Trump To Designate Mexican Drug Cartels As Terrorist Groups

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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President Donald Trump revealed that he plans to designate Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations, a move that will give the U.S. government a range of new authorities to crack down on their activity.

In a newly released interview with Bill O’Reilly, Trump told the former Fox News host that he is working to designate Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations. The interview, which was released on O’Reilly’s personal website late Tuesday, would be a major shift in how the U.S. fights transnational criminal organizations.

“I will be designating the cartels,” Trump told O’Reilly. “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.”

The interview comes after a U.S.-Mexican family was ambushed by cartel gunmen. The family — which belongs to a Mormon fundamentalist group that has lived in Mexico for years — was driving not far from the border when they were suddenly attacked, killing nine of them and leaving others to seek refuge in a nearby town. Of the nine who were killed, three were women and six were children.

Members of the Lebaron family watch the burned car where part of the nine murdered members of the family were killed and burned during an gunmen ambush on Bavispe, Sonora mountains, Mexico, on November 5, 2019. - US President Donald Trump offered Tuesday to help Mexico "wage war" on its cartels after three women and six children from an American Mormon community were murdered in an area notorious for drug traffickers. (Photo by Herika MARTINEZ / AFP) / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by Herika MARTINEZ has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [AFP PHOTO / Herika MARTINEZ ] instead of [AFP PHOTO / STR ]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo by HERIKA MARTINEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

Members of the Lebaron family watch the burned car where part of the nine murdered members of the family were killed and burned during an gunmen ambush on Bavispe, Sonora mountains, Mexico, on Nov. 5, 2019. (Photo by HERIKA MARTINEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

The massacre highlighted the dangers Mexican criminal activity poses to American citizens and drew further questions as to whether Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s tepid approach to fighting drug cartels is working. Since he entered office, the homicide rate has increased, and northern Mexico in particular has experienced heavy criminal activity.

However, it’s still unclear how the Trump administration will fight Mexican drug cartels once they make the designation.

“I don’t want to say what I am going to do, but they will be designated,” Trump told O’Reilly when asked if drone strikes in Mexico were an option.

“Look, we are losing 100,000 people a year to what is happening and what is coming through from on Mexico,” Trump continued. “They have unlimited money, the people, the cartels, because they have a lot of money, because it is drug money and human trafficking money.”

Being designated as a terrorist organization ignites a host of limitations. Members are prohibited from entering the U.S., and people are legally barred from knowingly providing support to the group. Additionally, financial institutions are bound by law not to conduct business with the group.

Texas GOP Rep. Chip Roy, who introduced legislation months ago to designate these drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations, celebrated Trump’s announcement.

“I’m happy to see that President Trump is poised to declare certain dangerous Mexican drug cartels as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Such a designation is a huge development in taking on the absolute evil they perpetrate on Americans, our friends in Mexico, and migrants seeking a better life,” Roy said in a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation. (RELATED: Cop Involved In El Chapo’s Son’s Arrest Was Shot 155 Times In Gruesome Execution)

“By taking this action, we are putting these cartels on notice. The United States will not sit idly as you abuse, torture, and murder innocent people across our southern border,” Roy continued.

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