Editor’s Note: The following are excerpts from testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues by Dr. Emanuele Ottolenghi, Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Dr. Ottolenghi’s complete testimony is available here.
Thanks to a vast network of support in key areas of Latin America, Hezbollah plays a central role in a new landscape where drug and human trafficking, gun running, illicit cigarette trade, trade based money laundering, and terror financing can no longer be treated as distinct phenomena. Terror organizations like Hezbollah help criminal cartels and local mafias move merchandise to their markets. They then launder revenues through sales of consumer goods. Finally, those profits fund terrorist activities.
Paraguay is considered the principal source of illicit cigarette trade in the Western Hemisphere. Most of its annual production of 68 billion cigarettes is illegally exported, with only 3 percent being consumed domestically. According to some estimates, its locally-produced cigarettes account for 10 percent of the world’s illegal trade.