Mexico’s President Says ’Nothing to Fear’ About Trump Designating Cartels as Terrorists

November 28, 2019 Updated: November 29, 2019

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has reassured that “there is nothing to fear” after President Donald Trump said he will designate Mexican Cartels as Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

Speaking at a news conference in Mexico City on Wednesday, López Obrador said “I just want to tell everyone that there is nothing to fear,” and that the foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, would address the issue after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday.

In a statement issued Tuesday night, the Mexican Foreign Ministry said it had contacted U.S. authorities and will seek “a high-level meeting as soon as possible to present Mexico’s position and hear the views of the U.S. authorities.”

The statement added that Mexico would “promote a dialogue and roadmap” that would allow them to reduce the flow of arms and money between the two countries, “in addition to precursor chemicals and drug precursors that cross Mexican territory en route to the United States.”

“The Government of Mexico will continue its diplomatic work towards an understanding that, through cooperation and intelligence, guarantees the security of both countries.”

President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs for travel to the U.S.-Mexico border from the White House
President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs for travel to the U.S.-Mexico border from the White House on April 5, 2019. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

Lopez Obrador said on Monday that he would not accept the cartel designation from the U.S. “We will never accept that, we are not ‘vendepatrias’ (nation sellers),” Lopez Obrador said, Breitbart reported.

When asked about Trump’s comments with Bill O’Reilly that aired on Tuesday, López Obrador said “Cooperation, yes, intervention, no.

Trump told O’Reilly that for the past 90 days he had been working on designating Mexican cartels as Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

Once a group is designated as a terrorist organization, under U.S. law, it’s illegal for people in the United States to knowingly offer support; its members can’t enter the country and may be deported. Financial institutions that become aware they have funds connected to the group must block the money and alert the U.S. Treasury Department. Suspected agents of foreign terrorist organizations can also be targeted for a certain level of surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

According to Daniel Cadman from the Center for Immigration Studies, the designation is “overdue.”

“Cartel conduct clearly meets the threshold definitions, including specifically as a threat to the national security of the United States,” Cadman said.

“Cartels are inextricably linked to cross-border smuggling. The reason is simple: There’s an astounding amount of money made, and just as the Mafia proved itself adept at all manner of illegal conduct to enhance its money flows, so it is with Mexican criminal syndicates today.”

Cadman added that if the U.S. has national interests as far as Somalia and Afghanistan, “it is inconceivable that [the U.S.] would not recognize the national security risk inherent in Mexico’s current state of affairs.”

López Obrador has tried adopting a softer approach to cartels than some of his predecessors, arguing that violence only begets more violence.

“It was lamentable, painful because children died, but do we want to resolve the problem the same way [as previous administrations]? By declaring war?” he said at a press conference. “That, in the case of our country, showed that it does not work. That was a failure. It caused more violence.”

Cartel violence is rampant in Mexico. Earlier this month, Trump responded to the bloodiest attack on U.S. citizens in Mexico in years by offering to help the nation “wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth.”

Ivan Pentchoukov, Zachary Stieber, and Reuters contributed to this report.

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