by WorldTribune Staff, May 9, 2019
“The Iranian regime has been working with Venezuela’s corrupt dictatorship to establish a safe haven for its terrorist proxies,” U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said in a May 7 address to the Council of the Americas.
U.S. officials have long contended that Hizbullah, Iran’s terror proxy in Lebanon, has established a solid presence in Venezuela.
“Hizbullah is working to extend its dangerous network throughout Venezuela, and from there, throughout our hemisphere,” Pence said.
Even as his regime’s top diplomat traveled to Beirut to meet with a Hizbullah leader last month, socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro continues to deny Hizbullah’s presence in the Latin American nation.
“Venezuela is a failed state,” Pence said. “And as history teaches, failed states know no boundaries. Drug traffickers, criminal gangs, terrorist groups seeking to destabilize the region and profit from the misery of the Venezuelan people every day.”
Pence pointed to an Iranian connection in Venezuela by citing last month’s “very public launch of direct air service between Caracas and Teheran by Mahan Air, a blacklisted airline controlled by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, which President Trump recently designated as a terrorist organization.”
The vice president also denounced Maduro confidant and cabinet member Tareck El Aissami, who has been sanctioned by the United States as a drug kingpin and the European Union as a human rights violator. Pence described him as “a drug runner and a money launderer who partners with terrorist networks to bring Iran-backed terrorists into the country.”
Latin American leaders have also warned of Iran’s emergence in the region, as recently as last week at the Organization of American States.
“We know that China, Iran, and others are trying very hard to extend their presence in the regime,” Gonzalo Koncke, a top OAS official, said during a hearing on foreign interference in Venezuela. “They are exploiting the vast natural resources of Venezuela and are, in fact, having a field day thousands of kilometers from their own countries.”
Observers believe it was those external allies, including Russia, which helped Maduro overcome an attempted overthrow by interim President Juan Guaido. Pence responded to that setback by announcing new sanctions on officials who remain loyal to Maduro while touting that “the United States of America is removing all sanctions” on a senior Venezuelan intelligence official who defected during the abortive uprising last week.
“The struggle in Venezuela is the struggle between dictatorship and democracy,” Pence said Tuesday. “Nicolas Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power, and Nicolas Maduro must go.”