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Hezbollah in Paraguay

February 7, 2013

The Triple Frontier is a region in South America where the nations of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil all come together at a single point.  The three cities that make up the region – Ciudad del Este in Paraguay, Foz do Iguaco in Brazil and Puerto Iguazu in Argentina – are all distant from the prime political, economic and population centers of their respective nations, and receive little notice from the main national governments.  Criminal elements have long dominated the Triple Frontier, turning it into a prime smuggling area and created one of the worlds most notorious ungoverned spaces.

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In addition to local criminal elements, various international criminal elements have entered into the region.  There are reports of Chinese triads operating in the area, sometimes performing operations for the Chinese government as an adjunct to their criminal activities.  But the most present geopolitical threat in the region is the growing presence of Hezbollah in Paraguay.  Hezbollah uses the region for human trafficking – the porous borders make it easy to shift operatives in and out of the Americas and to change their identities, making them more difficult to track.  The organization also engages in drug trafficking to generate additional funds.  Earlier this year, a Lebanese financier suspected of being a bagman for the Hezbollah was arrested in Paraguay.  Late last year, the United States began taking serious steps towards addressing this danger with the “Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act.”  Rachel Ehrenfeld at the American Center for Democracy Economic Warfare Blog is a good resource for keeping track of Hezbollah in general and their activities in the Triple Frontier in particular.

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