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Rep. Gaetz holds open forum at NAS Pensacola discussing Hezbollah, drug trafficking

Rep. Gaetz holds open forum at NAS Pensacola discussing Hezbollah, drug trafficking

A panel discussion was held on Monday at NAS Pensacola regarding the terrorist group Hezbollah and it's infiltration in Latin America.

U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz brought together experts to have an open discussion of what needs to be done to diminish the threat.

Gaetz said, "There are more Lebanese Hezbollah in Latin America than in Lebanon. We're seeing an increased presence in the Western hemisphere."

Gaetz feels the group is too close for comfort.

"Our adversaries are taking a foothold in Venezuela, Columbia, and Peru. We don't want to see our hemisphere become a permissive environment because that threatens our homeland," he said.

Joseph Humire is a leading expert on Hezbollah growth in Latin America. He said the group makes money trafficking massive amounts of drugs, mostly heroin and cocaine. He said that's why local organizations need to know about the threat.

"More likely than not, they won't come in at the federal level. They will come in through the local level, present themselves in communities," said Humire.

Gaetz said, "We are seeing more and more cocaine move through the Caribbean and Florida Straights. That's why it's so important to pre-position Coast Guard assets in Pensacola and in Destin. If we see more of it move into the Gulf of Mexico, we will have the assets to do that."

Several ideas came out of the meeting, one is to designate Hezbollah as a transnational criminal organization. Another plan is to start an intelligence fusion center where all agencies share information and to start focusing on cryptocurrencies to lead them to big players.

Gaetz will be taking those ideas and more to several committees in Congress.

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