Hezbollah in Latin America: prioritizing the threat
The Congressional subcommittee hearing Thursday on Hezbollah's presence in Latin America distracts from other, bigger regional threats, warns guest blogger James Bosworth.
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Too often, analysis on the issue of Hezbollah in Latin America comes only at the extremes of "Ignore" and "Everybody Panic" and this subcommittee hearing is certain to bring out the panicked crowd. It's hard to find nuance in the analysis. Rarely does anyone try to place the threat of Hezbollah within the wider question security in Latin America.
The threat of Hezbollah in this hemisphere exists. Over 15 years ago, they were responsible for two of the worst terrorist attacks this hemisphere has ever experienced that left hundreds of casualties. Today, they still operate various finance and logistics cells involved in money laundering and illicit trafficking. They maintain links to other illegal groups operating in this hemisphere and back to certain factions in the Iranian government. That said, I'd argue the threat is small, less important than at least a dozen other security-related topics, and mostly containable.
If we're going to hold hearings on individual non-state groups that are threats in the hemisphere, lets start with Sinaloa, the FARC, and the Zetas; work our way through the second tier of Los Rastrojos, PCC, Betran Leyva, etc.; and then maybe after a few days or weeks of hearings we could get to the third tier that includes Hezbollah, the Russian mafia, and the Triads.
I'm sure if Congress called for a hearing on the threat of radical Buddhist terrorists obtaining biological weapons in Peru, they'd find three expert witnesses ready to testify. I don't mean to mock the threat of Hezbollah, but I say that to point out that when Congress holds hearings, it creates attention to specific topics and sets priorities that perhaps don't match the reality of what the priorities should be. A low probability threat suddenly gets attention at the expense of bigger issues.
Due to their actions in the past and their potential capabilities today, Hezbollah certainly deserves to be on the list of bad guys who are monitored, investigated, and hopefully arrested by the security and police forces in this hemisphere. I don't believe it should be ignored. But it's only one group on that list and far from the most threatening or destabilizing security issue this hemisphere faces.