The US will legally designate Mexican drug cartels as terrorist groups, President Donald Trump says.
“They will be designated … I have 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 are well into that process,” Trump said in an interview with Conservative media figure Bill O’Reilly.
He added that he had told Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador that the US was willing to launch operations against the cartels inside Mexico.
Soon afterwards, Mexico’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying it would quickly seek a high-level meeting with US State Department officials to address the legal designation, as well as the flow of arms and money from the US to organised crime in Mexico.
“The foreign minister will establish contact with his counterpart, Michael R. Pompeo, in order to discuss this very important issue for the bilateral agenda,” the ministry said.
When a group is designated as a terrorist organisation in the US, it becomes illegal for people in the US to to knowingly offer support.
Its members are also banned from entering the US. If they are already in the US, they face being deported.
If financial institutions discover they have funds connected to the group, they are required to block the money and alert the US Treasury Department.
In response Mexico’s foreign minister said his country would not allow any “violation of national sovereignty”.
Mexico has long been besieged by deadly violence with drug cartels and criminal gangs fighting for control of territories.
The total number of victims of violent deaths since President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took office in December 2018 is approaching 20,000, according to Mexico’s National Public Security System.