Is Iran Behind the Murder of a Paraguayan Prosecutor?

On May 10, Marcelo Pecci—a Paraguayan criminal prosecutor thought to be on his way to becoming his country’s next attorney general—was shot, evidently by skilled assassins, while honeymooning with his wife in Colombia. In a country where corruption is endemic, Pecci had been incorruptible, and was dedicated to investigating organized crime, narcotics trafficking, and terrorism finance—areas that are closely intertwined in his country. Emanuele Ottolenghi puts his life’s work, and his death, in context:

In recent years, Paraguay has become a key transit hub for increasingly larger quantities of cocaine. Foreign crime syndicates have moved in, both to work with and to compete against local networks. . . . Pecci disrupted operations of transnational criminal organizations operating inside his country, which include Latin American, European, Asian, and Middle Eastern crime syndicates.

Where there is organized crime there is money laundering, and for decades, Hizballah has been a key financial-service provider to crime syndicates across Latin America. It operates in multiple locations, with Colombia being a historic hub of cooperation with organized crime. But its facilitators also operate along all of Paraguay’s frontiers.

Hizballah and Iranian agents have been in Colombia for years. Iran’s influence networks have an established presence not only in Bogotá, but also in other parts of the country, where they recruit and radicalize locals through Iranian-controlled mosques and cultural centers. Their influence operation is run by a proxy of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, the U.S.-sanctioned Al Mustafa International University. Hizballah has also been there for a long time, leveraging local Lebanese Shiite expatriates to launder money on behalf of drug cartels. Their proceeds help Hizballah self-fund over and above Iranian direct contributions. The combination of Iranian and Hizballah networks creates a perfect environment to plan and carry out an attack.

Last year, Iran already tried to carry out an assassination in Colombia against an Israeli citizen by contracting locals. That they failed says nothing about Iran and Hizballah’s capabilities to assassinate a man like Marcelo Pecci.

Of course, Ottolenghi observes, there were many criminal organizations that wanted to see Pecci dead. But Hizballah had both means and motive.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Drugs, Hizballah, Iran, Latin America

Gaza’s Quiet Dissenters

Last year, the Dubai-based television channel Al-Arabiya, the Times of Israel, and several other media organizations worked together to conduct numerous interviews with residents of the Gaza Strip, taking great pains to protect their identities. The result is a video series titled Whispers in Gaza, which presents a picture of life under Hamas’s tyranny unlike anything that can be found in the press. Jeff Jacoby writes:

Through official intimidation or social pressure, Gazans may face intense pressure to show support for Hamas and its murderous policies. So when Hamas organizes gaudy street revels to celebrate a terrorist attack—like the fireworks and sweets it arranged after a gunman murdered seven Israelis outside a Jerusalem synagogue Friday night—it can be a challenge to remember that there are many Palestinians who don’t rejoice at the murder of innocent Jews.

In one [interview], “Fatima” describes the persecution endured by her brother, a humble vegetable seller, after he refused to pay protection money to Hamas. The police arrested him on a trumped-up drug charge and locked him in prison. “They beat him repeatedly to make him confess to things he had nothing to do with,” she says. Then they threatened to kill him. Eventually he fled the country, leaving behind a family devastated by his absence.

For those of us who detest Hamas no less than for those who defend it, it is powerful to hear the voices of Palestinians like “Layla,” who is sickened by the constant exaltation of war and “resistance” in the Palestinian media. “If you’re a Gazan citizen who opposes war and says, ‘I don’t want war,’ you’re branded a traitor,” she tells her interviewer. “It’s forbidden to say you don’t want war.” So people keep quiet, she explains, for fear of being tarred as disloyal.

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Read more at Boston Globe

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Palestinian dissidents, Palestinian public opinion