US Finally Gets Tough on Hezbollah Operatives in Latin America
Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militia which has significant power in Lebanon, has operatives in Latin America and is now under the scrutiny of the United States. Last week, the Treasury Department placed sanctions on three Colombia-based Hezbollah operatives and their businesses.
One of the individuals sanctioned is Amer Mohamed Akil Rada who carried out an attack on the Israeli Embassy in Argentina killing 29 people and a 1994 attack on the Argentine-Israelite Mutual Association in Buenos Aires killing 85 people.
Washington declared Hezbollah as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997
Hezbollah: World’s Most Heavily Armed Non-State Actor
Hezbollah is also a Shiite Muslim political party, which was founded during the Lebanese Civil War. Its objective is to oppose Israel and drive away Western influence in the Middle East. Washington has been monitoring Hezbollah’s activity in Latin America – Colombia and Venezuela.
Rada operated in South America for over a decade before moving to Lebanon. He had a thriving charcoal business, exported from Colombia to Lebanon, and used the majority of its proceeds for Hezbollah. Samer, Rada’s brother, also sanctioned by the US was involved in drug trafficking and money laundering. According to the US Treasury, Samer was involved in smuggling 500 kg of cocaine worth about $15 million. The drugs were seized in El Salvador when it was being trafficked in fruit shipments.
According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Hezbollah has up to 20,000 active fighters in the year 2020, and about 20,000 reserves. The group is equipped with small arms, tanks, drones, and long-range rockets. Some experts say Hezbollah has an even larger arsenal of artillery.
Hezbollah in Syria War
This militia group is also involved in the Syria war. This is attributed to the Syrian government’s peacekeeping initiatives in Lebanon during the country’s civil war. Hezbollah is said to be an ally of the Assad government. Moreover, the Syrian government is also aiding the group by transferring weapons from Iran. But this has drawn backlash from Israel, as such Israeli forces have been striking at Hezbollah camps in Syria.
This militia group also manages a network of social services, including health-care facilities, schools, infrastructure, and youth programs. It also helped fight off Islamic State and al-Qaeda-affiliated militants.