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US and Argentina pledge to tackle Hezbollah's drug smuggling networks in Latin America

Sections of Argentina's Lebanese community suspected of raising funds for Iran-backed group

    US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in Buenos Aires on Sunday
    US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in Buenos Aires on Sunday (Photo: Getty Images)

    Argentina and the United States have struck a deal to cut off drug smuggling networks in Latin America that are suspected of raising funds for Hezbollah.

    US experts believe that the Lebanese group – which is listed as a terrorist organisation in many countries – built its network under close Iranian supervision and drives the profits to fund political and military activities.

    The co-operation agreement was announced after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met Argentina’s Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie in Buenos Aires over the weekend.

    Mr Tillerson told a press conference they had discussed “how we must all jointly go after these transnational criminal organisations – narcotics trafficking, human trafficking, smuggling, money laundering – because we see the connections to terrorist financing organisations.

    “And we did specifically discuss the presence of Lebanese Hezbollah in this hemisphere, which is raising funds, obviously, to support its terrorist activities.”

    Mr Faurie said that outside groups must not be allowed to jeopardise what he termed a “zone of peace” that had emerged in South America.

    “We need to intensify every possible exchange, not only in terms of dialogue but also in terms of information on the actions of these groups which take advantage of transnational crime to foster their interests, with which Argentina certainly does not agree,” he said.

    Although Argentina’s Jewish community is by far the biggest in Latin America, the country also has a large Lebanese expatriate population and the United States suspects groups within this community are raising funds through organised crime to support Hezbollah.

    During his visit Mr Tillerson also met Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri, who has shown he is willing to reverse his predecessor Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s rapprochement with Iran.

    Ms Kirchner is accused of agreeing under the terms of a secret agreement to cover up Iran’s alleged role in the 1994 bombing of the Amia Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires – an attack that killed 85 people.

    A judicial investigation into the issue is underway in Argentina.

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