Doubling Down: Why Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations Should Be Designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations and as Significant Narcotics Traffickers

By Hanen, Kelly | American Journal of Criminal Law, Spring 2016 | Go to article overview

Doubling Down: Why Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations Should Be Designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations and as Significant Narcotics Traffickers


Hanen, Kelly, American Journal of Criminal Law


I. Introduction........................................................................................174

II. The Evolution of the Cartel................................................................175

A. In the beginning there was Colombia and Colombia had cocaine....................................................................................175

B. Creation of the Mexican Drug Cartels and the Rise of Turf Wars........................................................................................177

C. The Present Status.....................................................................182

III. Foreign Terrorist Organization Designation.......................................188

A. Designation Process..................................................................188

B. Effects of Designation..............................................................190

IV. Mexican Drug Cartels are Foreign Terrorist Organizations...............190

V. Effects of Designating Mexican Drug Cartels as FTOs.....................192

A. Benefits of Designating Mexican Drug Cartels as FTOs..........192

B. Disadvantages of Designating Mexican Drug Cartels as FTOs.......................................................................................196

C. H.R. 1270: Previous attempt to designate MDTOs as FTOs.... 199

VI. Doubling Down with an FTO and an FNKDA Designation..............199

A. The FTO and the FNKDA........................................................199

B. Joint Use of the FTO and FNKDA...........................................201

VII. Conclusion........................................................................................202

I. Introduction

"[The Mexican drug cartels'] real product isn't drugs, it's the two-thousand-mile border they share with the United States. . . . Land can be burned, crops can be poisoned, people can be displaced, but that border ... isn't going anywhere."1

As the video begins, four masked men are seen wielding machetes over several men kneeling on the ground.2 The hands of the kneeling men are bound behind their backs as they are forced to look ahead into the camera.3 A man can be heard from behind the camera prompting the executioners to explain why the men are about to be executed.4 They begin to plead for mercy as the man behind the camera gives the signal and the painfully brutal process of beheading the men begins.5 Moments later, the masked criminals hold up the severed heads as the cameraman congratulates them, saying "very good."6 This video will later be posted online as a message to others-a warning.7

At first sight, a viewer's mind might logically leap to a highly publicized execution carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (more commonly known as ISIS) in the last year.8 The above act of terror, however, hits much closer to home. These executions took place in a Mexican town just six miles south of the Texas/Mexico border and were carried out by the Gulf Cartel, an infamous Mexican drug trafficking organization.9

The Gulf Cartel is just one of many violent drug cartels that have gained control over large sections of Mexico by terrorizing the Mexican public, governmental officials, journalists who report on their activities, and even the Mexican military. While not the kind of Middle-Eastern, ideologically-driven organization that is generally associated with the word "terrorism," the Mexican drug cartels are just as violent as ISIS or Al-Qaeda.10 They are also arguably more dangerous to the U.S. due to their proximity and their current influence (and control) over the southern border. Due to the threat that these organizations pose, it seems logical to ask whether the State Department should formally recognize the factual reality of this situation and formally designate Mexican drug cartels as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs). FTOs are foreign organizations that are designated by the Secretary of State in accordance with section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). …

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