Mar 16, 2023

The Growing Push To Wage War on Mexican Cartels

Weeks after a Mexican cartel shootout killed two Americans, politicians push for more severe measures amid a border crisis.

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What’s happening: A growing number of lawmakers are pushing to label Mexican drug cartels as terrorist groups as pressure mounts to address increasing violence and drug trafficking. On Friday, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) introduced a bill to list four cartels as foreign terrorist organizations for their roles in gang violence and fentanyl trafficking. The move comes on the heels of a kidnapping in early March that left two Americans dead in a cartel shootout.

Name game: “The cartels have to be addressed if we’re going to control our border,” argues former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who defends the terrorist label. And he’s not the only one. Former President Donald Trump vowed to deploy U.S. special forces on the cartels if elected, saying it's time to “wage war on cartels,” and other GOP voices like Vivek Ramaswamy and Sen. Lindsey Graham have endorsed the idea.

Where we stand: Although 69 percent of Americans support labeling cartels as terrorist groups, the White House has said that this would not expand America’s power to combat cartels. Still, the threat remains. Fentanyl-related deaths are on the rise, with the primary source of illicit fentanyl entering the United States from Mexican drug cartels. More than 350 million lethal doses of fentanyl were seized last year. Even as fentanyl seizures concentrate at the border, the Mexican president remains vehemently opposed to any U.S. military action.

Read our deep dive—America At War: The Fentanyl Crisis Killing Hundreds of Thousands.

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