President Donald Trump announced late last week that he has decided to temporarily hold off on designating Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations because Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador appears to have come to an agreement with the administration to ramp up Mexico’s efforts to combat the cartels.
“All necessary work has been completed to declare Mexican Cartels terrorist organizations,” Trump tweeted. “Statutorily we are ready to do so. However, at the request of a man who I like and respect, and has worked so well with us, President Andres Manuel [López Obrador] we will temporarily hold off this designation and step up our joint efforts to deal decisively with these vicious and ever-growing organizations!”
….will temporarily hold off this designation and step up our joint efforts to deal decisively with these vicious and ever-growing organizations!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 6, 2019
The New York Times highlighted the response from López Obrador, who said at an event late last week: “I celebrate that he has taken our opinion into account. There has to be cooperation with respect for our sovereignties, cooperation without interventionism. And I think it was a very good decision that he took today. We thank President Trump for respecting our decisions and for choosing to maintain a policy of good neighborliness, a policy of cooperation with us. He will always have, on our side, an open, frank, extended hand to continue moving forward together for the sake of our peoples and the good of our two nations.”
The deescalation from Trump comes after he told Bill O’Reilly in an interview late last month that he planned on designating the cartels as terrorist organizations.
“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.”
As The Daily Wire previously reported, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) noted 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.