As a U.S.-backed effort to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro continues, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said late Wednesday that Hezbollah “has active cells” in Venezuela—a claim that was immediately scrutinized and compared with the second Bush administration’s lies to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Hezbollah, a political and militant Shi’ite Muslim group based in Lebanon, has been on the U.S. State Department’s “Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations” list since 1997. In the interview with Fox Business, Pompeo, who previously served as President Donald Trump’s CIA director, also charged that Iran and Cuba are strongly influencing the country.
“The Cubans invaded Venezuela. The Cubans have been controlling the security apparatus, protecting Maduro, and destroying the way of life for the Venezuelan people for an awfully long time,” he said. “People don’t recognize that Hezbollah has active cells—the Iranians are impacting the people of Venezuela and throughout South America. We have an obligation to take down that risk for America.”
While scholars and some American lawmakers—even those critical of Maduro—have called for the U.S. to stop its anti-democratic meddling in Venezuela, the Trump administration has thrown its support behind self-declared “Interim President” Juan Guaidó, imposed economic sanctions, and repeatedly threatened military action if Maduro does not soon step down.
Pompeo’s latest claims on Wednesday were met with sarcasm, skepticism, and concern for how they may be used to justify further American intervention—including military action that hasn’t been authorized by Congress—in a country already enduring political and economic crises:
So, #Lebanon's population is 4 million, only a fraction of whom are Shia, less than half of whom are male, only a fraction of whom are Hezbollah members, only a fraction of whom are military age…Yet #Hezbollah apparently has a NATO-sized armed force that operates globally. Lol. https://t.co/Hm0jeBZm0S
“We have an obligation to take down that risk for America.” Pretty aggressive rhetoric. Fortunately, America's Constitution provides a way to do this: Come show Congress the evidence and seek authorization. https://t.co/CCSHvi1ZSt