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May 20, 2020 4:28 pm

Uruguay President Open to Possible Terror Blacklisting of Hezbollah

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

President Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou of Uruguay. Photo: Palácio do Planalto via Wikimedia Commons.

The president of Uruguay expressed openness on Wednesday to the possibility of designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

Participating in a webinar organized by the American Jewish Committee (AJC), President Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou was asked whether he would follow other Latin American countries in blacklisting the Iran-backed Lebanese group.

“I am in the process of changing my opinion,” he replied.

“Ten months ago, I was asked by a Jewish organization here about this, and my answer was that we follow the UN’s [terror] list. That Uruguay doesn’t have our own list,” Pou explained.

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“But I am looking forward to changing my opinion,” he continued. “I cannot assure you now … but I am in that process, because since I was asked, some countries also changed [their position]. I was reading about some of the South American countries having their own list, and the arguments were very solid.”

Hezbollah is very active in Latin America, particularly in the mostly lawless “tri-border area” between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, where it engages in drug smuggling, the proceeds from which it then uses to finance its operations. Argentina and Paraguay have slapped Hezbollah with a terrorist designation, and in January, Honduras and Colombia did so as well.

Pou also spoke about Uruguay’s decision to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, becoming the only Latin American country to do so.

“It’s because Uruguay has a strong tradition of human rights,” he said. “And human rights, you don’t count them in number, you count them in attitude. It doesn’t matter if its human rights for one person or a thousand people, it’s human rights. That is a tradition in our country without depending on who is in government.”

The president also spoke fondly of Israel, which he has visited twice, meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to foster economic cooperation between the two countries.

Pou noted he was particularly moved by his visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, saying, “I can’t remember a more emotional time in my life — perhaps when my children were born — than what I felt when I went to the Western Wall.”

“I went to the Wall during the night,” he recounted. “And I went with a rabbi, a Uruguayan rabbi from Jerusalem. … It was going back to what I was taught, my faith, and the knowledge that there’s something bigger.”

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