States call on Biden to label Mexican cartels as terrorist groups

(NewsNation) — Attorneys general for 21 states are calling on President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to designate Mexcian drug cartels as terrorist organizations.

In a letter sent Wednesday, the Republican state officials said the cartels pose a severe threat to the nation and have caused a deadly drug crisis that killed more than 100,000 Americans last year.

Now, those criminal organizations have expanded their influence beyond the sale of lethal drugs, the AGs wrote.

“The same cartels who produce and traffic this dangerous chemical (fentanyl) are also assassinating rivals and government officials, ambushing, and killing Americans at the border, and engaging in an armed insurgency against the Mexican government,” the letter reads.

The attorneys general said designating the cartels as terrorist organizations would give state and federal law enforcement increased power to freeze cartel assets, deny members entry to the U.S., and allow prosecutors to pursue tougher punishments against those who support the cartels.

Those who signed the letter argued that current countermeasures such as the Kingpin Act are inadequate, in part because Mexican drug cartels “have diversified their operations” to include seemingly legitimate businesses like “gasoline pipelines, gold mines and even supermarkets.”

The Kingpin Act refers to Clinton-era legislation that gives the U.S. president and the Treasury Department the power to identify and freeze the assets of “significant foreign narcotics traffickers.”

The AGs said the law focuses “too narrowly on financial transactions” with drug lords who are already identified as such.

The letter echoes previous calls to declare fentanyl a weapon of mass destruction. So far, no such declaration has been made.

In his State of the Union speech Tuesday, Biden called on Congress to start a “major surge” to prevent the flow of fentanyl over the southern border and called for more drug detection machines to inspect cargo.

The president called for “strong penalties to crack down on fentanyl trafficking,” but some harm reduction advocates fear that tactic could lead to adverse consequences.

They say stricter penalties could make it harder for researchers to study the drugs or deter addicts from seeking treatment.

“If people know they’re going to get in trouble for using substances, they’re going to be reluctant to call for help,” Maritza Perez Medina, director of federal affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, told The Associated Press.

As policymakers debate the best strategy moving forward, border agents continue to seize record quantities of fentanyl.

Through the first three months of this fiscal year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has seized more than 9,000 pounds of fentanyl. In 2020, CBP seized less than 5,000 pounds for the entire year.


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