Internal Security

In April 2009, Iran’s Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, and Commander of the Basij Mohammad Reza Naqdi, traveled to Caracas to meet President Chávez and Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro. This meeting was aimed at standing up civilian militias in Venezuela similar to the Basij, a violent volunteer youth paramilitary group under the command of the IRGC that carried out brutal attacks against peaceful protesters in Iran following the 2009 disputed election.

Naqdi was present at the meeting to advise Venezuela’s Defense Ministry and Interior Ministry on how to train similar militias in Venezuela. The “colectivos,” as the now-infamous Venezuelan leftist militias are known, today exhibit advanced clandestine communication capabilities and infiltration techniques. The “colectivos” have transformed into a leftist paramilitary force that the Maduro regime uses to suppress dissent, infiltrate the opposition, and maintain order, especially after elections. They also implement social welfare activities, geared toward shoring up the pro-Maduro constituency, much like the Basij and Hezbollah.

In recent years, the IRGC’s Quds Force and its proxy Hezbollah have trained elements in Maduro’s domestic security services. Quds Force operatives, often based out of the Iranian embassy and religious institutions, assisted Venezuela’s National Guard in suppressing an opposition movement in 2019. The Quds Force has recruited Venezuelan youth through intense indoctrination and urban combat training. One propaganda video used features Mohsen Rabbani, the mastermind of the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Argentina, communicating in Spanish.

The Quds Force has also supported Venezuela’s cyber defenses. After meeting Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in June 2022, Maduro praised former Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, saying he had helped defend against alleged U.S. cyberattacks on the Venezuelan power grid in 2019.