By Cathy Burke
February 23, 2019
Hezbollah is “well-entrenched” in Venezuela — and will likely stay that way even if there is a regime change, according to RAND political scientist and analyst Colin Clarke.
In a commentary, Clarke said no one should be surprised at Hezbollah’s presence — or its incentive.
“Hezbollah is well-entrenched in Venezuela, where the Shiite terrorist group has long worked to establish a vast infrastructure for its criminal activities, including drug trafficking, money laundering, and illicit smuggling,” Clarke wrote.
“Whatever the benefits of replacing the current Venezuelan regime with Washington’s preferred alternative, there’s reason to doubt that it would change the country’s problematic relationship with the terrorist group,” he added.
Clarke argued a government led by opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who was recently recognized as the legitimate ruler of the country by the United States and dozens of other nations, “would almost certainly be more active in opposing Hezbollah’s presence on Venezuelan soil, not just nominally but in more aggressively seeking to curtail the group’s criminal network and, by extension, the influence of Iran.”
“While a Guaidó-led government might initially demonstrate strong political will in countering Hezbollah and Iran — at least to appease the Trump administration — Venezuela as a country faces an immense challenge in attempting to rebuild its shattered society,” Clarke wrote. “Pushing back against Hezbollah may simply fall much lower on the list of priorities for Guaidó and his administration than the United States might like.”
Clarke conceded if the Maduro regime is ultimately ousted from power, “it will likely have a negative impact on Hezbollah in Venezuela.”
“Yet on balance, Hezbollah has deep roots in Venezuela, and completely expelling the group — no matter how high a priority for the Trump administration — remains unlikely,” he asserted.