Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) suggested during a Sunday interview that Mexican drug cartels, which are responsible for countless American deaths each year, are not terrorist organizations.
Menendez made the remarks during an interview on NBC News’s “Meet the Press” when asked about growing chatter from U.S. officials that it might be time to officially designate the cartels as Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
“Well, slapping a designation isn’t in and of itself going to change anything,” he said. “We should save that for truly terrorist organizations in the world. Certainly, they are consequential to questions of national security. I’m more interested in doing something that ultimately seeks to destroy the cartels than to just name them. You know, you name them a foreign terrorist organization, that in and of itself means nothing.”
Democrat Senator Bob Menendez won’t say if he’d vote to declare Mexican cartels as foreign terrorist organizations: “We should save that for truly terrorist organizations in the world.” pic.twitter.com/X7ATqGuwu6
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CHUCK TODD: Let me move to what happened to those four Americans this weekend, what it exposed, which is the fact that this is an administration in Mexico that has chosen a different tact in dealing with the cartels, meaning they don’t want to deal with them the way the previous administration did, and they don’t seem to want to work with the United States and get our help in dealing with these cartels. How do we deal with this when you have a Mexican government that may not be on the same page?
SEN. BOB MENENDEZ: Well, this is one of our great challenges. President López Obrador talked about, when he took office, about, “Kisses, not bullets.” Well, that’s not working too well. The reality is along the border communities it is the cartels that run the border communities, not the government of Mexico. Mexico has a responsibility, first and foremost, to its own citizens to establish safety and security within its own territory and to those who visit its country, as well. And so we need to up, dramatically, in our engagement with Mexico. It can’t be all about economics. It has to be about safety and security, as well. And I am afraid that we are headed in the wrong direction in Mexico on that and on democracy questions, as well. So this is a present danger that we have to deal with. And we have to engage the Mexicans in a way that says, “You’ve got to do a lot more on your security.” We can help them. We have intelligence. We have other information we can share. But we need them to enforce in their own country.
CHUCK TODD: Do you think designating the cartels as a foreign terrorist organization helps or hurts that ability to work with the Mexican government?
SEN. BOB MENENDEZ: Well, slapping a designation isn’t in and of itself going to change anything. The question is: How do you go after the cartels? How do you dry up their money? How do you go after their leadership? How do you put them away? How do you deny visas for Mexican government officials who ultimately are not engaging in the act of prosecution of the cartels? Those are some of the things that you can do that ultimately mean something at the end of the day.
CHUCK TODD: How would you vote on this? It may come to a vote. Would you vote to designate these cartels terrorist organizations?
SEN. BOB MENENDEZ: Well, that has a certain designation. We should save that for truly terrorist organizations in the world. Certainly, they are consequential to questions of national security. I’m more interested in doing something that ultimately seeks to destroy the cartels than to just name them. You know, you name them a foreign terrorist organization, that in and of itself means nothing. You ultimately go after their leadership. You jail them. You ultimately go after their money. You dry it up. You ultimately go after those who are supposed to be enforcing the law. And now you have a real consequence.