In some of the footage, five members of what’s believed to be the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico were brought into the woods and beheaded by a rival cartel. Some say it seemed reminiscent of ISIS beheading videos that circulated online over the years.
Another gruesome image recently appeared of a woman hanging from a bridge in Mexico. Her body was covered with markings and words warning that the same thing could happen to other cartels and people who stand up to their organization.
Authorities say this kind of violence and intimidation is not uncommon for cartels. It’s why some investigators and lawmakers are wondering if treating cartels as terrorist groups is a direction the U.S. should consider.
“They should have been labeled a terrorist group a long, long time ago,” Art Del Cueto with the National Border Patrol Council told NewsNation reporter Robert Sherman. “A lot of these organizations work in 86 different countries. I mean, that alone should be an eye-opener. It is hand in hand with being a terrorist organization.”
Some in Congress are working on legislation that treats cartels like terrorist organizations from a legal standpoint.
“I’ve been working with Democrats who are interested in national security, who care about this issue, on the authorized use of military force against the cartels, on another bill that declares war on them, in a sense,” Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) told “NewsNation Live.” “It treats them like a terrorist organization legally, without calling them a terrorist organization.”
Chris Hahn, host of “The Aggressive Progressive” podcast, says fentanyl’s impact on communities across the country is getting more lawmakers involved in pushing for border security measures. But he does not think cartels should be classified as terrorist groups.
“I think that these cartels have far too much power and authority in Mexico, but there needs to be a bilateral arrangement between Mexico and the United States to take them down. (But) they don’t have a political agenda. They have a money-making agenda. They are an international criminal organization, and they should be treated as such, and they should be dealt with as such,” Hahn said.
Over the years, investigators say the structure of cartels is seeming to change after kingpins at the top have been targeted. Son of imprisoned drug lord “El Chapo” — Ovidio Guzmán — who is a reported leader of the Sinaloa cartel, was recently arrested.
“What you see now is a rather flat organizational structure. They’re like cell types. If you took the title ‘cartel’ away and just looked at the way they organized, you’d think, hey, that’s a terrorist group from the Middle East,” Victor Manjarraz, a former Border Patrol sector chief, told Sherman.
The Sinaloa cartel, described by investigators as one of the most dangerous, at one point used cross-country “cells” to distribute drugs from the southern border to the East Coast and then sent drug money to the West Coast and eventually back to Mexico.
The grisly cartel videos come as the U.S. Department of State continues to urge Americans to avoid travel to parts of Mexico. The department issued a renewed warning ahead of spring break for most Americans.
Amid fears of violence by cartels, every border state in Mexico has at least a “reconsider travel” status from the U.S. Department of State.
NewsNation reporter Robert Sherman contributed to this report.