WASHINGTON – US Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) urged Latin America to acknowledge Hezbollah’s significant presence in their home countries and the terror that the organization perpetuates within their borders.
“AMIA bombing was not the first or the last terrorist attack carried out by Hezbollah in Latin America or around the world, and yet over two decades after the bombing, Hezbollah is still very much alive and active in the tri-border area that encompasses the borders of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay,” warned Cruz, at an event on Thursday commemorating the 1994 AMIA bombing in Argentina in which 85 Jews were murdered and 330 injured. “The growth of Hezbollah in Latin America remains unchecked.”
“Hezbollah continues to radicalize people in Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil through mosques and schools that preach the group’s extremist agenda,” said Cruz. “It’s time for Latin America to reckon with the significant and the dangerous presence of Hezbollah in the region, and it’s also time for the larger international community to combat Iranian proxies wherever we find them – in Latin America and the Middle East.”
He commended Argentina for blacklisting Hezbollah.
“Last week I sent a letter to [US] Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo, encouraging him to urge his Brazilian and Paraguayan counterparts to acknowledge Hezbollah’s significance in their home countries and the terror that Hezbollah perpetuates within their borders,” the senator said.
According to Cruz, “In order to keep Iran in check, we need to support our allies, especially Israel, and combat Iran’s proxies in Lebanon, Latin America and around the world. When the Ayatollah says ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel,’ I believe him.”
Referencing the ongoing threat of Hezbollah, Cruz said that “just eight months ago, in December 2018, Israel uncovered six sophisticated cross-border tunnels built by Hezbollah in south Lebanon, which included stairs, a rail system and wide passageways allowing for the movement of equipment and forces intended to cause substantial harm to Israeli civilians by enabling terrorist to sneak across the border and carry out murderous attacks.”
Cruz noted how last month he introduced the Countering Hezbollah in Lebanon’s Military Act of 2019, which would withhold 20% of the US military assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) unless the US president can certify that they’re taking necessary steps to end Hezbollah’s and Iran’s influence over the LAF. Security Council resolution 1701 required the LAF to disarm Hezbollah, and the US to give military assistance to Lebanon to enforce that resolution.
“Last year I secured language requiring an evaluation of whether the resolution was being implemented, and now it’s time to take the next step and to reassess the assistance that we provide,” he said. “If Iran continues to exert direct influence on the LAF, either directly or through Hezbollah, the international community has failed to hold Hezbollah accountable, and the United States needs to send a message. We will not turn a blind eye to a terrorist or their war crimes.”
The principal deputy assistant attorney-general, John Cronan, spoke about US President Donald Trump’s efforts to counter the influence of the terrorist group.
“To some extent, Hezbollah has avoided the global notoriety captured by the likes of al-Qaeda and ISIS, thanks largely to its sophistication and secrecy of its activities,” he said. “But Hezbollah’s ability to evade regular front-page headlines in no way diminishes the threat the terrorist organization presents. Cutting off Hezbollah’s financial support also has been central to our efforts. Money is the lifeblood of any terrorist organization, and Hezbollah is no different,” he continued. “Make no mistake: destroying Hezbollah’s support networks and neutralizing the Hezbollah threat is a top priority for this [US Justice Department] and will continue to be.”
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