U.S. Law Would Label Mexican Drug Cartels “Terrorist Organizations”

A bill proposed in Congress this week to declare six Mexican drug cartels terrorist organizations is causing concern in Mexico.

The bill proposed by Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas) would authorize U.S. law enforcement agencies to use extreme measures to isolate the cartels and capture their leaders.

Mexican political leaders have been warning that any U.S. intervention in their drug war could trample Mexico’s sovereignty.

This week, Jorge Alberto Lara Rivera, Mexico’s assistant attorney general, said that if U.S. law enforcement operations continue in Mexico without the government’s consent, “that would make us reevaluate many issues in our relationship,” according to Mexican media reports.

Mexican government officials say they still control their own country despite a war on drug trafficking that has claimed about 36,000 lives since it started in December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon called in troops against the cartels.

McCaul says more serious efforts are needed by the United States as the drug cartels turn their weapons against U.S. law officers.

“Mexican drug cartels are terrorist organizations, and this designation will provide the necessary tools to effectively advance the national security interests of both Mexico and the United States,” he said.

By designating the six cartels as “foreign terrorist organizations,” federal law allows prosecutors to charge anyone who assists them in transporting guns or drugs with supporting terrorism. A conviction could result in an additional 15 years in prison for defendants.

Prosecutors also could seek the death penalty against any cartel member who commits murder while drug trafficking.

The six cartels mentioned in the bill are the Arellano Felix Organization, Los Zetas, the Beltran Leyva Organization, La Familia Michoacana, the Sinaloa Cartel and the Gulf Cartel.

Most of the 47 organizations now listed by the State Department as terrorist are linked to Iran, al Qaeda or other Islamic fundamentalist groups.

McCaul’s bill was introduced during a rough month for relations between the United States and Mexico.

Two weeks ago, a New York Times article revealed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was operating unmanned drone spy aircraft over Mexico to gather evidence on drug cartels. The Mexican news media reported widespread outrage about the flights.

On March 19, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual resigned after a dispute with Mexico’s president.

Pascual said in a memo published by the Web site Wikileaks that the Mexican government was mishandling its war against drug cartels.

The Mexican government responded with a statement saying Pascual had shown “ignorance.”

The Mexican government claims to have captured 19 of the country’s 37 main drug cartels leaders. In addition, the drug war violence has been limited to 85 of Mexico’s 2,440 municipalities, a government spokesman said.

However, McCaul says Mexico’s violence is becoming too great of a threat for Americans.

He mentioned as an example the ambush in February north of Mexico City by a drug cartel that killed one Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agent and seriously wounded a second one.

U.S. intelligence officers recently discovered a plot to kill Texas Rangers and federal agents who patrol the 1,900-mile U.S.-Mexico border, McCaul said.

A March 2011 Homeland Security Department advisory “warned that cartels were overheard plotting to kill ICE agents and Texas Rangers guarding the border using AK-47s by shooting at them from across the border,” McCaul said during a hearing this week of the House Homeland Security Committee’s subcommittee on oversight, investigations, and management. McCaul is chairman of the subcommittee.

– Article originally from Gant Daily