Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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More Evidence of Hezbollah in Latin America
There is still significant debate within the U.S. government and among members of the national security establishment over the level of threat posed by Iran's growing presence and the increasing presence of Hezbollah that this presence brings.

So the arrest of a suspected Hezbollah fundraiser with an outstanding US arrest warrant in the Tri-border area is another important indicator of just how deep this relationship has now become.

Moussa Hamdan is the latest in a long line of suspected Hezbollah financiers who have been arrested in and around Ciudad del Este, the main hub of the Tri-border (where the borders of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet near Iguazu Falls) region. U.S., European and Latin American investigations have traced tens of millions of dollars from the region back to Hezbollah in Lebanon, using the formal and informal money remittance systems. Hezbollah operatives in the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires have been documented as having used Ciudad del Este as their base while planning their attack on a Jewish target, operating under orders from Iran.

The Tri-border has historically been a smuggling and black market center for the Southern Cone of Latin America, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in illicit profits. That is not new. What changed over the past 15 years is the importance of the region as a financial hub for terrorist groups, from Hezbollah to the FARC in Colombia to Hamas.

So Hezbollah and other terrorist groups have an expanded playing field. Venezuela is friendly territory, Ecuador is hospitable and the Tri-Border network gives them access to Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, none of which want to acknowledge there is a problem.

The key factor in looking at this expanding territory is the expanding networks that develop among groups operating there, and their ability to cross pollinate and help each other logistically and financially. It also creates new areas in which to move illicit goods, and those goods are likely not to simply be cocaine and knock off watches.

There is another little tidbit pointed out by a blog reader that goes to the network aspects. It turns out that Dror Feiler, an outspoken Swedish-Israeli musician who was a main organizer of the flotilla to Gaza, is also on the editorial board of ANNCOL (Agencia de Noticias Nueva Colombia or New Colombia News Agency), a key part of the FARC's external propaganda machine.

(Yesterday it featured, with no hint of irony, a piece on the humanitarian treatment that the FARC affords its hostages, with no mention of the years they spend in captivity with chains around their necks, little food and deprived of freedom. It also sought to portray the recent hostage rescue by the COlombian military as a "humanitarian release" by the FARC. Etc. Etc.)

Does that prove Mr. Feiler is a FARC member or a terrorist? No. But it does prove that these networks overlap and occupy key players in strategic locations. And that is what makes them dangerous.
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