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Venezuela’s Maduro Entrenches With Hezbollah

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro delivers a speech during a gathering with supporters to mark the 20th anniversary of the rise of power of the late Hugo Chavez, the leftist firebrand who installed a socialist government, in Caracas on February 2, 2019. (Photo: YURI CORTEZ / AFP / Getty Images)
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro delivers a speech during a gathering with supporters in Caracas on February 2, 2019 to mark the 20th anniversary of the rise of power of the late Hugo Chavez, the leftist firebrand who installed a socialist government in the country. (Photo: YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

The Venezuelan regime under controversial President Nicolas Maduro is rather cozy with the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorist organization, as Clarion’s Shillman Fellow Ran Meir explains…

Amid the ongoing crisis between the U.S. and Venezuela, we’ve learned more of the strong ties between Caracas and the Lebanese-based Hezbollah. The more we dig, the more gold we find – in this case, quite literally.

As soon as President Donald Trump announced his support for opposition leader Juan Guaido, Hezbollah upped its rhetoric in favor of Maduro and condemned what it saw as an attempted coup planned by Washington. America wants to destabilize Venezuela and control its mines, Hezbollah contended, adding that D.C. is intent on punishing any nation that does not agree to U.S. hegemony. A delegation of senior Hezbollah officials just visited the Venezuela embassy in Beirut in a show of solidarity.

Hezbollah’s unwavering support is one thing, but what is arguably more concerning is Maduro’s backing of the Iranian-funded and trained Hezbollah, internationally recognized as a terror group. Maduro reportedly sent a letter to the terror organization expressing his thanks for Hezbollah’s unconditional support.

He sent the note after receiving an offer of any help needed from Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah. To this end, Hezbollah volunteered military know-how, explosives experts, snipers and soldiers trained in defending strategic locations, the Kuwaiti daily Al-Seyassah reported. Nasrallah further promised he could raise support for Maduro among Shiites living in South America.

This, said Nasrallah, is the least Hezbollah could do, given all that Maduro and former president Hugo Chavez did for Hezbollah and Iran.

It is important to understand that Maduro’s regime grants Hezbollah freedom of movement and allows it to strengthen its interests in the country and use Venezuela as a foothold to spread its ideology and activities across the continent.

Hezbollah operates two gold mines in Venezuela to fund its terror activities, according to opposition parliamentarian Americo De Grazia. As a result, key natural resources are taken being from the people and exported, he added.

The ties between Hezbollah and Venezuela have  grown ever tighter since 2006 when Tareck El Aissami became an MP, eventually rising to serve as vice president. Sanctioned by the U.S., El Aissami is accused of money laundering, global drug trafficking and more, as well as having very close links to Hezbollah. It’s also alleged he enabled fraudulent Venezuelan passports to end up in the hands of Hezbollah operatives.

All this appears to be just part of the you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours relationship between Maduro’s Venezuela and Hezbollah and indeed allows the terror organization deeper penetration into South and Central America.

Moreover, the unstable nature of several Latin American states means they are rich pickings for the terror organization and its Iranian paymasters.

 

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Ran Meir

Shillman Fellow Ran Meir is Clarion Project's Arab affairs analyst.