Secretary of State Mike Pompeo revealed Wednesday that Iran and its terrorist proxy Hizballah will exploit the political and economic chaos in Venezuela to preserve their reach throughout South America.
“People don’t recognize that Hizballah has active cells – the Iranians are impacting the people of Venezuela and throughout South America,” Pompeo said in an interview with FOX Business, adding, “we have an obligation to take down that risk for America.”
Instability continues to grow in Venezuela as competing factions vie for power in the socialist country. Following President Trump’s lead, several major western countries last month recognized Venezuela’s national assembly president Juan Guaido as the country’s legitimate president.
Under the reign of former President Hugo Chavez, Iran exploited friendly ties with Venezuela to establish terrorist networks throughout region. Iranian and Hizballah operatives have cultivated and consolidated operating bases in South America, especially in the tri-border area (TBA) of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. With a large Muslim population featuring significant numbers of Hizballah sympathizers, the terrorist organization uses this area for recruitment, arms smuggling and drug trafficking, and logistics planning for terrorist operations.
A year ago, the Trump administration levied sanctions against Venezuela’s then-vice president Tareck El Aissami after an extensive Treasury Department investigation identified him as a key figure in the global narcotics trade with ties to Iran.