President Trump told commentator Bill O’Reilly on Tuesday that he was attempting to label certain Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations.
“They will be designated,” Trump said during the interview. “I’ve been working on that for the last 90 days. You know, designation is not that easy. You have to go through a process and we’re well into that process.”
Trump did not elaborate on which cartels would receive the designation. The move may give the U.S. more leeway to take action against the cartels by mandating tougher penalties against members.
Violence linked to cartels has overwhelmed Mexican security forces. In mid-October gunmen from the Sinaloa cartel laid siege to the city of Culiacán, after Mexican police apprehended Ovidio Guzmán, son of drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. The siege was so brutal that Mexican officers begged the younger Guzmán to call cartel members by phone to stop the attack, and eventually released Guzmán from custody.
Nine members of an American Mormon family, including six children, were gunned down in a separate incident linked to cartel violence in November. After those killings, Trump offered to help Mexico “wage war” on the cartels, saying the two countries could “wipe them off the face of the earth.”
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has refused to go directly after the cartels, instead pledging to tackle the country’s inequality and poverty. Obrador calls the policy “hugs, not bullets.”
At a Monday press conference, Obrador emphasized that his government would not tolerate “interference” from foreign countries in the fight against organized crime.
“We don’t accept that,” Obrador said. “Our problems will be solved by Mexicans. We don’t want any interference from any foreign country.”