A neglected front

Israel is failing to counter, or even monitor, Hezbollah and Iranian activity in Latin America.

The reelection a few days ago of Hugo Chavez as president of Venezuela has brought into sharp focus an area of the world that has been seriously neglected by the Israeli government since the Buenos Aires bombings of the Israeli Embassy and the Jewish Center in the 1990's.

It's as though Latin America need not be of much concern to Israel. That is a serious mistake, for the following reasons:

1. For years, Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad have been raising funds through extortion ans blackmail from Arab residents of the Latin countries and processing the funds through the tri-border area where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet as well as, in more recent years, the Islamic "Cultural" Center on Margarita Island, Venezuela.

2. Since Chavez took office as Venezuela's president in 1999, he has consistently favored the afore-mentioned terrorist groups, as well as Iran and Syria, in the Middle East. He broke relations with Israel during the second Lebanon war and has supplied Iran with gasoline and Assad with fuel oil.

3. He has formed a group of so-called "Bolivarian" regimes in other Latin countries, particularly Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia. All of these countries, led by Venezuela, have facilitated the activities of the terrorists and have established friendly relations with Iran, enabling that country to use their financial institutions to evade financial sanctions, hosting dozens of Iranian agents in bloated embassies, supplying identity documents to Iranians and signing dozens of agreements covering military, intelligence, diplomatic, economic and financial cooperation.

The Bush and Obama administrations have largely ignored all these activities, despite the danger of penetration of the U.S. by terrorists through Latin America. Only the Treasury Department has been active in applying sanctions to particular Venezuelan individuals, banks and companies for acting on behalf of Iran. Both the U.S. and Israel must start paying much closer attention to the activities of Mr. Chavez and his friends. They can provide much more practical and material support to the enemies of Israel than can the anti-Israel ideologues of Europe, and yet little is done to counter these activities, or even monitor them.

Hezbollah is all over Latin America. Iranian agents are all over Latin America. Israel is largely absent from Latin America. Indeed, a neglected but vital front.

Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft at The Institute of World Politics, Washington, DC, and a lecturer at The Israeli National Defense College (MABAL), 2011-2012 session.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on October 25, 2012

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2012

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