Mexico thwarts Hezbollah bid to set up South American network?

Mexico foiled an attempt by Hezbollah to establish a network in South America, the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Seyassah reported last week. Hezbollah operatives employed Mexicans nationals with family ties to Lebanon to set up the network, according to the account. Mexican police reportedly mounted a surveillance operation on the group’s leader, Jameel Nasr, who traveled frequently to Lebanon to receive information and instructions from Hezbollah commanders there. Nasr, who was arrested this month in Tijuana, also made frequent trips to other countries in Latin America, including a two-month stay in Venezuela in the summer of 2008, Mexican police reportedly told the Kuwaiti daily.

The report follows warnings from the US that Hezbollah and its backer Iran are stepping up operations in the region. In June, Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) wrote to the Department of Homeland Security to warn that Hezbollah was increasing its presence in Latin America. Myrick called on the US to work with Mexican authorities, citing alleged intelligence that Hezbollah was working in conjunction with Mexican drug cartels on the US-Mexico border.

Last year, then-chief of the US Southern Command, Adm. James Stavridis warned that Hezbollah was forging links to drug-trafficking in Colombia. “We have seen…an increase in a wide level of activity by the Iranian government in this region,” Stavridis told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “That is a concern principally because of the connections between the government of Iran, which is a state sponsor of terrorism, and Hezbollah.”

In February, a federal court in Miami indicted three men for raising funds for Hezbollah, which the US classifies as a terrorist organization. (Ha’aretz, July 6)

See our last posts on Mexico, Hezbollah and Iran’s Latin America strategy.

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