in charge of specific ports. Chavez has to do this, in part, to buy peace in the military, who have grown tired of his antics and his inability to fulfill his promises.

So, Iran sponsors Hezbollah and allies with Chavez. Chavez sponsors the FARC and allies with Iran. The FARC has the dope, Hezbollah has the international distribution network, having been involved in heroin traffic and organized criminal activities for years.

What is alarming to me is that, despite Hezbollah's stated intention to attack the United States and Iran's evident interest in having the ability to strike at the United States, this alliance (and the Chavez-Iran alliance) attract very little attention at senior policy levels.

Perhaps it is the end-of-administration syndrome, coupled with the Iraq-Afghanistan energy and attention suck, that allow these events to pass almost unnoticed. Yet this pipeline is in a far better position to strike the United States than the Sunni terrorist structures operating out of Afghanistan.

We can see how they are funded, and that there is a clear interest in expansion. What we don't see is many people paying attention.
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