Leah Soibel

Argentina finally blacklists Hezbollah

President Macri is trying to stop the Iran proxy that killed 85 in Buenos Aires 25 years ago from winning Latino hearts and minds today
People hold up pictures of those who died in the AMIA Jewish center bombing that killed 85 people as they commemorate the attack's 22nd anniversary in Buenos Aires, Argentina, July 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko/File)
From three years ago, on the 22nd anniversary of the AMIA Jewish center bombing that killed 85 people, people hold up pictures of those who died, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, July 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko/File)

Argentina is taking a profound stand against Iran with a presidential decree outlawing its terrorist proxy Hezbollah from operating in the country just as it pauses to honor victims of the deadliest terror attack on South American soil to date.

Measures include an Argentinean anti-terrorism database that will share information with countries around the world. Organizations and individuals named in this new Argentinian registry may face sanctions.

Hezbollah for the first time is expected to be on the list. Argentina will therefore be the first country in Latin America to define Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

It’s a bold move by Argentinean President Mauricio Macri during an election cycle. This step shows that Macri, a close ally of Israel, is offering more than just lip service to counter terrorism efforts.

Eighty-five people were killed and hundreds wounded when a van packed with explosives detonated at the Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Association, also known as AMIA, in 1994. The bombing has been blamed on the Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, which still operates today in many Latin American countries.

The special prosecutor appointed to investigate the case, Alberto Nisman, known as the 86th victim of the AMIA attack, died under “mysterious circumstances” in 2015. The facts surrounding his death are still being investigated to this day.

Shamefully, little action has been taken against the perpetrators of these attacks.

Until now.

Macri’s directives make a powerful statement and strap Hezbollah with all the legal consequences that come with its new status including financial, political and travel limitations. In the future, suspected members of Hezbollah money laundering rings caught sending money to the tri-border region may have their accounts frozen and their passports revoked.

The edict also has far reaching implications for Argentina’s security establishment as they will now be able to properly communicate with dozens of other nations about Hezbollah regarding counter terrorism.

While Iran has been operating in South America for a while its impact has grown considerably over the past few years. In Peru, for example, Hezbollah works to influence domestic and foreign policy. The Iranian-backed group registered as an official political party in Lima and an Iranian Sheikh was documented converting indigenous Peruvians to Shiite Islam.

Argentinian officials have long accused Iran of orchestrating the bombing of the civilian building in its capital through Hezbollah. Tehran denies involvement and has refused to cooperate with suspects. Other intelligence agencies around the world also believe Iran planned the attack.

Iran is working overtime to solidify its interests and support for its overall policies on the continent. A key strategy is to win over Latino hearts and minds through its Spanish language HispanTV. Although many groups have tried to block it on YouTube and elsewhere, their message of hate for America and Israel still reaches millions of Latinos daily.

Fuente Latina (FL), a US non-profit working with Hispanic media covering Israel and the Mideast, works to ensure accurate Spanish language media coverage of Iran and Hezbollah activities in Latin America. Next week in Washington DC, Fuente Latina will be co-sponsoring an event with the Center for a Secure Free Society and other organizations about Iran’s activities in the region.

As commemorations are held around the world this week for those 85 victims of the AMIA attack, Iranian influence continues to make regional gains. Macri’s neighbors should take note of his brave move and take a stand against Iran-back terror that threatens their own countries.

About the Author
Leah Soibel is founder and CEO of Fuente Latina, a US non-profit, non-governmental organization that removes geographic and linguistic barriers for global Spanish language media covering stories about Israel and the Mideast. With offices in Jerusalem, Madrid, and Miami, FL is the only organization of its kind engaging international Latino media in their language and in real time.
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