After it was revealed that the United States killed the powerful Iranian general Qasem Soleimani with a drone attack, Latin America is experiencing hours of high tension, especially because of the implications of this event in the West, given the presence of terrorists and Iranians on Venezuelan soil.
Iran and Hezbollah have been in Latin America virtually since the beginning of the Iranian revolution. Still, in 2005, they joined the Bolivarian Alliance (ALBA), and as the ALBA grew, the Iranian and Hezbollah presence grew. Following Soleimani’s assassination, there is a clear threat that Iran will decide to use Venezuela to attack the U.S.
“There is no doubt that the great nation of Iran and other free nations of the region will take revenge for this horrible crime of the criminal United States,” promised Iranian President Hasan Rohani.
Joseph Humire, an expert on hemispheric security and executive director of the Washington DC-based Center for a Free and Secure Society, told the PanAm Post that if Iran “decides to use Venezuela to attack the United States, Maduro has an obligation to comply because Iran has favored Maduro and supported him. This may be the time to repay them.”
Humire explains that Soleimani was a vital person within the Iranian hierarchy, so Iran will take revenge and try to catch its enemies by surprise.
He noted that the Pasdaran (Islamic Revolutionary Guard) has networks in at least 16 Latin American countries but added that “the triple border with Bolivia, or in Venezuela’s border with Colombia, can be used for planning because these are their strong areas. It is almost certain that they will have logistical support from there,” he said.
“I think at this moment, Nicolás Maduro, Tareck El Aissami, and all those who know Soleimani’s operations well are worried and are waiting to decide how to react. Maduro knows that part of his interests in Venezuela is in response to the interests of Iran; if Iran decides to use Venezuela to attack the United States, Maduro has an obligation to comply,” Humire said.
Soleimani managed businesses in Venezuela
Humire, who has focused on investigating the situation carefully, explained that Iran has robust operations in Venezuela, mainly through commercial front companies that not only serve to launder money but also to mobilize Hezbollah operators.
“One of the first things the Pasdaran does to have a global presence is to build commercial front companies. There are hundreds of Iranian companies in Venezuela; not all of them are involved in these activities, but a large percentage are, and Soleimani controlled many of them,” he said.
“The front companies they have in Venezuela are not necessarily dedicated only to money laundering; it is more than anything to avoid sanctions; it is a hedging platform so that they can move their operators in and out of Latin America,” he said.
Humire did not want to mention the name of one of the companies “because it is a sensitive issue” but revealed to the PanAm Post that there is one specifically working between Colombia and Venezuela, linked to Álex Saab, Nicolás Maduro’s frontman.