Small Wars Journal

Hezbollah’s Global Networks and Latin American Cocaine Trade

Tue, 04/25/2023 - 8:20pm

Hezbollah’s Global Networks and Latin American Cocaine Trade

Mahmut Cengiz and Camilo Pardo-Herrera

Hezbollah is a globally-networked organization that has been involved in various political, criminal, and terrorist activities for nearly 40 years. The variety of its activities and functions makes it a complex case, creating debates on how the organization can be labeled, whether it is a surrogate organization of Iran in the conflict zones, a terrorist organization targeting predominantly Jews, a smuggling group dominating global cigarette smuggling networks, a money laundering group, or a drug trafficking organization involved in the worldwide cocaine trade.[1] Heavily influenced by the Iranian regime, the group has spread its influence in the Middle East, Latin America, and the United States. After detailing its origins, financial resources, and global activities, this article focuses explicitly on how Hezbollah is involved in cocaine trade from Latin America.[2]

DEA Cocaine

Colombian Cocaine Seized by DEA (Public Domain: US Drug Enforcement Administration)

Hezbollah’s Origins and Financial Resources

Hezbollah was formed during Lebanon’s fifteen-year civil war in 1982 The settlement of Palestinian groups in the late 1970s affected the demographics of Lebanon, and the Sunni population increasingly grew against Shiites and Christians. The fact that these groups began to use southern Lebanon as a base to attack Israel resulted in its occupation. Moreover, those years recorded the discrimination and marginalization of the Shiite community under the rule of the Christian minority. Backed by the newly-established regime in Iran that resulted from the 1979 revolution that overthrew the Pahlavi dynasty, Lebanese Shiites took up arms against the Israeli occupation. Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC or Pasdaran), a private army founded by Ruhollah Khomeini, tasked with protecting the Islamic Revolution, provided funds, trained Shiite militias, and helped form Hezbollah. The group carried its activities beyond the borders of Lebanon becoming a vital asset to Iran, and serving its proxies throughout the Middle East.

Very quickly, Hezbollah became a transnational and transregional organization funded by various resources. First, Iran provides arms and money for the organization. According to the Department of State’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2020, Hezbollah receives $700 million annually from Iran.[3] Second, the group, which is not fully sanctioned by EU countries, collects millions of dollars from its loyalists in the United States and Europe. Third, extortion contributes to Hezbollah’s revenue, influencing the businesses run by members of the Lebanese diaspora on how much they must pay, Hezbollah builds connections with and exploiting diaspora communities in Africa and Latin Africa. Fourth, extracting resources from commercial enterprises and agriculture enable Hezbollah’s supporters to launder money for the organization. Fifth, financial crimes, exploiting the banking system allows the organization to earn revenue. For example, the Lebanese Canadian Bank laundered hundreds of millions of drug money for Hezbollah, laundering through banks in the US. Finally, Hezbollah is directly involved in criminal activities, such as the drug trade and cigarette smuggling, through which it makes a massive amount of money.[4]

Hezbollah’s Global Networks

Hezbollah is a global organization predominantly active in the Middle East, Latin America, and the United States. In the Middle East, Hezbollah is a Shiite Muslim political party and militant group based in Lebanon. It is known as “a state within the state” due to its extensive security apparatus, political organization, and social services network.[5] US government sources have labeled Hezbollah as a surrogate, puppet, and the vanguard of an Iranian-influenced revolutionary movement. It is Iran’s most essential and longest-standing non-state partner.[6] Hezbollah moved its vital personnel from positions focusing on Israel to Iraq, Yemen, and Syria, acting as a regional posture supporting Iranian interests. In the wake of the assassination of IRGC-QF commander General Qasem Soleimani, Hezbollah has taken a leadership role in coordinating Shi’a militant proxies in the Middle East.[7]

The group has been designated as a terrorist organization by many countries, including the US, Argentine, and Paraguay, and is still heavily involved in terrorist attacks in the Middle East. The Global Terrorism and Trends Analysis Center (GTTAC) database recorded Hezbollah’s 44 attacks in Israel, Lebanon, and Syria between 2018 and 2022. The examination dataset revealed that 18 of these attacks happened in Israel and targeted Israeli border officials, launching mortars, rockets, and missiles that landed in Israeli territory. In Lebanon, the group was the perpetrator of 12 attacks in the same period, where the group members opened fire on law enforcement, targeted rival political parties, clashed with Sunni residents, and targeted protesters and journalists. In Syria, Hezbollah is under the strict command of IRGC and aims to maintain Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The group was involved in 14 attacks in the same period, where it had armed confrontations with ISIS militants, looted shops in Syria, and targeted Turkey- and Russia-backed rebel groups as well as Turkish military vehicles.[8]

Hezbollah’s involvement in illicit activities have significantly grown in the past couple of decades. Its participation in cocaine networks has expanded since the project Cassandra, a decade-long operation launched in 2007 that aimed to halt the group’s traffic of drugs into the US and Europe.[9] In addition to its criminal activities in West Africa,[10] Europe,[11] and Latin America, the organization has also strong drug trade networks in the Middle East. For example, it is involved in Captagon trafficking in the laboratories along the Lebanese and Syrian border.[12] In addition, Turkey documented drug trafficking cases that demonstrate Hezbollah’s links with Turkish drug traffickers.[13] 

In the United States, Hezbollah has attempted to target the US military and law enforcement. For example, in 2018, two Hezbollah operatives plotting attacks in Michigan and New York were arrested.[14] Furthermore, court cases portray that Hezbollah was involved in cigarette smuggling in the US. In one of these cases, a Hezbollah cell trafficked cigarettes from North Carolina to Michigan, which aimed to generate revenue from the difference in cigarette tax rates between the two States.[15] In a recent court case in April 2023, US prosecutors charged an alleged financier of  Hezbollah who attempted to evade US sanctions imposed on him. The suspect was involved in more than $440 million in financial transactions violating sanctions, including importing goods to the United States and exporting mostly diamonds and artwork.[16] 

Hezbollah in Latin America 

The group’s influence in Latin America can be traced back to the most recent wave of Arab migration to the region, which coincided with the Lebanese Civil War. Currently, an estimated 18 million Latin Americans can trace their ancestry to the Arab region. Most of this population initially migrated around the turn of the 20th century, with the majority of them traveling from Syria and Lebanon. This early wave of Arab migration to South America was incentivized by the prevailing free speech in the region at the moment, and the possibility this offered intellectuals to publish their ideas free from censorship. In fact, an important number of Arab presses established in Brazil, Argentina, and other Latin American countries during these years, and played a key role in disseminating progressive ideas and promoting authors back in the Arab world.[17] 

By the second half of the 20th century, the drivers of Arab migration to Latin America had shifted in nature and began to respond to the violence produced by the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990) and the ensuing economic crisis that the country endured. In particular, the breakdown of the educational system prompted youth and family migration, as Lebanese families traditionally accorded great importance to education.[18] As families tried to reunite abroad, the increasing number of terrorist attacks in Beirut led to worldwide scrutiny of all Lebanese, and consequently, visa and nationalization procedures became much more difficult for Lebanese migrants. This prompted all those who had relocated temporarily to seek to acquire new nationalities in their host countries either through standard processes or by fraud. Access to citizenship in Latin American countries through corruption is a practice that continues to take place in the region as indicated by recent scandals in Colombia and Venezuela.[19] It was during this time that Hezbollah and Iran both exploited this refugee migration by planting numerous dual-citizen agents and recruiting sympathizers among Arab and Muslim immigrants on the American continent.

Initial terrorist acts by Hezbollah in Latin America were part of the internationalization of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The first of these was the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in March 1992. The aim was to avenge the deaths of their leader Abbas al-Musawi and his five-year-old son Hussein—who were killed in an Israeli airstrike on 16 February 1992—beyond Lebanon’s borders. Slightly over two years later in 1994, a large explosion occurred at the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina − AMIA) Jewish center, killing 85 people, and wounding an additional 150. Argentinian justice determined that the attack was planned and funded by the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and perpetrated by the Lebanese Hezbollah.[20]

The following years recorded the involvement of Hezbollah in terrorist activities throughout the region. For example, a group’s operative who was planning a terrorist attack in Lima was arrested by Peruvian police in 2014. In another police investigation, Chilean police disrupted a Hezbollah terrorist plot the same year. In 2017, Bolivian law enforcement seized sufficient explosive precursor material to produce a two-and-a-half-ton bomb in a Hezbollah-affiliated warehouse. In 2021, the Colombian police prevented a Hezbollah plan to assassinate an Israeli national and Americans to avenge the January killing of Iran’s Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani.[21]  

Alongside its terrorist actions, Hezbollah’s criminal activities in Latin America also date back to the early 1990s and have mainly concentrated in the Tri-Border Area (TBA) or Triple of Frontier at Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay.[22] Official intelligence agencies point to contraband, document forging, money laundering, smuggling, software and music piracy, and the trafficking of weapons and drugs, as other sources of funding throughout the region.[23] In parallel, it has been recorded that Hezbollah’s activities also include fund-raising and proselytizing

Hezbollah and the Cocaine Trade

By the early 2000s, Hezbollah’s links had extended throughout most of the Latin American region and its presence had been recorded in Paraguay, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile.[24] At this time, as global demand for illegal drugs continued to increase, the organization began to look into the cocaine trade as a means to fund its activities. The first clear indication of Hezbollah’s direct links to the drug trade dates back to the early 2000s, when authorities learned of an international cocaine smuggling and money laundering ring, led by a Hezbollah financier named Chekry Harb.[25]

Harb’s operations initially linked Colombia’s Oficina de Envigado (Envigado Office), right-wing paramilitary groups, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC), with a corrupt ring in Jordan’s Aqaba port and a smuggling organization that took it overland to Syria.[26] However, given the fluctuating nature of the international drug market, and the ensuing changing dynamics at the production stage, Hezbollah’s links to the trafficking of illegal drugs from Colombia would constantly mutate over the years.

In the early 2000s, when Harb’s activities were identified, the cocaine production market in Colombia was highly concentrated in a handful of large, well-established, hierarchical organizations. However, as a consequence of law enforcement during the last couple of decades, the cocaine manufacture and distribution business has dispersed into a myriad of smaller and relatively independent groups operating horizontally, most of them splintering from the historical cartels, and incentivized by the persistence of global demand.   

This is for example, how the Medellin Cartel emerged from the Oficina de Envigado  after Pablo Escobar’s death, and later splintered into a series of paramilitary groups, which in turn, following their demobilization in 2005, splintered again into a dozen other groups. Today, one of these groups, the Gaitanista Self-Defense Force of Colombia (Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia – AGC), also known as the Gulf Clan, is one of the key players in today’s cocaine distribution market.

In the same sense, the demobilization of the FARC in 2016 produced a series of splinter groups that went on to manage smaller portions of the different stages of cocaine business in their areas of influence. At least a dozen of such groups—known variously as FARC dissidents or Bacrim (Bandas Criminales)—have been identified, and although they act independently from each other, two main factions have emerged in the country through alliances among them—the so-called “Estado Mayor Central” led by AKA Ivan Mordisco, and the “Segunda Marquetalia” faction led by AKA Iván Marquez.

In parallel, the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional ELN), a longstanding guerrilla group, included in the State Department’s Terrorist List, became a key player in the cocaine trade after the demobilization of FARC and the paramilitary groups. The ELN currently controls a vast majority of the illegal economies that exist along the border that Colombia shares with Venezuela.

Dealing with this new scenario, Hezbollah has been able to establish two main routes to partake in the international cocaine trade—one through Venezuela, which became available after Mahmud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez strengthened bilateral ties in the early 2000s,[27] and another one through the tri-border area, based on its longstanding ties to criminal networks there.[28] These two routes link South American production with European consumers going through Syria and Lebanon, while funding Hezbollah’s terrorist activities.

Hezbollah’s links to Venezuela emerged as a consequence of the rapprochement between Iran and the South American nation in the early 2000s, and were facilitated in part by the widespread corruption in Venezuela’s immigration system. An international ring dedicated to selling Venezuelan visas and passports from different embassies around the world to citizens of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iran and Iraq was identified in 2012.[29] These investigations pointed to members of Hezbollah acquiring such documents.

Venezuelan citizenship was also granted with sanction from the highest levels of government, and in some instances directly benefited Hezbollah. This is the case of what has come to be known as the Nassereddine Clan—A group of family members with dual Lebanese and Venezuelan citizenship, that became closely associated with the Bolivarian Revolution and were also involved in a myriad of criminal activities supporting Hezbollah. Ghazi Atef, the eldest of the Nassereddine brothers, was born in Lebanon in 1962 and became a Venezuelan citizen in 2000. He quickly became Venezuela’s second ranking diplomat in Syria and was subsequently appointed as the Director of Political Affairs at the Venezuelan Embassy in Lebanon, positions that he used to expand Hezbollah’s influence throughout the Latin America. Abdallah and Oday, Ghazi’s younger brothers, were said to run a money laundering ring, and a Hezbollah training center from Margarita Island.[30]

The Colombian government maintains that the Nassareddines were also involved in the cocaine and arms trades benefiting both FARC and Hezbollah. Recent reports point to a where Ghazif coordinated the logistics to have a Lebanese cargo plane full of weapons come into Venezuela, in order for these to be exchanged for cocaine that had been provided by FARC.[31] This information was corroborated during a Department of Justice indictment against Adel El Zebayar (a Syrian-Venezuelan citizen who served as a Venezuelan Congressman between 2000 and 2015), in which it was pointed out that Ghazif’s involvement in this operation had begun in 2009.[32]

Based on historical smuggling networks along the Colombian-Venezuelan border, Hezbollah has also established a network of operating cells to engage in illicit trafficking. One of the epicenters of this illegal trade is the town of Maicao, where Ali Mohamad Saleh, a former Hezbollah fighter with links to the Oficina de Envigado, ran a persistent operation of trafficking in drugs, weapons, contraband, bulk-cash smuggling, and money laundering, whose profits went on to fund Hezbollah. Ayman Saied Joumaa, a Colombian-Lebanese drug kingpin, who is also from Maicao,[33] directed a drug trafficking organization that linked the Oficina de Envigado in Colombia,[34] and los Zetas in Mexico[35] to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

A second cocaine route linking Hezbollah to Latin America runs through the Southern tri-border area (TBA), where the organization enjoys traditional ties to the existing criminal economies. The geographical conditions provided by this region have facilitated illegal trade in cocaine for decades—to the north, the regions that supply the highest purity cocaine; to the south and east the ports to take it out to the most profitable consumer markets. Like in the case of Maicao in Colombia, Lebanese families hold historical ties to illegal cross-border trafficking in the TBA. These ties have become an asset to Hezbollah’s drug trade and money laundering aims in the region.[36]

Cocaine seizures in recent years point to an increased number of shipments of black cocaine out of the TBA countries. Black cocaine is the result of a chemical process through which the illegal substance is turned into charcoal briquettes to be mixed with legitimate cargo, making it a very effective method to conceal the illegal substance and move it through the international trade system. The increase in charcoal exports from the TBA countries during the last five years coincides with Hezbollah’s involvement in the shipment of black cocaine is displayed in Figure 1.[37]

Fig 1

Figure 1. Charcoal Exports in the TBA, 2013–2022. Source: Authors with UNCOMTRADE data

Hezbollah’s black cocaine export business through the TBA significantly increased after Hassan Mohsen Mansour, a Lebanese-Canadian coal trader with links to Hezbollah who operated out of Colombia, was captured by French authorities in 2016 on charges of black cocaine trafficking and money laundering.[38] This resulted in the loss of corrupt contacts along the trafficking route for Hezbollah, and the corresponding need to establish another route.

Soon after Mohsen Mansour’s arrest, operations to produce black cocaine in the TBA were first identified. In 2016, Ali Issa Chamas, a Lebanese drug trafficker, was arrested by authorities in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, when involved in a black cocaine shipment. Chamas, later revealed in court that the head of the operation was based in Colombia.[39] Sometime later, in 2018, a criminal structure made up of three Colombians was dismantled while getting ready to send a shipment of these briquettes to Latakia, a Syrian port under the nominal control of the Assad regime and frequently used by Hezbollah.[40] During the years that followed, black cocaine seizures from the TBA have constantly increased both in number and size.[41]

To conclude, the increase in cocaine production in Colombia, Perú and Bolivia, along with the surge in charcoal exports from Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil, the traditional porous borders and the weak law enforcement in the TBA, all suggest that this region has become in a hub for black cocaine operations, as well as a new an important source of funding for Hezbollah. The astonishing seizures of black cocaine made recently in Paraguayan ports, definitively support this claim.


.1] Matthew Levitt, “Hezbollah’s Criminal Networks: Useful Idiots, Henchmen, and Organized Criminal Facilitator” in Hilary Matfess and Michael Mikaucic, Eds. Beyond Convergence. World Without Order, Washington, DC: National Defense University Press, 2018,

[2] Many view Hezbollah as “wholly owned” by the Iranian regime. Others question this assertion, asking if it has objectives beyond those of its sponsor? Levitt (ibid.), for example, posited that Hezbollah's move to crime is in part due to Iran reducing support causing a need for more diverse income sources.

[3] “Country Reports on Terrorism 2020,” Washington, DC: US Department of State.

[4] Yaya J. Fanuise, Alex Ents, “Hezbollah Financial Assessment.” CSIF: Terror Finance Briefing Book. Washington, DC: Center on Sanctions & Illicit Finance. September 2017,

[5] Kali Robinson “What is Hezbollah?” Council on Foreign Relations

[6] Matthew Levitt, “Hezbollah’s Regional Activities in Support of Iran’s Proxy Networks.” Middle East Institute. 25 May 2022,

[7] Ibid.

[8] “Comparative Analytics.” Global Terrorism Trends and Analysis Center. 21 March 2023,

[9] “Hezbollah’s Involvement in Cocaine Trafficking.” Lansing Institute. 16 July 2021,

[10] Daan Bauwen, “Hezbollah in Africa: Forgotten Link in Cocaine Trafficking to Antwerp and Rotterdam.” Journalism Fund Europe. 4 August 2021,

[11] “Hezbollah in Europe.” European leadership Network. 5 November 2020,

[12] Baria Alamuddin, “Hezbollah’s role in the global drugs trade – the West Africa connection.” Arab News. 9 October 2021,

[13] Mahmut Cengiz and Mitchel P. Roth, The Illicit Economy in Turkey: How Criminals, Terrorists, and the Syrian Conflict Fuel Underground Markets. Maryland: Lexington Books, 2019.

[14] “State Sponsors of Terrorism: An examination of Iran’s Global Terrorism Network.” Washington: DC, 115th Congress (2017–2018), House Homeland Security Committee, House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence. 17 October 2018,

[15] Louise I. Shelley and Sharon A. Melzer, “The Nexus of Organized Crime and Terrorism: Two Case Studies in Cigarette Smuggling.” International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice, Vol.  32, No. 1, pp. 43–63,

[16] Ibid.

[17] Betty Elias Hindi, “Brain Drain: The Lebanese Case.” M.A. Thesis in International Affairs, Zouk Mosbeh, Lebanon: Notre Dame University – Louaize, 2007, See also: Eduardo Campos, “A Lebanese online archive chronicles Arab immigration to Latin America.” Arab News. 06 May 2020,

[18] Elian Fersan, “Syro-Lebanese Migration (1880-Present): “Push” and “Pull” Factors.” Middle East Institute. 19 April 2010,

[19] “Fichas de Hezbolá ‘pasean’ por Colombia con cédulas falsas.” Colombia El Heraldo. 14 May 2021, See also, Scott Zamost, Kay Guerrero, Drew Griffin, Rafael Romo, Fernando Del Rincón, “Pasaportes venezolanos, ¿en manos equivocadas?” CNN Espanol. 06 February 2017,

[20] “Informe de la UFI-AMIA sobre el estado de la investigación por el atentado a la Asociación Mutual Israelí Argentina.” UFI-AMA. 2022,

[21] Aurora Ortega, “Hezbollah in Colombia: Past and Present Modus Operandi and the Need for Greater Scrutiny.” The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. 28 March 2022,

[22] There are actually two “Tri-Border Areas (TBAs)” in Latin America. The first, the border zone at the confluence of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay and the second at the borders of Chile, Bolivia and Peru. See Alma Keshavarz, “Iran and Hezbollah in the Tri-Border Areas of Latin America: A Look at the “Old TBA” and the “New TBA.” Small Wars Journal. 12 November 2015,“old-tba”-and-the; and Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan, “Cartel Evolution: Potentials and Consequences.” Transnational Organized Crime. Vol. 4, no. 2. Summer 1998: pp. 54-74, for an early discussion of the Southern TBA.

[23] Rex Hudson, “Terrorist and Organized Crime Groups in The Tri-Border Area (TBA) of South America.” Washington, DC: Federal Research Division,  Library of Congress. July 2003,

[24] Roger F. Noriega and José R. Cárdenas, “La creciente amenaza de Hezbollah en América Latina.”American Enterprise Institute. 2011, See also, Dardo Lopez-Dolz, “Iran and Hezbollah in The Western Hemisphere.” Washington: DC, 114h Congress (2015–2017), Statement before the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere & Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa. 18 March 2011,

[25] Chris Kraul and Sebastian Rotella, “Drug probe finds Hezbollah. Los Angeles Times, 22 October 2008,

[26] Op. Cit., Levitt, “Hezbollah’s Criminal Networks at Note 1.

[27] See Vanessa Neumann, “The New Nexus of Narcoterrorism: Hezbollah and Venezuela.” Foreign Policy Research Institute. 3 December 2011,; “Iran’s Influence and Activity in Latin America.” Washington, DC: 112th Congress (2011–2013), Hearing before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps, and Global Narcotics Affairs. 16 February 2012,

[28] Matthew Levitt, “Hizbullah narco-terrorism: A growing cross-border threat.” The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. 15 October 2012,

[29] Scott Zamost, Kay Guerrero, Drew Griffin, Rafael Romo, and Fernando Del Rincón, “Pasaportes venezolanos, ¿en manos equivocadas?” CNN Espanol, 06 February 2017,

[30] Roger F Noriega and José R. Cárdenas, "La creciente amenaza de Hezbollah en América Latina.”American Enterprise Institute, 17 October 2012,

[31] David Escobar, “Inteligencia militar hace seguimiento sobre la presencia de Hezbolá en Colombia.” El Espectodor, 01 March 2023,

[32] “United States v. Adel El Zebayar.” Press Release, New York: United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, 05 March 2020,

[33] Jeferson Guarin P., “FARC-Hezbollah: The success of Venezuela-Iran proxy groups and their convergence in the Americas.” Security and Defence Quarterly. Vol. 31, no. 4. pp. 117-134,

[34] “DEA ataca la red de lavado entre Hezbolá y “la Oficina.” El Colombiano, 01 February 2016,

[35] Joseph Humire, “The Maduro Hezbollah Nexus: How Iran-backed Networks Prop up the Venezuelan Regime.” Atlantic Council. October 2020,

[36] Gustavo Sierra, “Hezbollah en la Triple Frontera: cocaína para la revolución.” Infobae. 11 January 2019,

[37] Emanuele Ottolenghi, How Hezbollah Collaborates with Latin American Drug Cartels. 22 September 2020,

[38] Emanuele Ottolenghi,  “A Match Made in Heaven: The Hezbollah-Amal Nexus. International Institute for Counter-Terrorism.” Herzliya, Israel: International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, Reichman University,

[39] Emanuele Ottolenghi, “The Laundromat: Hezbollah’s Money-Laundering and Drug Trafficking Networks in Latin America. Mideast Security and Policy Studies No. 194. Ramat Gan. Israel: Bar-Ilan University, The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. July 2021,

[40] Ibid.

[41] “Cocaine worth $500m found hidden in charcoal shipment.” BBC News. 21 October 2020, See also, “Cocaine disguised as charcoal worth up to $41 million seized by police.” CNN. 15 July 2021, and “Spanish police seize more than 2 tons of cocaine hidden in charcoal.” CNN. 19 January 2021,

For Additional Reading

Pablo A. Baisotti, “The Triple Border, a criminal haven.” Small Wars Journal, 12 November 2021.

John Fernandez, “The DEA's Targeting of Hezbollah's Global Criminal Support Network.” The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 10 January 2020.

Jeferson Guarin P., “FARC-Hezbollah: The success of Venezuela-Iran proxy groups and their convergence in the Americas.” Security and Defence Quarterly, Vol. 31, no. 4. 2020. pp. 117-134.

Alma Keshavarz, “Iran and Hezbollah in the Tri-Border Areas of Latin America: A Look at the “Old TBA” and the “New TBA.” Small Wars Journal. 12 November 2015

Marilyn Stern, “From the TBA to the USA: Barbarians at the Gate.” Small Wars Journal, 15 November 2010.

Categories: El Centro

About the Author(s)

Dr. Camilo Pardo-Herrera is an international development scholar focusing on democratic institutions, the political economy of development, collective violence and corruption, with a focus on the Latin American region. He currently serves as a Senior Analyst at the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center at George Mason University and as the Academic Director of the Democracy and Anti-Corruption Program at the University for Peace in Costa Rica. His work to promote socio-economic development and the advancement of democratic political institutions has been translated into policies by national governments, multilateral development banks, and civil society organizations. 

Dr. Mahmut Cengiz is an Assistant Professor and Research Faculty with Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center (TraCCC) and the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. Dr. Cengiz has international field experience where he has delivered capacity building and training assistance to international partners in the Middle East, Asia, and Europe. He also has been involved in the research projects for the Brookings Institute, European Union, and various US agencies.



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