by Anna Mahjar-Barducci
The holiday island of Isla de Margarita, situated in the Caribbean Sea, has one of the most beautiful beaches of Venezuela and breathtaking scenery. It is here, on the island of exquisite hotels and a glamorous nightlife, that the US military's Southern Command has reported the presence of Hezbollah's support and logistics cells -- one of the most important centers of "terrorist gathering" and "money laundering activities" for Hezbollah.
Brother of Venezuelan diplomat in Syria set training operation in Isla de Margarita
Ambassador Roger Noriega, formerly head of the Organization of American States [OAS], during a recent Hearing of the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence Committee on Homeland Security, testified that a key operative in the Hezbollah network in Latin America is the Lebanese-born Ghazi Atef Salameh Nassereddine Abu Ali, Venezuela's No. 2 diplomat in Syria.
Nasreddine, who was black-listed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in June 2008 for his fundraising and logistical support to Hezbollah, is managing, along with his brothers, a network that "raises and launders money and recruits and trains operatives to expand Hezbollah's influence in Venezuela and throughout Latin America." This network also has a presence in Isla Margarita. Ambassador Noriega stated that the Venezuelan diplomat's younger brother, Oday Nassereddine, has established a powerbase in Venezuela by setting up training operations on Isla de Margarita.
Hezbollah militants infiltrate into the U.S.
The book, Threat Closer to Home by Douglas Schoen and Michael Rowan, reveals that the "hub of the hub" of Islamist terror in the America is Isla de Margarita. "The island has long been home to a large Lebanese expatriate population, and Hezbollah has had a foothold there for decades," the authors write. Lebanese expatriates in Isla de Margarita were involved in 1992 in helping Hezbollah militants to establish a terrorist cell in Charlotte, North Carolina, by infiltrating them into the U.S.. Other terrorist might have been smuggled into the U.S. as well, however, without having been discovered by the American authorities.
The book further explains that the banks of the island, declared as a free-trade zone by the Venezuelan government, are integral to a network of financial institution in the Caribbean region that facilitate "drug trafficking, money laundering, and terrorist fund-raising." The two authors explain that Isla de Margarita is home to several "quasi-legal front businesses that funnel money overseas to terrorists, as well as to outright illegal enterprises whose profits similarly get steered to Middle eastern terror".
The island has also a false-documents industry that provides fake passports, identity cards and travel documents to terrorists. It is hence the perfect "transit center for terrorists and terror sympathizers, a way station for trips within the region and overseas to the Middle East." The island is also used as a stop-off to the Tri-border area -- where Brazil Argentina and Paraguay converge -- where Hezbollah and Hamas are operating. Ambassador Noriega in his testimony reports that during the spring of 2011, two Iranian Hezbollah operatives were conducting terror training on Venezuela's Margarita Island for persons brought there from other countries in the Latin America.
Isla de Margarita is also a place of interest for Hezbollah thanks to drug trafficking: the terrorist movement is financing itself and its weapons through narco-terrorism. The book Gangrillas by Mendez Beddow and Sam Thibodeaux reports that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has alerted ghost planes flying several routes between Isla Margarita, Central America, Europe and Western Africa. "These flights carry illegal drugs from the opium producing nations, and from the cocaine countries," the authors state..
Hamas in the Isla de Margarita
The Venezuelan island is reported also to be not only the center of Hezbollah illegal activities, but also a center for Hamas to funnel funds to its terrorist organization. Besides the Tri-border area, however, other free trade zones in Latin America, such as Iquique in Chile and Maicao in Colombia, are reported to be centers for Hezbollah's and Hamas's activities.
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