Here is a Google translated excerpt from Daniel Barquet's story in Milenio:
"An FBI and CIA tip given to the National Migration Institute led to the arrest in Mérida, Yucatan, of Rafiq Mohammed Labboun, the highest ranking member of Hezbollah in the San Francisco Bay Area until he depated the United States in 2002 for Lebanon. The subject came from London and entered Mexico through the airport in Cancun, Quintana Roo, and then traveled to Mérida, where he was captured under the false name of Wilhelm Dick. Also known as Al-Labboun Rafic, Rafic Hajj, Hajj Hajj Rafik or Rafiq, this Lebanese naturalized American (born in 1968) led an Islamic extremist cell on the West Coast of the United States for years, after graduating as a mathematician at the University of California at Berkeley. According to the data by the CIA, was a frequent speaker Labboun religious themes in the Iraqi Community Association (ICA) from downtown San Francisco and preached at the Islamic Center Fatimiyya Hayward, California. According to the U.S. agency, he departed the US 'suddenly' with his wife Tracy Marie Becker (U.S.), who was pregnant, and her two daughters, in 2002...In 2006 he returned to California for religious reasons and export and import trading firm with Costco. On 30 December 2008 he returned again to the United States, where he was charged with implementing plans to defraud various financial institutions of America credit card and checks. In 2010 Judge Ronald M. Rafic M. Whyte sentenced Labboun to 27 months in prison after arrest in federal prison, followed by three years probation. Also ordered to pay $102,000 in restitution to the financial institutions that were defrauded. He departed the US once more until recently, when alerts were issued for him internationally and in Mexico." Link to Original Article (in Spanish)
Analysis: First, a huge "Thank you!" to freelance writer and TV producer Susana Seijas in Mexico for tipping me off to this story. Second, I'm really hoping to nip this story in the bud before some news outlets go crazy with the apprehension of a Hezbollah member in Mexico. I'm just waiting for World Net Daily and The Blaze and FOX News to start going nuts with this, and it's important to understand that, while the apprehension is a really good one and the Mexican authorities should be commended, Laboun's presence in Mérida was incidental and not a big deal.
I don't know why Milenio is referring to him as a "leader," other than the fact that he had some speaking gigs in the San Francisco area. He obviously had a good business going as well, making more than pocket change for the organization back home in Lebanon. However, it should come as a surprise to no one (although it often does) that Hezbollah has had a significant presence in the US for some time. They make tons of money here selling fake designer purses, shoes and cigarettes, and all that money goes "across the pond" so that Hezbollah can use it to buy guns and mortars and RPGs to use against the Israelis. Of course this is disturbing, and it should be.
However, there's no evidence that any of these Hezbollah members are planning to blow anything up here, despite the warnings that "they could easily become operational" if Israel goes to war with Iran. Personally, I think that's an overstatement. Imagine selling fake Louis Vuittons and Nikes in New York City for ten years in Manhattan, and then being told you need to arm up and plan a terrorist operation in the next week. It's not as easy as some pundits make it out to be.
But back to Labboun's story. For all intents and purposes, it seems like he was in the Bay Area for the same reason so many other Hezbollah members are in the US - to make money and not conduct any operations. Right now it appears he was only in Mexico incidentally; perhaps to take a vacation, but maybe to conduct some import/export business before heading back to San Francisco. This is an unanswered question, and might remain that way if details of his presence in Mérida become classified. But I'm not inclined to believe he was there to lead some sort of operational cell in the Yucatan intent on illegally coming across the southwest border with a bomb. That may sound over-the-top, but some people really will say that.
So I'll be waiting to see how/if this makes it into US headlines - maybe not at all; you never know - and somewhat optimistically hoping they get the context right. But if you see it somewhere, hopefully you'll keep this blog post in mind and remember that the sky isn't falling down because of Labboun's apprehension in Mexico.