This Is Why the President Has Not Designated Mexican Cartels as Terrorists


Map of the Mexican drug cartels and their spheres of influence

Recently, there was a call to designate the Mexican cartels as foreign terrorist organizations. The President did push ahead to do exactly that despite advice from his top aides and cabinet members. That is according to five sources who spoke with Reuters.

He hasn’t yet and pulled back temporarily.


The reasons his advisers were opposed include concerns about damaging diplomatic ties between U.S. and Mexico, also imperiling Mexico’s cooperation with the U.S. in limiting illegal crossings and drug trafficking.

There is another very concerning reason. People crossing illegally could now say they were fleeing terrorism and would instantly become refugees.

Stephen Miller, a strong anti-illegal immigration voice, expressed concerns about the designation.

On November 26, the President told Bill O’Reilly that he planned to apply the designation and then announced a temporary delay on December 9th.

Reuters said that a senior administration official told the news service that the delay is only a pressure tactic rather than a change of mind. The person told Reuters “even the threat of designation was extremely useful leverage in terms of obtaining further cooperation.”

Mexicans are afraid the U.S. will use the designation to intervene in their country militarily.

Former and current U.S. officials argue we have a 1999 law that allows U.S. officials to designate foreign drug traffickers as kingpins, empowering the U.S. to impose sanctions similar to those allowed by the designation. Designation as a terrorist group is redundant, they say.

Jason Blazakis, who oversaw the designation process at the State Department’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau from 2008-2018, told Reuters that the designation could also create a precedent of conflating organized crime with terrorism.

“There are hundreds of Brazilian gangs eligible for the list. There are numerous Chinese and Russian criminal gangs eligible for the list. Where would you stop?” he told Reuters.

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