President Trump is making a big move against Mexican drug cartels, and it's one he says has been in the works for three months. In an interview with Bill O'Reilly posted online Tuesday that referenced the "more than 100,000 Americans" killed a year via imported drugs, Trump said he would be designating the cartels as terrorist organizations. "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." More:
- The BBC quotes him as also saying that "I've already offered [Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador] ... to let us go in and clean it out and he so far has rejected the offer but at some point something has to be done."
- In a tweet, O'Reilly noted the designation would "give US forces more leverage in taking [the cartels] out." But Trump did not detail any actions that might be taken, saying "I don’t want to say what I am going to do" when O'Reilly asked if drone strikes were in the cards.
- The New York Times reports Mexico "seemed to be caught off-guard" by Trump's statements. Its Foreign Ministry put out a statement Tuesday night saying it is working with the "various corresponding authorities ... to know the content and the reach" of Trump's comments.
- The AP reports López Obrador on Wednesday said he didn't want to get into a "political confrontation" right before Thanksgiving, and that he had tasked Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard with conveying Mexico's stance to Washington.
- The Wall Street Journal flags a tweet from Ebrard, which reads in part, "Mexico will never admit any action that would be a violation of its national sovereignty. ... I have transmitted our position to the US."
- As for the weight a "foreign terrorist organization" designation would carry, the Journal suggests it could impact the flow of weapons from the US to the cartels, as it would become illegal for any American to knowingly offer support to any cartel member. An estimated 80% of the weapons the cartels use come from the US, and "weapons sales could now be considered material aid to terrorism," says an analyst.
- Another possible impact: the designation could be a boon for asylum seekers threatened by the cartels. "Legally, it’s the same thing as being threatened by ISIS. It would make their asylum claim stronger and more compelling," a security analyst tells the Journal.
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