The world needs to act to counter the growing presence of Iranian-supported terrorist organizations throughout South America, former chief of staff of the Peruvian Armed Forces, Gen. Francisco Contreras, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

Contreras served as the head of the Peruvian Military until about half a year ago, when he retired after 42 years of service. He was in Israel this week on a private visit.

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“We definitely need to be concerned with the growing presence of Iran in South America,” Contreras said. “It appears that Iranian organizations provide support to other terrorist organizations, and that there is cooperation between them.”

Hezbollah is known to maintain strongholds in South America – particularly in the area connecting Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay – where its supporters are actively involved in drug-smuggling, arms-trafficking, money-laundering, fraud and intellectual-property piracy.

Israel and the Untied States are also increasingly concerned with the alliance Venezuela has forged with Iran.

According to Contreras, countries like Israel and Peru need to increase cooperation to combat the growing terrorist threat.

“There is something strange in the relationship [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez has forged with Iran, as is the presence of the Iranian defense minister in Bolivia on a recent visit,” he said.

Israel’s defense ties with Peru go back several decades, and in recent years include the sale of Rafael’s Spike anti-tank missile to the Peruvian army, as well as Israeli drones to its air force.

In 2009, the government of Peru signed a $9 million deal with Global CST, a defense-consulting firm based in Petah Tikva, run by former IDF general Yisrael Ziv.

According to a US diplomatic cable revealed by Wikileaks last year, American diplomats were closely following Global CST’s inroads in Latin America, which includes a similar deal in Colombia.

Contreras said he decided to hire Ziv’s company to help train the military how to combat terrorists from the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) Maoist organization.

Global CST is active in close to a dozen nations on three continents. Recent news reports have put it in Mexico, Peru, Guinea and in a number of countries in Europe.

According to Contreras, Ziv’s company focused on training elite forces for special counterterror operations, strengthening Peruvian intelligence networks, and assisting security forces in working together to kill or capture Sendero Luminoso members.

Contreras said that despite pressure from the US not to hire a private company, the combination of assistance from the US Military and Ziv’s company turned the tide in Peru’s war on terror.

“The combination brought a major change, and our military became more offensive and took the battle to the terrorists, instead of always being on the defensive,” he said.

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