U.S. terrorist designation of Mexican drug cartels delayed

While the designation would not directly give the United States authority for military operations in Mexico, many Mexicans were nervous their northern neighbor could use it as a pretext for a unilateral intervention

U.S. terrorist designation of Mexican drug cartels delayed
English 07/12/2019 09:05 Reuters Mexico City Eric Beech, Matt Spetalnick, Daina Beth Solomon, Cynthia Osterman, Edwina Gibbs & Leslie Adler/REUTERS Actualizada 09:23
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On Friday, President Donald Trump said he will temporarily hold off designating Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations at the request of Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Trump said last week he would make the designation to disrupt the cartels’ finances through sanctions such as asset freezes and travel bans. But López Obrador objected, saying he wanted U.S. cooperation on fighting drug gangs, not intervention.

“All necessary work has been completed to declare Mexican cartels terrorist organizations,” Trump said on Twitter.

“However, at the request of a man who I like and respect, and has worked so well with us, President Andrés Manuel @lopezobrador we will temporarily hold off this designation and step up our joint efforts to deal decisively with these vicious and ever-growing organizations!” he said.

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A growing chorus of conservative voices in the United States has called for the designation after the killing in Mexico last month of nine mothers and children with dual American-Mexican nationality, members of the LeBarón family.

While it would not directly give the United States authority for military operations in Mexico, many Mexicans were nervous their northern neighbor could use it as a pretext for a unilateral intervention.

López Obrador welcomed Trump’s move.

“I welcome that he has taken our opinion into account. ... It was a very good decision today to defer the designation,” Lopez Obrador told reporters.

Did you know Mexico seeks cooperation on arms flow with the U.S.?

Likewise, Mexico’s Foreign Minister, Marcelo Ebrard, thanked U.S. President Donald Trump for holding off on classifying Mexican drug cartels as terrorist groups, a proposal that Mexico’s government had opposed.

“I’m thankful for President Donald Trump’s decision to delay the designation of organizations as terrorists at the request of President López Obrador,” Ebrard said in a tweet. “Cooperation has won and there will be good results.”

Trump’s reversal came a day after U.S. Attorney General William Barr discussed the issue with López Obrador and Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard in Mexico City.

If the U.S. government were to name terrorist groups in Mexico, then people fleeing the areas where they operate could claim credible fear of persecution, which is a requirement for asylum, Ebrard noted.

Did you know Mexico rejected Trump's plans on drug cartels?

“They could come to the United States and say, ‘I come from a place where there’s terrorism,’ and (the U.S.) would have to grant them credible fear,” he told Televisa News on Thursday.

“It would be a very bad deal,” Ebrard said.

Trump’s threat to designate Mexican cartels as terrorist groups had also met resistance within his administration. Some U.S. officials privately expressed misgivings about the risk of damaging relations with Mexico and hindering the Mexican government’s fight against drug trafficking, according to people familiar with the matter.

López Obrador has pursued a non-confrontational security policy. His government’s priorities are disrupting the cartels’ cash flows and money-laundering opportunities and halting illegal arms trafficking into Mexico from the United States.

Trump has repeatedly offered military assistance in the fight against drug gangs, which López Obrador has always declined.

Did you know arms trafficking is on the rise in Mexico's northern border?

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