Mexico Pushes Back Against Trump Plan to Label Cartels ‘Terror Groups’

Designation could open doors to cross-border attacks by US military

Image Credits: HERIKA MARTINEZ/AFP via Getty Images.

Mexican officials are sounding the alarm after President Trump told Bill O’Reilly during a radio interview that he would “absolutely” designate Mexico’s drug cartels as terror groups.

During the interview, which aired for the first time last night and will re-air on Thanksgiving Day, Trump told O’Reilly, who first raised the issue, that he has been working on getting the cartels designated a terror group for the past 90 days, which means the project began before the murder of 9 US citizens in a drug-cartel ambush that killed three mothers and six young children.

Here’s a clip from the interview:

After the attack on members of the LaBaron family – a Mormon community that has been living in Mexico since the 1940s – Trump tweeted an offer of assistance to Mexco’s president, saying the US would be happy to supply troops or ‘whatever it takes’ to wipe out the cartels once and for all.

Now, Trump is weighing a terrorist designation for the cartels, which could open the door for American cross-border attacks on cartel infrastructure and cartel personnel.

According to the Washington Post, under US law, any violent foreign group or individual who “threatens American security” can be designated a terror group and be subjected to sanctions that, in this case, could seriously disrupt commerce between American and Mexican companies.

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It’s also a huge problem for the banks, as anybody who remembers the $900 million money laundering scandal involving UK-based HSBC back in 2012, when the bank got caught laundering money for the drug cartels (the incident is now the subject of a Netflix documentary) and paid a massive fine (the bank has also been subjected to several civil suits).

A terror designation would seriously raise the stakes for any banks who risk handling cartel money.

Unsurprisingly, Mexico is less than thrilled about the prospect of an American crackdown on the cartels.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard tweeted the government’s “position”: “Mexico will never accept any action that violates our national sovereignty…We will act firmly. I have sent our position to the US as well as our resolution on combating transnational organized crime.”

That’s hardly surprising, since turning to the Americans to fix Mexico’s problems would almost certainly be extremely politically unpopular for AMLO, whose popularity has already taken a dive since he took office.

But with Mexico’s murder rate about to hit a new record high – a stunning development, since AMLO’s decision to end the government’s war on the cartels was supposed to lead to a deescalation of violence – the pressure is on for him to do something.

Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time President Trump has threatened to crack whip on Mexico (remember his threats to close the border, or his decision to send US troops to provide more support for border agents?)

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