Venezuelan charges “mud-slinging” over Hezbollah accusations

Lt. Col. HĂ©ctor Herrera, president of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Civil-Military Front, decried a “new, unfounded accusation” by the US Treasury Department that a Venezuelan diplomat and Venezuelan travel agent, both of Lebanese decent, are financial supporters of Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Herrera, whose Civil-Military organization recently held military maneuvers with Venezuelan reservists to defend against a simulated foreign invasion, said the accusations “are more of the same,” comparing them to those made about Venezuelan support for the FARC.

Herrera said the persistent accusations against Venezuela “are conjectures, alarmist opinions, what they’re after is to sling mud on the reputation and the management of President Hugo Chávez.” He added that the US should not accuse others of being terrorists because the US is the principal terrorist and sponsor of terrorist groups worldwide.

According to a June 18 Treasury Department press release, the US government has ordered a freeze on the assets of Ghazi Nasr al-Din and Fawzi Kan’an, and prohibited US citizens from engaging in business transactions with these Venezuelans, in accordance with Executive Order 13224, which aims to cut off support to terrorists.

Adam Szubin, director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), stated “it is extremely troubling to see the Government of Venezuela employing and providing safe harbor to Hezbollah facilitators and fundraisers. We will continue to expose the global nature of Hezbollah’s terrorist support network, and we call on responsible governments worldwide to disrupt and dismantle this activity.”

The US claims Ghazi Nasr al Din used his previous position at the Venezuelan embassy in Syria and as president of the Shi’a Islamic Center in Caracas to “counsel” Hezbollah donors and give them “specific information on bank accounts” used by Hezbollah. Ghazi Nasr al-Din is currently the political affairs director for the Venezuelan embassy in Lebanon.

OFAC also claims Ghazi Nasr al-Din “discussed operational issues” with Hezbollah and “facilitated the travel” of members of the organization—once to Caracas and another time to Iran.

Travel assistance for Hezbollah’s “fundraising efforts” is also the charge against Fawzi Kan’an, whose two Caracas travel agencies were penalized by OFAC. “These are all lies,” Fawzi Kan’an told reporters. Kan’an said he came to Venezuela in 1986 as a refugee from violence in his homeland, and denied any political involvement. “When someone walks in to buy a ticket I don’t have the right to ask them what religion they are. I have all kinds of clients,” said Kan’an.

In an official statement, Hezbollah declared the two men are not members of the organization, and denounced the “stupid manner” of US foreign affairs.

The Venezuelan Communication and Information Minister, AndrĂ©s Izarra, told the press that the Lebanese government has not expressed concern to Venezuela about the accusations raised by OFAC. “We do not have any formal complaint from Lebanon regarding this or any other issue,” Izarra said. “If they had any problem requiring investigations, they would have informed our country about it, and they have not.”

Minister Izarra said he recognized Hezbollah’s status as a legitimate political organization within Lebanon. “Unlike the US we do not intervene in the internal affairs of others,” he said. (James Suggett for VenezuelAnalysis, June 20)

See our last posts on Venezuela, Hezbollah in Venezuela and the related charges of anti-Semitism in Venezuela.