President Donald Trump said on Tuesday in an interview with Bill O’Reilly that he is going to designate the Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations, a move that gives the government officials more resources to combat entities that receive the designation.
“One of the things that you’ve said to me … is that if another country murdered 100,000 Americans with guns we would go to war with that country,” O’Reilly said. “Yet, the Mexican drug cartels kill more than 100,000 Americans every year by the importation of dangerous narcotics.”
“Are you going to designate those cartels in Mexico as terror groups and start hitting them with drones and things like that?” O’Reilly asked.
“I don’t want to say what I am going to do, but they will be designated,” Trump responded. “I’ve already offered Mexico … to let us go in and clean it out and he so far has rejected the offer but at some point something has to be done. Look, we are losing 100,000 people a year to what is happening and what is coming through on Mexico.”
“So you are going to designate the Mexican cartels as terror groups?” O’Reilly pressed.
“Yeah, I will be,” Trump responded. “I have 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 are well into that process.”
O’Reilly responded, “And wait to see, they’ll attack you for doing that.”
“I don’t care,” Trump responded. “I’m attacked on everything.”
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) notes that to be designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), the Secretary of State must be able to prove that the entity of concern has met the three criteria to allow the Department to designate it as an FTO:
- be a foreign organization,
- engage in or retain the capability and intent to engage in terrorism, and
- threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national defense, foreign relations, or the economic interests of the United States.
Satisfying the criteria should not be difficult for the Trump administration to do as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports that Mexican Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) — which is the technical term for the Mexican drug cartels — “remain the greatest criminal drug threat to the United States; no other group is currently positioned to challenge them.”
The DEA added, “The Sinaloa Cartel maintains the most expansive footprint in the United States, while Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion’s (CJNG) domestic presence has significantly expanded in the past few years.”
The CRS notes the following consequences that result from designating an entity as an FTO:
- It is unlawful for a person in the United States or subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to knowingly provide “material support or resources” to a designated FTO.
- Representatives and members of a designated FTO, if they are aliens, are inadmissible to, and in certain circumstances removable from, the United States.
- The Secretary of the Treasury may require U.S. financial institutions possessing or controlling any assets of a designated FTO to block all transactions involving those assets.
- Supports U.S. efforts to curb terrorism financing and to encourage other nations to do the same;
- Stigmatizes and isolates designated terrorist organizations internationally;
- deters donations or contributions to and economic transactions with named organizations;
- heightens public awareness and knowledge of terrorist organizations; and
- signals to other governments U.S. concern about named organizations.
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said yesterday that Mexico did not expect the United States to designate the cartels as terrorist organizations.
“I don’t think the United States will pursue this path because we’re working together, and I don’t think they would want to open up the possibility of Mexico invoking the same legal principles,” Ebrard said without providing any examples of U.S. entities operating in Mexico that do the equivalent of the Mexican cartels do to the U.S.