Hizballah in Venezuela: Will the U.S. move?

That Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez’ regime is enabling Islamic terrorist organizations to take root in South America is no longer in question.  What will the US do?  

In December 2002 freelance journalist Martin Arostegui published an article in Insight Magazine (“Chavez plans for a terrorist regime”) in which he reported the arrival in Venezuela of Hakim Mamad Ali Diab Fattah, a member of Hizballah. Venezuelan officials received him at the airport. In connection with his presence in the country Arostegui interviewed the former Venezuelan Intelligence Director, General Marcos Ferreira, who said Fattah represented only the tip of the iceberg in a Cuban-Venezuelan operation to promote the infiltration of terrorists from Hizballah into the U.S. Between 200 and 300 Cuban intelligence, he added, were already active in this project within Chavez inner circle, led by Cuban Captain Sergio Cardona. Ferreira also identified Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, the current Minister of the Interior of Chavez, as Chavez’s designated link with the terrorists.

In 2005, Barbara Newman reported that the Venezuelan Island of Margarita had become a main center of financing for Hizballah in Latin America and that members of this organization were entering the U.S. with Venezuelan documents obtained in that island.

In 2006 I reported on the installation by Hizballah of small cells in the Venezuelan side of the Guajira Peninsula, bordering with Colombia. (Gateway Pundit, September 1, 2006).

Also in 2006, a report by a U.S House of Representatives sub-committee led by Texas Representative Michael McCaul (R-Tx)  asserted that the government of Hugo Chavez was providing support to terrorists, including false identity documents that “could prove useful to radical Islamic groups”. Venezuela, the report added, “is emerging as a potential hub of terrorism in the Western Hemisphere, providing assistance to the Islamic radicals from the Middle East”.

In the last weeks a fresh wave of detailed information about the links between Hugo Chavez and Hizballah has emerged. Writing for Caracas newspaper “El Nuevo Pais”, Venezuelan exiled journalist Patricia Poleo has published two articles (June 13 and June 20, 2008) in which she describes how Hizballah in Lebanon is training young Venezuelans in the use of firearms and explosives. “The young Venezuelans”, she says, “are members of Chavez’s political party PSUV, and are recruited by, among others, Tarek el Ayssami, current Venezuelan Vice-Minister of the Interior and by Gahzi Nasr Al Din, at the Venezuelan Embassy in Damascus, Syria [later moved to the Venezuelan embassy in Lebanon]”. Poleo says that, after the Venezuelans trained in Lebanon return to their country, they link with radical groups of their same party and of the Bolivarian University. These groups, Poleo adds, are closely connected with Hizballah in Venezuela and with Iraqi Al-Qaeda members living in Venezuela, as well as with the Venezuelan chapter of the Palestinian Democratic Front, led by Salid Ahmed Rahman, who has his office in downtown Caracas. Poleo says that there are ten or more training camps of Hizballah in Venezuela. She identified one of the most notorious members of Hizballah in Venezuela as explosives expert Abdul Ghani Suleiman Wanked, who is Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s right hand.

Her second article provided specific information about the connections of Hizballah terrorists with the Chavez regime. Poleo says that a key man behind this activity is Raymundo Kabchi, a Lebanese born lawyer with Venezuelan nationality. Mr. Kabchi has been an “advisor” to the Venezuelan Foreign Minister for some years and is the person who recommended Nasr Al Din for his job at the Venezuelan embassy in Damascus, Syria.

Very recently the U.S. government moved against some Venezuelan members of Hizballah. June 20 the Treasury Department designated two Venezuelan supporters of Hizballah, Ghazi Nasr Al Din, the same person mentioned by Poleo in her articles, and Fawzi Kan’an, along with two travel agencies owned and operated by Kan’an. This designation was taken pursuant to Executive Order 13224, which targets terrorists, those acting on their behalf or those providing them with financial, technological or material support. The assets of these two persons in the U.S. have been frozen. In their designation the Treasury Department asserts that Nasr Al Din has facilitated the travel of Lebanese Hizballah representatives to Venezuela to ask for financial support. Kan’an is also identified as a major financial supporter of Hizballah.

Together with the abundant evidence linking the Chavez regime with the Colombian FARC, as increasingly accepted by hemispheric and European governments, the information linking Chavez with Middle Eastern terrorism puts him under imminent danger of being formally charged by the U.S government as a promoter of terrorism. His recent about face concerning the narco-terrorist FARC, distancing himself from this organization, appears to be a tactical diversion, rather than a major change in strategic orientation.

The U.S. government appears to be getting closer to move decisively against the regime of Hugo Chavez. In doing so, it could — and probably should — declare Venezuela a state sponsor ot terrorism.  This could create a major political and economic crisis due to the importance of Venezuela as an oil exporting country and the extreme dependence of the U.S. on oil imports. However, this is one potential crisis that seems to be no longer avoidable, one that is no longer if but when.