White House opposes designating drug cartels as terrorist organizations

"Designating these cartels as FTOs (foreign terrorist organizations) would not grant us any additional authorities that we don't really have at this time," Jean-Pierre said.

Published: March 8, 2023 4:43pm

Updated: March 8, 2023 5:08pm

The Biden administration on Wednesday announced it would not support efforts to brand Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations, indicating such a move would provide little value in combatting their operations.

"Designating these cartels as FTOs (foreign terrorist organizations) would not grant us any additional authorities that we don't really have at this time. The United States has powerful sanctions authorities specifically designated to combat narcotics trafficking organizations and the individuals and entities that enable them," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Wednesday.

"In the last few months alone Treasury has announced a series of actions against cartels that are dangerous to the public safety and we have also taken action that further enables Treasury to sanction foreign persons," she continued, adding that such efforts had hindered the ability of drug traffickers to hide their assets from the U.S. government.

Many Republicans have called on the Biden administration to label the cartels as FTOs, including Sens. Lindsey Graham, S.C., and John Kennedy, La., who have introduced legislation to designate nine Mexican gangs as FTOs and authorize the use of military force against them.

"It's time now to get serious and use all of the tools in the toolbox. Not just in the prosecution lane, not just in the law enforcement lane, but in the military lane as well," Graham said of the proposal.

Much of the administration's hesitance appears to stem from the likely stiff opposition from the Mexican government, a concern Graham brushed aside, saying President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador allowed the country to "slide into the hands of narco-terrorists."

Such calls have gained increasing traction among lawmakers in the wake of a lethal kidnapping incident in the border town of Matamoros, Mexico, which hosts competing drug cartels due to its status as a staging ground for myriad trafficking operations. A group of four Americans were caught in the crossfire between two rival factions and were kidnapped in the midst of that showdown.

Two have been confirmed dead while the survivors were repatriated to the U.S. on Tuesday to receive medical treatment. At least one has sustained severe injuries.

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on Twitter.

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