RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) – The terrorist group Hezbollah sent operatives to Brazil to commit attacks on diplomatic representatives of Israel, according to previously classified documents made public.
Latin America’s largest nation was targeted by the Lebanese terrorist group at least twice, most recently in 1989, the Correio Braziliense newspaper reported Saturday. Hezbollah operatives planned to kidnap Israeli diplomats in both the capital city of Brasilia and in Sao Paulo.
Until last month, the information had been restricted to the military and top-level officials in Brazil and Israel.
In 1976, the Israeli government sent an alert to its diplomatic missions and Brazil’s armed forces beefed up security at the Israeli Embassy.
In 1989, a comprehensive and detailed report included names and photographs of suspects and original telegrams exchanged between Israel and Brazil. In the midst of the investigation, Brazilian federal police officers found that one of the alleged terrorists was in the country.
A telegram sent by the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to security forces on Aug. 16, 1989, warned that a Hezbollah terrorist was “on the way to entering the country to commit an attempt against that diplomatic mission and its members.” In the same message, the ministry warned about the presence of “another terrorist” on Brazilian soil, according to the newspaper.
Faced with such a scenario, the ministry called for “urgent” reinforcement of security around the Israeli Embassy and the residences of the ambassador and four Israeli diplomats.
One month later, a new alert featured the names of four terrorists named by Israel as the executors of Hezbollah’s plan in Brasilia. According to Israel, the group intended to kidnap the country’s consul general in Sao Paulo or any diplomat who lived in Brasilia, with an eye toward negotiating for the release of Hezbollah prisoners in Israel.
The hunt for suspects and the security scheme surrounding the Israeli Embassy and its senior officials lasted one more month, when the Israeli intelligence service discovered that the four alleged terrorists had left Brazil for an unknown destination.
“This is an old story that sits in the past,” the Israeli consul in Sao Paulo, Dori Goren, told JTA. “However, we always need to be alert since Hezbollah has dormant cells in Latin America, there are large Shiite Muslim communities and there is the recent arrival of Syrian refugees. Today we don’t send alerts, there is no need to panic, but we are always vigilant for Israeli missions are a continuous target.”
In preparation for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, the state provided security for the head of Rio’s Jewish federation.
“There is always a first time, it has happened twice in Argentina and Brazil is not free of it,” Paulo Maltz told JTA, citing the Buenos Aires bombings of the Israeli Embassy in 1992 and the AMIA Jewish center in 1994.
“We’ll be on total alert,” added Maltz, who ended his term in December.