Following a massive bust of the notorious Sinaloa Cartel in Ohio, state legislators are utilizing many of Judicial Watch’s arguments to get the federal government to designate Mexican drug cartels as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO).
In a resolution introduced this month, lawmakers in the Buckeye State “respectfully urge the federal government to designate the drug cartels operating from Mexico as foreign terrorist organizations, so that the government may use appropriate means to mitigate and eventually eliminate the operations of the cartels.”
The resolution states that Transitional Criminal Organizations (TCO) based in Mexico (drug cartels) are responsible for the flow of opioids across the border into the United States and Ohio and that they are also responsible for the proliferation of human trafficking in the United States, particularly Ohio, as part and parcel of their drug trafficking operations.
The document points out that drug cartels conduct operations on U.S. soil in furtherance of drug and human trafficking and that abuse of opioids and human trafficking are direct threats to the economy, well-being and overall vitality of the state of Ohio and its citizens. “The acting administrator of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, Uttam Dhillon, recently declared Mexican drug trafficking organizations are the biggest criminal threat the United States faces today,” the Ohio resolution states.
The measure further points out that the Immigration and Nationality Act authorizes the U.S. Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Attorney General, to designate an organization as an FTO when certain criteria are met. Drug cartels meet the criteria, Ohio lawmakers assert, because they are foreign in nature, engage in or retain the capability and intent to engage in terrorism and threaten the security of American citizens and the national defense, foreign relations and economic interests of the United States.
Judicial Watch made parallel arguments in a White Paper published last month. In it, Judicial Watch provides comprehensive documentation that Mexican drug cartels, notoriously sophisticated criminal operations, undoubtedly meet the U.S. government’s requirements to be designated FTOs. The criteria for FTO designation requires that organizations be foreign, engage in terrorism or terrorist activity or possess the capability and intent to do so and pose a threat to U.S. nationals or U.S. national security. Mexican drug cartels are inherently foreign, routinely commit criminal acts within the statutory definition of terrorism and arguably represent a more immediate and ongoing threat to U.S. national security than any of the currently-designated FTOs on the State Department list.
Properly designating the major Mexican TCOs—including Los Zetas, Juárez and Sinaloa cartels—as FTOs would enhance the federal government’s ability to combat that threat, Judicial Watch’s White Paper reveals. An official FTO designation would enable the prosecution of those who provide material support to them, facilitate the denial of entry and deportation of TCO members and affiliates and eliminate the organizations’ access to the U.S. financial system.
“FTO designations play a critical role in our fight against terrorism and are an effective means of curtailing support for terrorist activities and pressuring groups to get out of the terrorism business,” according to the State Department. For years Mexican cartels have hijacked and sabotaged buses, commercial trucks and trains, activity constituting terrorist activity under U.S. law. The White Paper lists specific cases, including gasoline tankers and more than a dozen robberies daily of Ferromex trains, one of the three largest rail transport operators in the country.
Mexican TCOs have also committed hundreds of political assassinations in recent years and members of Los Zetas launched a grenade and shot small arms fire at the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey. Los Zetas members also murdered Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agent Jaime Zapata a few years ago. Judicial Watch’s White Paper also documents Mexican cartels’ use of explosive devices and high-caliber firearms, including rocket-propelled grenades and other military weapons.
In 2018 Mexican officials seized nearly 2,000 high-caliber weapons from suspected cartel associates in Mexico City and there have been approximately 150,000 organized-crime related murders in Mexico since 2006. Last year alone, there were nearly 1,200 kidnappings in Mexico, according to official figures provided in the White Paper.
Most of the crimes are financially motivated, but a significant number are executed to intimidate political, judicial, military and law enforcement officials from going after cartel members. Examples include two Mexican federal agents kidnapped and murdered by the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación, the kidnapping of Veracruz congresswoman-elect Norma Rodriguez and the kidnapping of Hidalgo Mayor Genero Urbano.
Under U.S. law the seizing or detaining and threatening to kill, injure, or continue to detain, another individual in order to compel a third person (including a governmental organization) to do or abstain from doing any act as an explicit or implicit condition for the release of the seized individual constitutes terrorist activity. The danger created by these criminal enterprises is nothing new. Years ago the DEA determined that Mexican TCOs are the greatest criminal threat to the United States.