World #3 – Mexico: U.S. to designate drug cartels as terrorists

Tuesday's World Events   —   Posted on December 3, 2019

(by Jessica Donati and José de Córdoba, The Wall Street Journal) — President Trump said the U.S. plans to designate Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations, a move that would expand the potential scope of U.S. action through tougher legislation and stiffer penalties.

Mr. Trump said in an interview with commentator Bill O’Reilly on November 26 that Mexican cartels were responsible for the deaths of many Americans caused by addiction to drugs flowing over the border each year. Mr. Trump didn’t specify which cartels would be targeted by the measure.

“They will be designated,” Mr. Trump said in the interview, without elaborating further. “I’ve been working on that for the last 90 days. You know, designation is not that easy. You have to go through a process and we’re well into that process.”

Mr. Trump’s statement comes after a recent surge of violence linked to Mexico’s powerful drug cartels.

In October, hundreds of gunmen from the Sinaloa cartel overpowered Mexican security forces, and terrorized the Sinaloa state capital of Culiacán for hours, in an ultimately successful effort to free a captured cartel leader who is a son of drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.

The cartel leader, Ovidio Guzmán, was released by Mexican security forces after the gunmen held hostage captured soldiers, who were also eventually freed.

Mexican and U.S. analysts as well as U.S. officials believe the events in Culiacán underscore Mexico’s broader failure to come up with a viable strategy to face the country’s powerful gangs [drug cartels].

Leftist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has made clear his government doesn’t plan to go after the cartels, focusing instead on attacking Mexico’s inequality and poverty, which he says feeds the violence. López Obrador called his new policy “abrazos, no balazos” (“hugs, not bullets“).

In a press conference on November 25, Mr. López Obrador stated Mexico’s opposition to any foreign intrusion against organized crime. “We don’t accept that,” he said. “Our problems will be solved by Mexicans. We don’t want any interference from any foreign country.”

During his daily morning press conference on Wednesday, Mr. López Obrador declined to address the issue, only to say “cooperation yes, intervention no.”

President Trump said he offered to help López Obrador tackle the cartels in Mexico.

“I’ve actually offered him to let us go in and clean it out, and he’s so far rejected the offer,” Mr. Trump said last Tuesday.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said in response on Twitter: “Mexico will never admit any action that would be a violation of its national sovereignty. We will act firmly. I have transmitted our position to the U.S., as well as our resolve to face international organized crime. Mutual respect is the basis for cooperation.”

CNBC reports:  Following the murder of at least nine Americans, including two mothers and six children, who reportedly came under attack in a highway ambush in a Mexican border state on November 4, President Trump said that the U.S. is willing to help Mexico “wage war on the drug cartels” in the country. He tweeted,

“If Mexico needs or requests help in cleaning out these monsters, the United States stands ready, willing & able to get involved and do the job quickly and effectively. …the cartels have become so large and powerful that you sometimes need an army to defeat an army!”

The White House then said that Trump offered “assistance” to Mexico in a conversation with the country’s president, Manuel Lopez Obrador.

“President Trump made clear that the United States condemns these senseless acts of violence that took the lives of nine American citizens” in the call, and offered help to “ensure the perpetrators face justice,” the White House said in a statement.

“The two leaders also discussed ongoing border cooperation and the strong bilateral ties between the United States and Mexico,” the White House added.

Lopez Obrador said he thanked Trump for his willingness to help, adding that the Mexican government would ensure justice was done, Reuters reported.

Following the publication of this report, UPI reported on Monday (Dec. 1):  “At least 21 people were killed in a shootout between gunmen and security forces in Mexico, authorities said Sunday.

Four police officers and 17 suspected members of the Cartel of the Northeast died in a gun battle on Saturday as Mexican police and soldiers clashed with the cartel members, who had driven trucks into the town of Villa Union at around noon Saturday. The armed gunmen stormed the town of 3,000 residents in a convoy of trucks, attacking local government offices and prompting state and federal forces to intervene.”

….. Since 2006, more than 250,000 people have been killed, according to Mexican government figures, most in the bitter internecine war between cartels for control of drug routes and territory. At least 40,000 more are missing, many buried in clandestine graves, some dissolved in acid.

Published at wsj .com on Nov. 27.  Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from The Wall Street Journal. With an excerpt from a Nov. 5 CNBC article by Kevin Breuninger.


Designating a group as an FTO:

The State Department has the authority to designate an entity as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO). To meet the criteria, the group must be foreign, have the capability to engage in terrorist activities and present a threat to U.S. national security.

The Congressional Research Service said in a paper this year that an FTO designation boosted efforts to combat financing, deterred cooperation with the targeted groups and sent an international signal about U.S. concerns.

“By designating an entity as an FTO, the United States seeks to limit the group’s financial, property, and travel interests,” the paper said. (from the wsj article above)