Mexican cartel responsible for killing Americans may be classified Foreign Terrorist Organization
The Mexican drug cartel responsible for kidnapping four United States citizens and killing two of them could be deemed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).
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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated at a March hearing that the department is considering designating the Gulf Cartel, responsible for the kidnapping and killing, an FTO. The designation has been gaining traction and interest as a tool to fight cartel activities in recent years, according to CBS News.
The FTO classification has been gaining interest among political bodies and figures due to its ability to unlock more foreign sanctions and the “material support” charge.
Once designated an FTO, anyone knowingly providing material support to the terrorist organization within United States’ jurisdiction can face the material support charge, which brings sentences of fines and imprisonment, according to the Department of Justice’s website.
However, to be deemed an FTO, the crime organization must meet three criteria. First, the organization must be foreign-based. Second, they must engage in terrorist activity. Finally, their activities must threaten U.S. citizens or U.S. national security.
If the organization meets all three criteria, the secretary of state, in coordination with the attorney general and treasury secretary, can deem the entity an FTO. The designation is sent to Congress for review and, if no issues are raised within seven days, the Federal Register publishes the new classification.
The FTO designation has been getting support not only after the killing of two Americans, but also because of the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) findings that stated their 2022 seizures of fentanyl could kill every American. Last year, DEA reported seizing more than 50 million fentanyl-laced pills and over 10,000 pounds of fentanyl powder, most of which came through the southern border.
While FTO appears to be an appealing step forward, some experts claimed that the designation would not stop cartels.
FTO labeling would get the organization’s and their participants’ attention, Javed Ali, associate professor of practice at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, said. It would also allow the U.S. to impose more severe charges, such as the material support charge, for low-level offenses. But, cartels will continue to smuggle in contraband despite stricter enforcements.
The designation could also negatively impact U.S.-Mexico relations with its sanctions, making it harder for the Mexican government and law enforcement agencies to cooperate with U.S. forces.
“We have enormous authority already in dealing with drug trafficking organizations, in terms of all the policing capabilities we have to deal with them, particularly in the United States,” Pamela Starr, an international relations professor at the University of Southern California, told CBS News. “What it would do, however, is undermine bilateral cooperation with Mexico, and that would dramatically undermine our capacity to deal with the challenges in Mexico.”
Although Blinken stated his department is considering the route, an official plan has yet to be announced.