Mexico: Are drug cartels terrorists?
President Trump wants to open “a whole new front in America’s war on terror that would hit much closer to home: Mexico,” said Alex Ward in Vox.com. In a recent interview, Trump said he plans to formally designate Mexican drug cartels as “foreign terrorist organizations,” putting them in the same category as al Qaida, ISIS, and Boko Haram. The new designation would make it illegal for anyone in the U.S. to knowingly support the cartels and allow the government to sanction anyone who gives them money. “It’s therefore possible that Trump’s move could see U.S. drug dealers labeled and treated as terrorist supporters.” It could also open the door to the U.S. taking military action on Mexican soil. That would infuriate Mexico, which rightly sees its cartel problem as the product of the U.S.’s consumption of drugs and its sale of military-style weapons to the gangs.
The cartels aren’t terrorists, said Jason Blazakis in DefenseOne.com. The terrorism list has historically been used against groups with political aims. “Mexican cartels are driven by financial interests; they have little interest in, say, deposing the government and politically ruling Mexico.” Blurring the line between “terrorism and criminality” will require the FBI to spend more time chasing drug dealers with tenuous cartel connections and less time working to unravel the next jihadist plot. Unfortunately, Mexico’s cartels “aren’t isolated bands operating at the margins of society,” said Mary Beth Sheridan in The Washington Post. Their members are integrated into the community, where they buy off or extort politicians, police, and businesses. “If any contact with organized-crime groups were construed as support for terrorism, many Mexicans—including innocent people—could find themselves punished.”
Actually, Trump is right: Mexico has proven itself incapable of fighting the cartel threat, said Ben Domenech in the New York Post. In October, the Sinaloa cartel actually defeated the Mexican military in a pitched battle in the city of Culiacán. And in November, gang members slaughtered nine U.S.-Mexico dual citizens who were members of a fundamentalist Mormon community, including six children. The U.S. can’t afford to ignore what increasingly looks like a “failed state” on its southern border. Mexican banks and elites who do business with the cartels should face sanctions. And Mexico’s government is now on notice that if it continues to tolerate murder and chaos, the Trump administration may “step in.”