Are drug cartels terrorist organizations?

Since the U.S. is one of the biggest markets for drug traffickers, cartels are at war to control the trade

Are drug cartels terrorist organizations?
The U.S. became more involved after the LeBarón massacre - Photo: Herika Martinez/AFP
English 26/11/2019 09:39 Mexico City Editorial Actualizada 09:39
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Several experts agree that Mexican drug cartels use terrorist tactics. Last week, the governor of Tamaulipas denounced that drug cartels spread chaos, terror, and fear among citizens. Furthermore, U.S. legislators have considered labeling these criminal groups as terrorist organizations and on Sunday, the LeBarón community asked the White House to label drug cartels as terrorists.

The Mexican government responded by saying that it is not necessary to brand these criminal groups as terrorist organizations and seemed confident that the U.S. is not going to fulfill this request.

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Nevertheless, the optimism shown by the Mexican government should turn into caution. In a few weeks, the electoral process will take off in the U.S., where Mexico could play a central role in the presidential campaigns and not in a positive way. For example, four years ago, Donald Trump used an anti-migrant and inti-Mexican rhetoric and he might use it again.

This year, Trump has used this same rhetoric on several occasions. In March, during an interview, Trump said he was “seriously” considering to label some drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations. One month later, when he threatened to close the border and impose tariffs if Mexico didn't halt migration, Trump also mentioned that he was considering to impose economic sanctions for “all the drugs that enter through the Mexican border.” Earlier this month, after a group of criminals massacred three women and 6 children from the LeBarón community, Trump said it was time to declare war against drug cartels and offered Mexico aid to eradicate them.

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If the U.S. decides to classify drug cartels as terrorist groups, at some point it could launch a military operation against them as these actions are considered as acts of “legitimate defense,” as in the case of Osama bin Laden in 2011 and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi earlier this year.

Moreover, the demand made by the LeBarón family is legitimate and their description of Mexican cartels is a reality: “With resources that seem to be unlimited, it has been impossible to stop them. They lead the main human trafficking networks. They kidnap and extortion with almost total impunity.”

Insecurity and violence are becoming one of the main challenges for the federal government. The problem shouldn't be dismissed; on the contrary, it is time to acknowledge its magnitude and adopt an efficient strategy. A U.S. intervention wouldn't benefit anyone.

The LeBarón family has been under threat for a decade


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