Trump’s Efforts to Label Mexican Drug Cartels as Terrorist 

The US President, Donald Trump insisted on labeling Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations (FTO) despite many Cabinet members and leaders from the government opposed the recommendation. The main reason for opposing Trump’s move was, as many leaders observed, that labeling such terms could harm the US-Mexico relationship.

Trump on Curbing Illegal Immigrants

Curbing the entry of Mexico’s illegal immigrants to the US and narcotics trafficking across the US-Mexican border were key manifesto for Trump’s campaign of the 2016 election and will be central campaign issues for the coming 2020 election. To some extent, Trump had succeeded in bringing cooperation with Mexico on the issue of illegal immigrants. Early 2019, Mexico escalated deploying national military guards along the US-Mexico border to stop illegal migration as Trump threatened to intensify tariffs on Mexican goods.

Subsequently, Mexico agreed upon the deportation of the tens of thousands of Mexico migrants from the US who were waiting for US asylum. According to Reuters, “Trump and many top aides have wanted to crack down on cartel trafficking in narcotics and illegal immigration for some time and were looking at novel approaches, including the FTO designation plan.”

US-Mexico Trade and Increase Asylum in the US

As per a senior administration official from the White House, “They were driven in part by concerns that such designations could harm US-Mexico ties, potentially jeopardizing Mexico’s cooperation with Trump’s efforts to halt illegal immigration and drug trafficking across the border.”

Apart from this, the official claimed, “The designations could make it easier for migrants to win asylum in the United States by claiming they were fleeing terrorism.” Stephen Miller, one of the core White House advisers and the architect of Trump’s policies on immigration, was among the officials who opposed the deliberation of Trump’s decision.

In an interview with a conservative commentator, Bill O’Reilly on November 26, 2019, Trump revealed that the plan for declaring the Mexican cartels as FTOs began in late August 2019. Trump further stated that he would be going ahead of his plan soon. A week later, Trump tweeted that he was “temporarily delaying the plan at Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s request.” After the announcement of Trump’s canceling the plan, Mexican Foreign Minister, Marcelo Ebrard tweeted his appreciation of Trump’s decision saying, “There will be good results.”

A senior administration official considered, “The president’s announcement is not as a reversal but as a strategic move. Even the threat of designation was extremely useful leverage in terms of obtaining further cooperation from Mexico.”

Mexico’s Reactions

The Mexican government responded that Trump’s plan of declaring that “equating drug cartels with Islamic State and al Qaeda could open the door to U.S. military intervention.” In a meeting with the Attorney General William Barr on December 5, 2019, Mexican President, Lopez Obrador revealed that he was strongly opposing the designation plan. In the early week of December 2019, Obrador claimed, “The Mexican constitution would not permit such foreign interference.”

Jason Blazakis, a professor of international relations at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California, said, “The plan would be damaging U.S.-Mexican relations and also the FTO designation could hurt Mexico’s economy by prompting foreign businesses to leave the country or reconsider investing there.” Blazakis pointed out that Trump blurred the lines between criminality and terrorism, which was extremely problematic.

Hello, I’m Anna Yeo. If you like my news coverage, please drop a good word in my inbox. I’m journalist by profession and have been part of many major reporting across the globe. I like to write crisp and factual news. I have completed my masters degree in journalism. Feel free to contact me at [email protected]

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