Trump to designate Mexican drug cartels as terrorist groups

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Sunrise, Fla., Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WASHINGTON, DC – President Donald Trump put the Mexican government on the defensive when he said he “absolutely” will move ahead with plans to designate Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations.

Trump said in a radio interview this week that tens of thousands of Americans are killed every year because of drug trafficking and other activity by the cartels. But Mexico is pushing back, worried that such a step would allow its neighbor to the north to violate its sovereignty by operating unilaterally inside Mexico.

“I’ve been working on that for the last 90 days,” Trump said in a radio interview with Bill O’Reilly, who asked whether such a designation would be forthcoming.

O’Reilly had asked Trump if he would designate the cartels “and start hitting them with drones and things like that?”

Trump replied: “I don't want to say what I'm going to do, but they will be designated.”

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Wednesday that he did not want to enter a “political confrontation” with the U.S. government on the eve of its Thanksgiving holiday. He said that he would leave it at “cooperation, yes; interventionism, no,” and that he had instructed Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard to explain Mexico’s position to Washington.

Ebrard later tweeted that he’d already been in contact with the U.S. government and would use diplomacy to “defend sovereignty.”

Trump offered no timetable for the designation. After the U.S. labels an individual or organization as a terrorist group, it then becomes illegal for anyone in the United States, including banks and other financial institutions, to knowingly provide them with support. Members of terrorist groups are also denied entry into the U.S.