Justice in Mexico

Mexico to Prosecute Members of Criminal Organizations as Terrorists

09/04/11 – Drug traffickers and members of criminal organizations can now be prosecuted as terrorists in Mexico, reported the Associated Press (AP). Following the deadly attack by the Zetas on the casino in Monterrey on August 25 that left over 50 people dead, President Felipe Calderón publicly labeled criminal organizations as “terrorists” for the first time. His statement defied past governments who have long rejected the term claiming that such criminal groups have no political aspirations. “It is evident that we are not facing common delinquents” said Calderón. A few days later on August 30, a judge prosecuted two individuals for terrorism and sabotage after they used Twitter to threaten to bomb an elementary school in the state of Veracruz, causing alarm among parents and citizens.

Mexico’s deeming of such criminal activity as terrorism has brought the debate over how the United States and Mexico define the term back into discussion. According to the Associated Press, Mexican law considers any act that may cause fear or produce terror with the use of explosives, fire guns, or toxic chemicals as terrorism, wherein U.S. law includes the intent to influence the government or the public. In defense of the latter definition, Arturo Sarukhan, Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, continues to argue that “criminal organizations in Mexico have no political or ideological agenda, but rather only to protect their illicit businesses.”

Additionally, no connection has been found between drug trafficking organizations in Mexico and members of Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups. However, since 2007 the AP has documented at least 29 court cases in Mexico where the defendants were charged with terrorism. Those found guilty of terrorism or cyberterrorism in Mexico can face up to 30 years in prison.


Soberanes, Rodrigo. “Auto de formal prisión por terrorismo a 2 usuarios de Twitter en Veracruz.” CNN Expansión. August 31, 2011.

Castillo, Eduardo. “Mexico Prosecutes Drug Traffickers as Terrorists.” AP/Eyewitness News 9. September 3, 2011.

Que México usa leyes antiterroristas con narcos.” El Universal. September 4, 2011.

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