Washington Free Beacon
Iran has illegally laundered billions of dollars through the Venezuelan financial sector and is currently stashing "hundreds of millions" of dollars in "virtually every Venezuelan bank today," according to a former senior State Department official.
"It's a huge blind spot in those trying to implement sanctions" on Iran, Roger Noriega, a former United States ambassador and assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, told the Washington Free Beacon.
Venezuela served as Iran's closest Western ally under the late President Hugo Chavez, who allowed the rogue regime to establish a military and financial presence at the highest levels of the Venezuelan government.
Iran's foothold in the country is expected to grow exponentially under the rule of Chavez's likely successor, Vice President Nicolas Maduro.
Noriega and other experts warned House lawmakers at a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday that Iran's terrorist proxy Hezbollah is gaining power in Venezuela.
Hezbollah, which carries out terrorist attacks on Iran's behalf, has helped Tehran access Venezuela's sophisticated financial sector, experts said.
"It's easy to say billions have been laundered through various Iranian enterprises and institutions through the Venezuelan economy," Noriega told the Free Beacon in an interview Thursday. "The Iranians have seized on this as a way to evade sanctions."
Hezbollah has not only infiltrated Venezuela's governmental bodies. The organization has also established terrorist training facilities on the country's Margarita Island, according to Noriega.
Hezbollah has been able to form from this Caribbean haven "a marriage of convenience" with various narcotics traffickers and drug gangs that bring the terrorist "threat to our doorstep," Noriega told lawmakers Wednesday.
The Mexican drug lord Joaquin Guzman, ringleader of the deadly Sinaloa Cartel, is known to have spent time on Margarita Island where he likely established ties with Hezbollah, according to Noriega.
"Our [belief] is that the brokered a relationship, a collaboration between Hezbollah and that narco group," said Noriega, who also served as the US ambassador to the Organization of American states from 2001 to 2003.
Hezbollah has been able to profit from its partnerships with drug traffickers and smugglers, money that likely goes to fund its terrorist operations across the globe.
Lawmakers and experts believe the US government has failed to properly combat Hezbollah's Latin American activities or even take the issue seriously.
READ FULL SOURCE ARTICLE: 03/20/2013
Editor's Note: NMJ and our brethren in the new media have been warning of Hezbollah's expansion into the Western Hemisphere and specifically Venezuela and the tri-border area since 2005...
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