Hezbollah-Linked Paraguayan Charged in Miami Drug Conspiracy
A Paraguayan man with ties to Hezbollah pleaded not guilty in Miami federal court on Monday, after being charged with conspiring to distribute massive amounts of cocaine in the United States, the Miami Herald reported.
Paraguay’s authorities arrested Ali Issa Chamas in August at an international airport for attempting to smuggle 39 kilos of cocaine. Chamas was extradited to Miami, and now awaits trial.
But Chamas’ indictment failed to reference his intimate relationship with Hezbollah associates and operatives.
Chamas is of Lebanese origin, and has lived in Paraguay for the past decade. In addition to Brazil and Argentina, Paraguay is part of the Tri-Border Area (TBA), a region where Hezbollah has cultivated a major base of operations. With a large Muslim population featuring significant numbers of Hezbollah sympathizers, the terrorist organization uses the TBA for recruitment, arms smuggling and drug trafficking, as well as logistics planning for terrorist operations.
The State Department has stated that the TBA remains “an important regional nexus of arms, narcotics, pirated goods, human smuggling, counterfeiting, and money laundering — all potential funding sources for terrorist organizations.”
Hezbollah also relies on legitimate businesses and front organizations in the region; it has diversified its terrorist financing profile to generate a significant portion of its revenues from its Latin American operations.
With the Venezuelan government’s help, Hezbollah continues to expand its presence and consolidate support in other Latin American countries.
The US Treasury Department recently revealed that Venezuela’s Vice President Tareck El Aissami maintains intimate ties to Hezbollah, and has helped coordinate narcotics shipments to drug cartels operating on the US border, including Mexico’s infamous Los Zetas.
In 2011, Virginia prosecutors said that a Lebanese man helped the Mexican Los Zetas drug cartel smuggle more than 100 tons of Colombian cocaine. The Treasury Department claims that Hezbollah has benefited financially from this criminal network.