How much of a toxic mess is Venezuela? Every time you think it’s gotten as bad as it’s going to get, it somehow hits a new low.
A former Venezuelan politician was charged Wednesday with participating in a vast narco-terrorism conspiracy in which he traded drugs for weapons and recruited terrorists from Hezbollah and Hamas to orchestrate attacks against U.S. interests.
The charges against Adel El Zabayar come two months after the Justice Department unsealed a sweeping indictment against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and several politicians, accusing them of taking a leading role in an international drug trafficking network.
New York federal prosecutors say El Zabayar, acting under the direction of the president of the Venezuelan assembly, traveled to the Middle East in 2014 to obtain weapons and recruit members of Hezbollah and Hamas to train at hidden camps in Venezuela.
Why Hezbollah and Hamas? Both are Iranian clients and Venezuela has a longstanding relationship with Iran.
The goal, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, was to “create a large terrorist cell capable of attacking United States interests on behalf of the Cartel de Los Soles.”
U.S. authorities say the Cartel de Los Soles, or the Cartel of the Suns, is a criminal organization focused primarily on exporting cocaine to the U.S. The Justice Department has previously said the cartel works with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and other designated terror groups.
The Cartel is also effectively the Venezuelan regime. The Socialist drug ties to FARC were well known. The Hamas thing is a new wrinkle.
“As alleged, Adel El Zabayar was part of the unholy alliance of government, military, and FARC members using violence and corruption to further their narco-terrorist aims,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement. “ El Zabayar was allegedly a key part of the apparatus that conspired to export literally tons of cocaine into the U.S.”
El Zabayar, who is of Syrian descent, is closely associated with Maduro, federal prosecutors say.
El Zabayar has spoken out against the United States in multiple interviews, including one in which he expressed support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to the court documents.
That part’s not surprising either. Venezuela’s relationship puts it on the Iranian side in the Sunni-Shiite civil war in Syria.
El Zabayar, 56, was hit with multiple charges, including conspiring to import cocaine to the U.S. and using machine guns and other destructive devices in furtherance of the narco-terrorism and cocaine importation conspiracies.
The red-green alliance embodied in one man.