A new book has alleged that current Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro directly negotiated with Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah about drug trafficking, weapons and a Hezbollah presence in his country back in 2007. Maduro was then the Foreign Minister in the government of the late infamous socialist dictator Hugo Chavez, who died of cancer in 2013.
The book, Bumerán Chávez: Los fraudes que llevaron al colapso de Venezuela (Boomerang Chavez: the Fraud that Led to the Collapse of Venezuela), is the work of Emili J. Blasco, Washington correspondent for Spain’s ABC.es newspaper (Spanish).
The revelations are largely based on diplomatic cables and the testimony of Rafael Isea, the former Deputy Minister of Economic Development in Venezuela. Isea defected in 2013 shortly after Maduro took the reins from the suddenly deceased Chavez. Isea has been living in Washington D.C. ever since.
2007 saw the personal relationship between Chavez and then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad flourish, opening up major strategic cooperation between the two countries and their allies.
One of those allies was Hezbollah.
Early in 2007, a weekly flight was posted between the Venezuelan capital of Caracas and Tehran with a stopover in Damascus.
On one of those Damascene layovers, a Syrian security officer escorted Isea to a hotel where Maduro was waiting. The two met with Nasrallah and a Spanish-Arabic translator. It was during this visit that Maduro upgraded the role of Nasr al-Din, a Lebanese Venezuelan who was recently reported to have spent time raising money for Hezbollah in Latin America.
Al-Din is a Shiite national and former head of the Shi’a Islamic Center in Caracas, Venezuela which allegedly is funded by Hassan Nasrallah’s organization.
The FBI recently put out a bulletin for al-Din asking for any information on his whereabouts, who is implicated in the bulletin as having managed money and logistics for Hezbollah.
Not long after in 2008, al-Din was placed on the United States’ Terrorism Watchlist. The book includes translations of classified Venezuelan diplomatic cables that detail activities like procurement of passports for up to 300 Hezbollah operatives who would be working in Venezuela.
The purpose of their work? Drug trafficking.
While it is not new information that Hezbollah might be involved in the drug trade, what is alarming is that Hezbollah sought to amend deals with Mexican drug cartels – some of the most violent groups in the world – in order to gain direct access to the US Southern Border.
The revelations are bombshells one after another. For years, reports among scholars have circulated about Hezbollah’s investment in the drug trade and Venezuela’s collusion with Iran, but never to this extent.
According to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Matthew Levitt, Hezbollah’s involvement in drug trafficking began back in the 1980s when it tried “leveraging criminal connections and proceeds from the illicit activities of some of its members and supporters in the Bekaa Valley and South America.”
“Over time, [Hezbollah] leveraged its criminal ties to support operational objectives, including trading drugs for intelligence from Arab-Israeli (and sometimes Jewish-Israeli) criminals…”
Federal prosecutors filed lawsuits in 2011 against several American and Lebanese businesses serving as fronts for Hezbollah’s international trafficking network at federal court in New York City.
Hezbollah has worked wherever there is a Lebanese diaspora community to build its international networks for drugs, intelligence and terrorist operations. That has meant Hezbollah infiltration of Latin America, West Africa and inevitably the United States. The majority of Lebanese expatriates are Christians, but there are numerous Shiite Muslims and criminal elements whose religious affiliation is inconsequential to the business Hezbollah has been allegedly peddling.
In 2009, Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble is quoted as having said by Levitt that multinational police efforts had “dismantled cocaine-trafficking rings that used their proceeds to finance the activities of the FARC and [Hezbollah], while drugs destined for European markets are increasingly being channeled through West African countries.”
This is not the first revelation of trafficking or government involvement, but this is the most explicit indictment yet of the Venezuelan government’s own complicity in Hezbollah’s criminal enterprise.
A 2011 New York Times report by Jo Becker cites Lebanese Colonel Adel Mashmoushi, Beirut’s chief drug enforcement czar, those above mentioned flights were used also to bring those drugs into Lebanon and then to ship them by truck into Syria.
Thus far, there has been no public comment by the Venezuelan government about the implications.