Iran and Hezbollah have been operating in Latin America since the 1980s, effectively undisturbed. During this time, Iran and its proxy, the terrorist organization Hezbollah, have been Islamizing Latin America, seemingly to create a forward base of operations for the Islamic Republic in the backyard of the United States.
No Latin American country has designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization: Hezbollah can operate with relative impunity there. In April 2017, a Hezbollah operative, Mohamad Hamdar, arrested in Peru, was acquitted of all terrorism-related charges. The Peruvian court found that Hamdar’s role within Hezbollah was in itself insufficient to consider him a terrorist. This legal vacuum regarding Hezbollah might also be why Islamic terrorism, drug-trafficking and organized crime in the region is frequently underestimated.
According to testimony at a United States House of Representatives panel hearing on Iran’s global terrorism network on April 17, 2018, Iran and Hezbollah have converted and radicalized thousands of Latin Americans to Shia Islam. In some Latin American countries, such as Venezuela, Iran’s and Hezbollah’s efforts have even been promoted by local political elites. Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami — of Lebanese and Syrian origins and with ties to both cocaine trafficking and Hezbollah — oversaw the illicit sale and distribution of at least 10,000 Venezuelan passports and other documents to persons from Syria, Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries. These reportedly included Hezbollah terrorists and members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. More than a decade ago, a US congressional report warned that Venezuela was providing support to radical Islamic groups, including the supply of identity documents. El Aissami could, in the foreseeable future, become president of Venezuela.