SUN 22 - 9 - 2019
Date: Aug 21, 2019
Source: The Daily Star
Paraguay classifies Hezbollah, Hamas Movement as terrorist organizations
Emily Lewis| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Paraguay has classified Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, just a month after its South American neighbor Argentina also blacklisted the group.

During a news conference Monday, Paraguayan Interior Minister Juan Ernesto Villamayor announced that Hezbollah and Palestinian movement Hamas would officially be considered “international terrorist organizations.”

In addition, a statement from the presidency said that Al-Qaeda and Daesh (ISIS) would be classified as “global terrorist organizations,” but did not clarify the distinction between the two categories.

The measure, Villamayor said, showed his country’s commitment to “preventing and combating violent extremism.”

Several Hezbollah MPs declined to comment on the decision, saying if the party responded to the classification, it would do so via an official statement from the political bloc.

Villamayor also said the Paraguayan authorities would now take action against suspected money flow to terrorist organizations in the county, as “all institutions have an important role in the prevention of terrorism.”

Paraguay is one of three Latin American countries that join together in the “Triple Frontier” area with Brazil and Argentina, where the U.S. alleges Hezbollah participates in illegal money laundering and drug trafficking.

Earlier this year, Paraguay deported Lebanese national Nader Mohammad Farhat, who is associated with Hezbollah, to the U.S. based on allegations that he was involved in a $1.4 million drug money laundering scheme.

Monday’s move comes a month after Argentina became the first Latin American nation to name Hezbollah, which it holds responsible for a string of attacks in the late 20th century, a terrorist group. Its Financial Information Unit also ordered the freezing of assets of Hezbollah’s members.

Then, just a day later, a group of Republican lawmakers called on U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to urge the Brazilian and Paraguayan authorities to follow suit.

The escalated measures against Hezbollah come as the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump continues to ramp up its sanctions on the group and its backer, Iran. In July, the U.S. imposed sanctions on senior Hezbollah MPs and officials in an unprecedented move, accusing the group of threatening “economic stability and security of Lebanon and the wider region.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday praised Paraguay’s decision in a statement, saying Israel was “working so that more countries will also take this important step.” Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz also commended the move, tweeting that it “contributes to the global battle against these Iranian proxies.”

Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, is also backed by Iran.

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