How to handle Hezbollah in Latin America
Emanuele Ottolenghi - Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has established a criminal and financial network across the region, and while the US has taken steps to disrupt these resources in the past, more needs to be done.
FEBRUARY 3, 2017 —This piece was submitted in response to Christopher Sabatini's article considering the Islamist threat in Latin America. The views expressed are the author's own.
In his inaugural address, President Trump pledged to eradicate radical Islamic terrorism “from the face of the earth.” A good place to start is Latin America.
For nearly four decades the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has relied on local expatriate communities to establish vast networks across the region. Over time, these networks have bought political influence among local elites, built alliances with organized crime, and offered financial services to both. As a result, today Latin America is a key center for Hezbollah’s increasingly sophisticated global financial network.
The Trump administration should disrupt Hezbollah’s Latin American sources of revenue by targeting its operatives and their businesses with a sustained sanctions campaign, it should strengthen the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) efforts to try Hezbollah operatives involved in drug trafficking, and it should punish local elites who facilitate Hezbollah’s continuing presence in the region.
Leveraging existing executive orders and sanctions legislation, the Obama administration targeted Hezbollah’s financial operations, mainly in Lebanon and the Gulf, after Congress passed the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act in late 2015. However, it avoided taking action in Latin America, despite evidence of Hezbollah’s growing presence there.
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