Iran's growing influence in Latin America is "the most disturbing geopolitical development the region is facing today," writes former Costa Rican diplomat Jaime Daremblum. In a column posted at Mexidata.com, Darmblum calls Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez "the key to [Iran's] expanding reach."
Iran's terrorist proxy Hizballah has carried out two of the most horrific terrorist attacks in the Western Hemisphere in modern times. Both of the attacks took place in Buenos Aires. In 1992, the Iranian axis bombed the Israeli Embassy in Argentina, killing 42 people and wounding 242. The second large-scale attack occurred in 1994, when it bombed the largest Jewish community center in the city, killing 82 people and wounding close to 300.
"The official report from Argentine authorities confirmed the direct responsibility of Iran and Hezbollah in both attacks. The report pointed out that Hezbollah had 'followed orders issued directly by Tehran's regime,'" writes Daremblum, who served as Costa Rica's ambassador to the United States from 1998 to 2004 and is currently a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute.
The report pointed out that the terror group had "followed orders issued directly by Tehran's regime." Argentina issued arrest warrants against former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, former intelligence boss Ali Fallahian and four other Iranian nationals.
All of that took place before Chavez came to power in Venezuela and forged alliances with Tehran and the Castro brothers in Cuba. Today, Venezuela provides Cuba billions of dollars in annual subsidies, while Havana plays a large role in Chavez's army, intelligence, police and migration services. Hamas and Hizballah have opened offices in Caracas, according to Daremblum, and U.S. officials use the term "strategic association" to describe the relationship between Venezuela and Iran. Hizballah, Hamas and al-Qaida have channeled hundreds of millions of dollars to parent organizations in the Middle East thanks to fundraising in Venezuela, the Caribbean and the "Triple Frontier" border region shared by Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.
Iran's diplomatic presence in has been expanding in Latin America, as it has reopened embassies in Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Uruguay and vastly expanded its "diplomatic" presence in Nicaragua. There are also indications that Hizballah has forged ties with drug cartels, as evidenced by the Colombian government's recent dismantling of a group comprised of Hizballah operatives and cartel members who had raised hundreds of millions of dollars for the Shi'ite group.
Security experts are concerned that the drug gangs' expertise "could be put at the service of terrorists who want to enter the United States without being detected," Darembloom writes.