05/14/11 – Representatives of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Justice (DOJ) decided not to classify Mexican drug cartels as terrorists, an announcement that was made public on Thursday May 12. According to the DHS Office of Anti-terrorism Director, Grayling Williams, the mechanisms and laws already in place in the U.S. to deal with drug trafficking are sufficient and the proposed terrorist classification would be unnecessary. Amy Pope, the Deputy Chief of Staff and Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General, reiterated Williams’ remarks, stating, “I don’t think we need it because… we already have very, very strong penalties here in the U.S.” Pope further commented on the available possibility of extraditing Mexican drug cartel members to the U.S. to face the stronger and stricter justice system, reported El Universal.
The refusal to label cartels as terrorist organizations occurred despite the efforts of various congressmen to convince their peers that Mexican drug cartels not only pose a serious threat to Americans, but that their operations are already well-established inside the U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Austin), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Management, stated, “Do not be mistaken. The drug cartels are here. The Department of Homeland Security reports that they operate in 276 cities inside the U.S. Only after the murder of ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] agent Jaime Zapata were 450 cartel members arrested in this country.”
McCaul initially introduced legislation to Congress on March 30 that called on the government to label six Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations. According to the State Department, such a designation serves “as an effective means of curtailing support for terrorist activities and pressuring groups to get out of the terrorism business.” The decision to leave Mexico’s cartels off of the list of terrorist organizations highlighted the distinction the DHS and DOJ made between the cartels and organizations like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios de Colombia, FARC), stated El Universal. More information on McCaul’s proposed legislation can be found at: http://justiceinmexico.org/2011/04/01/us-congressman-proposes-legislation-labeling-drug-cartels-as-terrorists/