SAUL M. MONTES-BRADLEY II: Hezballat in Latin America

Latin ‘Ballat


Hezballat in Latin America

The tentacles of Jihad extend further than most people realize. Contrary to the shrill chorus that sees the phenomenon as purely Islamic in nature, the Islamic National Socialists have allies in Christian lands that find in their common political ideology a basis for a mutually profitable alliance.

In particular in South American countries, long the allies of Middle Eastern Fascism, terrorist organizations find support and, most grievously financing. Indeed, the second largest source of financing for Hezballat[1] is drug trafficking and smuggling between Argentina, Paraguay and Chile, often under the protection of local government officials.

Back in 2003, I attended a meeting with the Commander of US Southern Command at the Coral Gables Country Club. He gave us a most interesting talk about the status on the War on Terror. At the end of the meeting I said to him: “I hope you are keeping an eye on the Tri-Border area.” His laconic answer: “We are.” Nobody else knew what we were referring to. He did.

The “Tri-Border” area is a zone where Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay share a common border near the Iguassu Falls on the Parana River.

For decades, it has been a kind of Isle of Tortuga, filled with smugglers and shady characters conducting business across national boundaries. The center of activities, mostly based on illegal trade, is Ciudad del Este, once named “Puerto Stroessner” after the Paraguayan dictator.

This is what it looks like today:

Late in the 90’s it also became a hub for Iranian backed terrorists. They had been quite active in the preceding years, most notably in the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992, a few yards away from the home of my dear aunt Raquel in the days of my youth, at the fashionable corner of Arroyo and Suipacha streets.

Followed by the destruction of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires in 1994.

To this day, people in Buenos Aires are looking for justice for the hundreds killed there.

These two events, with complicity from some local officials, was Iran’s response to the cancelation of a joint missile development program, the Condor II, designed to bypass international sanctions.

That program was cancelled in 1990 by then newly elected President Carlos Saul Menem, a son of Syrian immigrants, which many believe caused Iran to order Hezballat attacks in Buenos Aires. Menem believes the murder of his own son in 1995 was also the work of Iranians as revenge for the cancellation of the Condor II program.

By then, a full Hezballat base was being established in Paraguay with the purpose of assisting operations in South America and developing resources to ease the monetary pressure on Tehran. Those resources consisted primarily in the development of a drug trafficking operation that grew to become Hezballat’s second source of funds after Iran. In 1998, FBI Director Louis Freeh, already stated that the Tri-Border area was a “free zone for significant criminal activity, including people who are organized to commit acts of terrorism.” The same year, Washington “decertified” Paraguay’s anti-drug fight, citing pervasive corruption and “no successful investigations of significant traffickers.”

Of course, as these things go, Hezballat soon developed ties to Mexican cartels and Colombia’s FARC, at the same time that Iran was pushing for closer ties to Argentina and Venezuela, despite the investigations pending on the Buenos Aires attacks of 1992 and 1994. This did not go unnoticed.

The Israeli Defense Forces focused on the new source of income for the terrorists…

As the militants in Gaza celebrated their new found friends.

And Iran’s President and his allies visited their new friends.

By 2007, the network was so well established that Hezballat bragged about it in the press. And political groups were forming in support of Hezballat. Like Quebracho, an organization fostered from the halls of the Argentine government that made public demonstrations on the streets of Buenos Aires,

And openly celebrated “International Quds Day!

While Iranian and Hezballat agents infiltrated political parties and became government officials themselves!

All of these contacts paid off. By 2009, it became known that Venezuela had issued 10,000 passports to Iranian agents and Hezballat militants, among others.

And the country became a hub for terrorism related drug trafficking on an unprecedented scale.

At the same time the presence of Hezballat in Mexico became public.

By 2013, The IDF issued a damning report on the presence of Hezballat in Mexico. “In 2011,” the report states “the U.S. government seized drug profits linked to Ayman [Saied] Joumaa, a drug trafficker and money launderer, linked to Hezbollah. His network was earning as much as $200 million per month.”

Joumaa, a Lebanese with Colombian documents, run a major drug operation in Colombia, Panama and Lebanon for the benefit of Hezballat.

He was not alone. Jorge Fadlallah Cheaitelly, an Iranian-Colombian running a money laundering operation in Panama for Colombian and Mexican cartels was finally arrested in Costa Rica.

They were connected with a Lebanese tycoon, Mehrli Ali Abou Mehrli, also arrested, who provided logistics, transportation and financing. “Merhi Ali Abou Merhi operates an extensive maritime shipping business that enables the Joumaa network’s illicit money laundering activity and widespread narcotics trafficking,” said John E. Smith, acting director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control. “The Joumaa criminal network is a multi-national money laundering ring whose money laundering activities have benefited Hezbollah,” The Group had “multiple subsidiaries in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe including the following 10 designated firms: Abou-Merhi Lines SAL, a shipping line in Lebanon; Abou-Merhi Cruises SAL, a travel agency in Lebanon; Le-Mall-Sidon, a shopping mall in south Lebanon; Queen Stations, a gas station in Lebanon; Orient Queen Homes, a real estate development in Lebanon; maritime shipping subsidiaries in Benin (Abou Merhi Cotonou), Nigeria (Abou Merhi Nigeria), and Germany (Abou Merhi Hamburg); Lebanon Center, a shopping mall in Jordan; and Abou Merhi Charity Institution in Lebanon.”Jorge “Saddam” Rafaat Toumani.

Now we go back to the Tri-Border area. The gang there was run by Jorge Rafaat Toumani, AKA “Saddam” or “King of the Border.” Thomas Wictor tells the story of his demise better than I could, so I refer you to his blog.

But there is more.

Toumani replaced Fernandinho Beira Mar in 2002 as head of the largest drug trafficking group in Paraguay, based in Pedro Juan Caballero, near Ciudad del Este, courtesy of Toumani’s relations to Colombian drug cartels associated with the FARC guerrillas. In 2004, he was caught and tried in Brazil for a shipment of over 800 lbs of cocaine, but nothing came of it. In 2005, Flavio Kayatt, mayor of Punta Porã, a city on the Brazilian side of the border, and one of his secretaries, Helio Peluffo Filho,were witnesses in defense of Tourani. Later, a recording came out of a conversation between, Ezequiel de Souza and the Brazilian Senators Arnaldo Giuzio and Arnoldo Wiense and minister Luis Rojas, where Toumani’s name came up as the “Boss” of the border. It is hard to find many references in the local press to his terror connections. It seems to be taboo. But it is a well know fact to American law enforcement agencies that he was indeed a front for Hezballat. Sobhi Mahmoud Fayad, known senior Hezballat official in Paraguay acted as liaison between the Iranian embassy and the Hezballat supporters in the area, especially through the Mosque at Punta Porã, attended by Toumani. The demise of Toumani has changed nothing. And in spite of being named in money laundering activities in connection with Toumani and others, Fayad continues to shuffle between Paraguay and Lebanon and Hezballat activities in Paraguay continue unabated.

Thomas Wictor believes commandoes killed Toumani.  I have no doubt, after reviewing the videos that whoever killed him were not “rival gangs” as the Paraguayan and Brazilian press claim, but, indeed, professionals of the first order. He raises the possibility of GCC commandoes and, for all I know, he’s right. But there are two other players in the area that we ought to consider. The first one is that in 2005, the US opened a base nearby at Mariscal Estigarribia, adjacent to the international airport there, specifically for conducting anti-terrorism operations, though I find it hard to believe that the Obama administration would have green lighted any operations. The second, and more likely actor, is the IDF, as they have been cooperating with the Paraguayan government in the fight against terrorism for quite some time.

Whatever the case may be, this was not the work of amateurs: 12 bullets to the head, 47 bodyguards notwithstanding.

Things in Colombia are not much better. To the links already mentioned, now we add the “peace treaty” that allows FARC narcomarxists to openly enter the political process there. All of them long time allies of Hezballat, all of them very much committed to waging war on the US. And as the Colombian people, who already rejected a similar plan not long ago make no bones about their misgivings, another declared enemy of the US showed up to push the agreement forward and help ram it down the throats of the Colombian people.

And we are back to Mexico