Border security is national security. Here’s yet another reason why:
Hezbollah uses Mexican drug routes into U.S.
Works beside smuggler cartels to fund operations
Hezbollah is using the same southern narcotics routes that Mexican drug kingpins do to smuggle drugs and people into the United States, reaping money to finance its operations and threatening U.S. national security, current and former U.S. law enforcement, defense and counterterrorism officials say.
The Iran-backed Lebanese group has long been involved in narcotics and human trafficking in South America’s tri-border region of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. Increasingly, however, it is relying on Mexican narcotics syndicates that control access to transit routes into the U.S.
Hezbollah relies on “the same criminal weapons smugglers, document traffickers and transportation experts as the drug cartels,” said Michael Braun, who just retired as assistant administrator and chief of operations at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
“They work together,” said Mr. Braun. “They rely on the same shadow facilitators. One way or another, they are all connected.
“They’ll leverage those relationships to their benefit, to smuggle contraband and humans into the U.S.; in fact, they already are [smuggling].”
For now,, they appear to be concentrating on human trafficking,
Although there have been no confirmed cases of Hezbollah moving terrorists across the Mexico border to carry out attacks in the United States, Hezbollah members and supporters have entered the country this way.
Whether the Hezbollah
operatives members and supporters have “plans” is anyone’s guess.
I’m one of the few bloggers to have been posting on Hezbollah and the tri-border area of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay for several years. The article points out, as readers of this blog know,
Hezbollah is based in Lebanon. Since its inception after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, it has grown into a major political, military and social welfare organization serving Lebanon’s large Shi’ite Muslim community.
In 2006, it fought a 34-day war against Israel, which remains its primary adversary. To finance its operations, it relies in part on funding from a large Lebanese Shi’ite Muslim diaspora that stretches from the Middle East to Africa and Latin America. Some of the funding comes from criminal enterprises.
You can read the 2003 (pdf file) TERRORIST AND ORGANIZED CRIME GROUPS IN THE TRI-BORDER AREA (TBA) OF SOUTH AMERICA which was prepared by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress for more background. However, bear in mind how the situation has evolved now, which involves the Mexican drug wars:
The DEA thinks that 60 percent of terrorist organizations have some ties with the illegal narcotics trade, said agency spokesman Garrison Courtney.
South American drug cartels were forced into developing stronger alliances with Mexican syndicates when the U.S. closed off access from the Caribbean 15 years ago, Mr. Braun said.
Mexico’s transit routes now account for more than 90 percent of the cocaine entering the U.S., he said. The emphasis on Mexico intensified after the Sept. 11 attacks, when beefed-up U.S. security measures greatly reduced access to the U.S. by air and water, he said.
The shift put Mexico’s drug cartels in the lead and helped them amass billions of dollars and an estimated 100,000 foot soldiers, according to U.S. defense officials.
Hezbollah shifted its trade routes along with the drug cartels, using Lebanese Shi’ite expatriates to negotiate contracts with Mexican crime bosses, Mr. Braun said.
The World Trade Bridge between Nuevo Laredo and its sister city, Laredo, as well as Interstate 35 and Highways 59, 359 and 83, are like veins feeding the Mexican syndicates, running from southern Texas to cities across the U.S. and as far north as Canada, U.S. officials say. In addition, access routes from El Paso, Texas, to San Diego are also high-value entry points.
The Mexican drug wars rage on. We need to recognize that they’re not just about drugs.