To the average citizen there may not be a clear confection between transnational street gangs such as MS-13 and terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah. this connection may also seem farfetched. How could a street gang located in cities in the united states have a connection with a Lebanese terrorist organization? Moreover, what common goals could they both have? MS-13 is clearly a criminal gang interested in drug trafficking, human trafficking and other criminal behaviors. Hezbollah is interested in the destruction of Israel and furthering their Islamic beliefs. These two groups can and do further each others objectives by undermining united states domestic policy, financing terror through drug and human trafficking, and cooperating with Mexican drug cartels.
The MS-13 gangs within the United Stated have grown in popularity and members since their inception in the 1980s. Originally formed by Salvadorian refugees in Los Angeles, MS-13 has grown nationwide including America’s heartland. MS-13 gang activity has been noted in Boston, Providence, Miami, Omaha, Houston, and many other American cities. It is estimated that membership of MS-13 might be as high as 30000 gang members.
MS-13 is a fully functional level 3 transnational gang. Not only are members located in America, they are located in Mexico, El Salvador, Columbia, Canada, Honduras, and other countries. Members of MS-13 display no allegiance to any country which is evident by their extreme criminal activity. Members traffic drugs, weapons, and personnel across national boundaries. They receive instructions and orders from gang members in other countries. They even receive instructions and orders from gang members that are incarcerated in other countries.
While members of MS-13 are focused on criminal activities vice terrorist activities, their criminal activities create a domestic disturbance, it undermines the rule of law, it creates civil unrest, and can be used to aid terrorist activities. It is very well known that drug trafficking aids many terrorist groups financially, and MS-13 aids cartels and terrorists in this way. Money received from drugs sold by MS-13 in America can easily be sent to cartels in Mexico or Columbia which may have ties to terrorist groups.
Hezbollah, Mexico and Venezuela
Hezbollah, the terrorist organization based in Lebanon, has very close ties with Iran. Iran uses its relationship with Hezbollah as short of terrorist deterrence since Iran lacks any sort of nuclear deterrence. Hezbollah is also located throughout South and Central America and may even have cells operating in America. according to the Washington Times and Fox News, Hezbollah has been working closely with Mexican drug cartels and using the US boarders for human trafficking, drug traffics and weapons smuggling. Hezbollah has been using the United States as a source of cash to finance their operations elsewhere.
Mexico has always had a history of anti-American sentiment and has been a gathering place for terrorists or anti American people. During word war II German Nazi spies frequented Mexico and tried to pursue the Mexican government to join the axis powers. The Nazis promised return of California, Arizona and new Mexico to the Mexican government. During the cold war soviet spies met frequently in Mexico. Recently there has been a large showing of anti American sentiment based on increased boarder security, arms trafficking from the United States, and increased border violence. These conditions are ripe for underground subversive terrorist activities.
In 2008, the Los Angeles times reported about us fears of Hezbollah setting up bases of operations in Venezuela. Since the 1990s there have been attacks on Jewish synagogues in South America that have been linked to Hezbollah. “linked to deadly attacks on Jewish targets in Argentina in the early 1990s, Hezbollah may be taking advantage of Venezuela’s ties with Iran, the militia’s longtime sponsor, to move “people and things” into the Americas.” (Kraul and Rotella).
Iran and Venezuela
Recently Iran and Venezuela have formed an alliance and have begun conducting military exercises together. It is unclear if these exercises include Hezbollah fighters. But in a recent story in haaretz.com, they claim that the recent border clashes between Costa Rica and Nicaragua are due to the plans of Iran and Venezuela to build a canal on San Juan River. Moreover Costa Rica claims that the Nicaraguan troops are backed and funded by Iran and Venezuela. These border disputes are prime training for terrorist groups such as Hezbollah.
The proximity of a hostile country such as Venezuela to the United States is disturbing enough. Add in aggressive military exercises with another country with sworn hatred to the United States, Iran. Now add a well established terrorist group such as Hezbollah and a well established international gang within the United States such as MS-13. This is a very hostile and volatile situation that can explode. Not only can MS-13 aid Hezbollah, Iran and Venezuela financially with drug money from the United States, they can also create domestic disturbance to distract from Iran and Venezuela’s intentions.
Author unknown. (2010). Iran and Venezuela deepen strategic alliance. BBC news. Retrieved November 17, 2010 from http: www.BBC.co.uk/news/world-Latin-America-11593197
Author unknown. (2006). Iran and Venezuela bolster ties. BBC news retrieved november 17, 2010 from http://news.BBC.co.uk/2/hi/5354812.STM
Author unknown. (2009). Hezbollah uses Mexican drug routes into US. The washington times. Retrieved novemeber 17, 2010 from http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/mar/27/Hezbollah-uses-mexican-drug-route.HTML
Franco, C. (2008). The ms-13 and 18th street gangs: emerging transnational gang threats? CRS report for Congress.
kraul, C & rotella, S. (2010). Fears of Hezbollah presence in Venezuela. The Los Angeles times. Retrieved November 17, 2010 from http://articles.lattices.com/2008/aug/27/world/fg-venezterror27
Papirblat, S. (2010). Iran, venezula plan to build rival to panama canal. Haaretz. Retrieved November 17, 2010 from https://www.haaretz.com/news/international/Iran-venezula-plan-to-build-rival-to-panama-canal.HTML
Walser, R. (2010). Hezbollah terrorists on our southern border. Foxnews. Retrieved November 17, 2010 from http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2010/07/19/Ray-walser-Hezbollah-Mexico.HTML