Ghazi Nassereddine is a U.S.-designated Hezbollah agent who attained a high-level diplomatic position in Venezuela’s government under deceased president Hugo Chavez, which he used to facilitate Hezbollah’s networks in South America.“Treasury Targets Hizballah in Venezuela,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, June 18, 2008, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/pages/hp1036.aspx. Nassereddine is wanted by the FBI for questioning in relation to Hezbollah’s activities in South America.“FBI Adds Lebanese Man to Seeking Information – Terrorism List,” FBI, January 29, 2015, https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices/miami/news/press-releases/fbi-adds-lebanese-man-to-seeking-information-terrorism-list.
Born in Lebanon, Nassereddine moved to Venezuela in approximately 2000 and gained citizenship.“Testimony of Ambassador Roger F. Noriega Before the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps, and Global Narcotics Affairs,” U.S. Senate, February 16, 2012, https://www.foreign.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Roger_Noriega_Testimony1.pdf. Under Chavez’s regime, Nassereddine served as Venezuela’s chargé d’affaires to Damascus, Syria. According to the U.S. government, Nassereddine used his diplomatic position to aid Hezbollah donors in directly transferring contributions to Hezbollah, including by providing specific information on bank accounts benefitting Hezbollah. He also facilitated the travel of Hezbollah members to and from Venezuela. In approximately 2008, Nassereddine became the director of Political Aspects at the Venezuelan embassy in Lebanon and used the position to further strengthen Hezbollah.“Treasury Targets Hizballah in Venezuela,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, June 18, 2008, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/pages/hp1036.aspx. In August 2010, Chavez hosted a summit in Caracas with a Hezbollah leader, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad Secretary-General Ramadan Shallah. Nassereddine allegedly coordinated the logistics of the meeting, which was requested by Iran.“Hezbollah in Latin America – Implications for U.S. Homeland Security, Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence of the Committee on Homeland Security House of Representatives One Hundred Twelfth Congress First Session, Govinfo.gov, July 7, 2011, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CHRG-112hhrg72255/html/CHRG-112hhrg72255.htm/.
Nassereddine made high-level connections in South America during his government service, which he used for criminal activities. He worked directly with Venezuelan cocaine kingpin Walid Makled, who was later arrested in Colombia in 2010 on charges of smuggling 10 tons of cocaine a month to the United States.Hezbollah in Latin America – Implications for U.S. Homeland Security, Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence of the Committee on Homeland Security House of Representatives One Hundred Twelfth Congress First Session, Govinfo.gov, July 7, 2011, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CHRG-112hhrg72255/html/CHRG-112hhrg72255.htm/. Nassereddine worked with another official of Lebanese descent in Chavez’s government, Tareck El Aissami in Venezuela’s interior ministry. In 2009, Nassereddine arranged a meeting in Syria between Hezbollah operatives and former Venezuelan intelligence head Hugo Carvajal and El Aissami, who was then Venezuela’s interior minister. The Hezbollah agents reportedly gave Carvajal and El Aissami three assault rifles as gifts.Hagay Hacohen, “Venezuela ex-spy chief reveals Maduro’s ties to Hezbollah, drugs,” Jerusalem Post, February 24, 2019, https://www.jpost.com/omg/venezuela-ex-spy-chief-reveals-maduros-ties-to-hezbollah-drugs-581615. The meeting reportedly resulted in a 2014 cocaine-for-weapons deal between Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People’s Army (FARC), in which Hezbollah brought a cargo plane full of small arms to Caracas. The weapons were transferred to military base.Joseph M. Humire, “The Maduro-Hezbollah Nexus: How Iran-backed Networks Prop up the Venezuelan Regime,” Atlantic Council, October 7, 2020, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/in-depth-research-reports/issue-brief/the-maduro-hezbollah-nexus-how-iran-backed-networks-prop-up-the-venezuelan-regime/. El Aissami is accused of working with Nassereddine to increase Iran’s influence in South America and recruit young Arab-Venezuelans for paramilitary training in Lebanon with Hezbollah. After Chavez’s death in 2013, Nassereddine continued a high-level relationship with new Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro. El Aissami was named vice president under Maduro in 2017. The United States, European Union, and Canada have levied sanctions on El Aissami and accuse him of drug smuggling.“Treasury Sanctions Prominent Venezuelan Drug Trafficker Tareck El Aissami and His Primary Frontman Samark Lopez Bello,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, February 13, 2017, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/as0005.aspx; Jim Wyss, “European Union hits 11 more Venezuelans with sanctions,” Miami Herald, June 25, 2018, https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/venezuela/article213778194.html; “Venezuelan sanctions,” Government of Canada, September 22, 2017, https://www.canada.ca/en/global-affairs/news/2017/09/venezuela_sanctions.html. The U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement added El Aissami to its most-wanted list in 2019.“Former vice president of Venezuela Tareck El Aissami and Venezuelan businessman Samark Lopez Bello added to ICE’s Most Wanted List for international narcotics trafficking, money laundering,” U.S. ICE, August 14, 2019, https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/former-vice-president-venezuela-tareck-el-aissami-and-venezuelan-businessman-samark.
The Nasseredine clan is one of a handful of Lebanese families in South America accused of providing support for Hezbollah and is allegedly linked to the Maduro regime in Venezuela.Joseph M. Humire, “The Maduro-Hezbollah Nexus: How Iran-backed Networks Prop up the Venezuelan Regime,” Atlantic Council, October 7, 2020, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/in-depth-research-reports/issue-brief/the-maduro-hezbollah-nexus-how-iran-backed-networks-prop-up-the-venezuelan-regime. Nassereddine’s family has built relationships throughout South America’s Muslim communities. Nassereddine has worked with two of his brothers to fundraise, launder money, and recruit for Hezbollah. As of 2011, his brother Abdallah Nassereddine worked with the Federation of Arab and American Associations (FEARAB), which has affiliates across South America and the Caribbean. Another brother, Oday Nassereddine, has worked to recruit through the pro-Chavez Circulos Bolivarianos (Bolivian Circles) in Barquisimeto, Venezuela.Hezbollah in Latin America – Implications for U.S. Homeland Security, Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence of the Committee on Homeland Security House of Representatives One Hundred Twelfth Congress First Session, Govinfo.gov, July 7, 2011, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CHRG-112hhrg72255/html/CHRG-112hhrg72255.htm/. Critics have compared the Circulos Bolivarianos to militias that have used force against anti-government demonstrators.Greg Morsbach, “Chavez accused of fostering militia links,” BBC News, June 12, 2002, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/2038827.stm. In 2013, Ghazi and Oday Nassereddine reportedly traveled to Cancun, Mexico, to meet with the Los Zetas drug cartel to negotiate passage into the United States for Hezbollah agents in exchange for facilitating cocaine shipments to the Middle East.Gustavo Sierra, “Hezbollah en la Triple Frontera: los predicadores que llegan en el vuelo de ‘Aeroterror,’” InfoBae, January 10, 20219, https://www.infobae.com/america/america-docs/2019/01/10/hezbollah-en-la-triple-frontera-los-predicadores-que-llegan-en-el-vuelo-de-aeroterror/.
Nassereddine reportedly left Syria in 2011.Florencia Montaruli, “Tareck El Aissami: Hezbollah’s Biggest Benefactor in Venezuela,” Iran Wire, May 4, 2021, https://iranwire.com/en/features/9471. In January 2015, the FBI reportedly believed Nassereddine was in southern Florida fundraising for Hezbollah.Mike LaChance, “FBI searching for suspected Hezbollah agent in Florida,” Legal Insurrection, January 31, 2015, https://legalinsurrection.com/2015/01/fbi-searching-for-suspected-hezbollah-agent-in-florida/. He later took over as head of the Venezuelan thinktank Global AZ, which claims on its Facebook page to offer political and geopolitical analysis.GlobalAZ, Facebook page, accessed June 9, 2021, https://www.facebook.com/cdaglobalaz/?ref=page_internal. Nassereddine reportedly continued to lead the organization as of October 2020,Joseph M. Humire, “The Maduro-Hezbollah Nexus: How Iran-backed Networks Prop up the Venezuelan Regime,” Atlantic Council, October 7, 2020, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/in-depth-research-reports/issue-brief/the-maduro-hezbollah-nexus-how-iran-backed-networks-prop-up-the-venezuelan-regime/. but the group’s website, www.globalaz.com/ve, was defunct as of June 2021. Its Facebook page remained online with broken links to articles authored by Nassereddine. The last article posted was dated October 2019 about the United States employing puppets in international agencies. Nassereddine wrote a January 2016 articled called, “Saudi Arabia, the American Monarchy.”GlobalAZ, Facebook page, accessed June 9, 2021, https://www.facebook.com/cdaglobalaz/?ref=page_internal. As of June 9, 2021, Nassereddine’s Twitter account still listed his position as president of Global AZ. The account listed his location as “Con Maduro,” or “With Maduro.”Ghazi Atef, Twitter account, accessed June 9, 2021, https://twitter.com/GhaziAtef.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated “Ghazi Nasr al Din” as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224 on June 18, 2008.“Treasury Targets Hizballah in Venezuela,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, June 18, 2008, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/pages/hp1036.aspx.