US Congressman Repeats Call to Designate Mexican Drug Gangs as ‘Terrorists’

For the second time, U.S. congressman Michael McCaul has called for Mexico’s drug trafficking groups to be officially designated as terrorist organizations.

During an October 4 Congressional hearing on the Merida Initiative, the congressman from Texas called on the U.S. government to place Mexico’s drug cartels on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs). As a justification, Representative McCaul said that the violent acts carried out by the groups represent “the very essence of terrorism.”

“The drug cartels intimidate and coerce the civilian population, affect the conduct of the Mexican government and threaten the national security of the United States,” McCaul said, listing the measures that the U.S. government uses to define terrorism.

This is the second time that McCaul has called for this step, having introduced a bill in the House of Representatives in March that sought the same action. As InSight Crime has reported, such a move is both controversial and highly unlikely to take place.

The main issue with the proposal is the differentiation between “criminal” and “terrorist” activity. If, for instance, the powerful Sinaloa Cartel was added to the list of FTOs, it is unclear whether distributors of their product in places like New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta would be considered domestic collaborators. This would also be extremely problematic for many gun stores along the southern border, which are a major source of weaponry to the cartels and could thus be considered guilty of aiding terrorism.