The abduction of four Americans in Mexico near the Texas border more than a week ago is renewing the push to formally declare Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations.
What You Need To Know
- The abduction of four Americans in Mexico near the Texas border more than a week ago is renewing the push to declare Mexican drug cartels "terrorist organizations" formally
- Democratic and Republican parties have expressed support for this kind of designation, while some leading authorities caution that it may negatively affect ties with Mexico
- Professor Nathan Jones, who studies organized crime in Mexico, says using the terrorist label against the cartels would be counterproductive
- Since then and up to now, Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has criticized the push, calling it irresponsible and a threat to Mexico's sovereignty
Both Democrats and Republicans have expressed support for this kind of designation, while some leading authorities caution it may negatively affect ties with Mexico.
It’s believed the Gulf Cartel mistook the group for drug smugglers, which ended in a fatal kidnapping in the Mexican border city of Matamoros, located south of Brownsville, Texas.
“These dangerous cartels are the equivalent of ISIS and al-Qaeda,” said Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas.
Roy reintroduced legislation that would make the formal declaration and said it was long past due.
“The recent kidnapping of four American citizens clearly illustrates the fact that cartels are no longer just drug-running gangs,” Roy said in a statement to Spectrum News.
The designation has been used in the past to isolate certain organizations and block banks and other entities from doing business with them. It also could justify military action against the organization. One Democrat from a Texas border district says the designation for drug cartels should not be ruled out.
Rep. Vincente González, D-Texas, told Spectrum News while the U.S. needs to maintain a good relationship, there needs to be pressure on Mexico to use its law enforcement to crack down on cartel violence.
“We’ve seen some horrible graphic videos that have come out on social media over the years, and it’s nothing short of terrorism,” González said. “And it’s nothing short of terrorizing the Mexican people and Americans who visit and do business there.”
According to White House officials, the government has already been exercising potent measures against the cartels, such as sanctioning certain Mexican firms and individuals linked to the drug trade.
“The United States has powerful sanctions authorities specifically designated to combat narcotics trafficking organizations and the individuals and entities that enable them, so we have not been afraid to use them,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. She said the designation “would not grant us any additional authorities.”
Professor Nathan Jones, who studies organized crime in Mexico, says using the terrorist label against the cartels would be counterproductive.
“It would be disastrous if it did happen, in part, because it would kill U.S.-Mexico relations,” said Jones, a professor of security studies at Sam Houston State University in Texas.
He says the U.S. needs the cooperation of Mexico, given their long-shared border, their common problems, and the economic activity between the two countries.
“Are we going to treat Mexico like Pakistan, wherein we’re engaging in drone strikes? And what does that mean for sovereignty? It also would mean —and this is what would be disastrous for American policy — zero cooperation on migration issues, zero cooperation on countering narcotic issues,” Jones told Spectrum News.
Jones said while there can be a lot with which to crack down on cartels, the priorities should include addressing drug demand in the U.S., bolstering harm reduction programs and strengthening law enforcement in Mexico.
“Another aspect is by strengthening the rule of law and institutions in Mexico. People need to have a broader perspective on what’s going on here. Mexico doesn’t just have drug cartels,” he said.
Calls to designate cartels at terrorist groups were also brought up during former President Donald Trump’s administration. Since then, and up to now, Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has criticized the push, calling it irresponsible and a threat to Mexico’s sovereignty.