State Department: Mexican Drug Cartel Activity Is ‘Consistent With’ Terrorism

By Edwin Mora | October 17, 2011 | 6:01pm EDT

Mexican Gen. Antonio Erasto Monsivais views weapons seized from drug gangs, in a government warehouse for seized weapons in Mexico City. (AP Photo)

( by Mexican drug cartels are “consistent” with what the U.S. would consider to be “terrorism or insurgency” in other parts of the world, a State Department official told lawmakers on Thursday.

“I do acknowledge that many of the facts on the ground, the things that are being done by those organizations, are consistent with what we would call either terrorism or insurgency in other countries,” William Brownfield told a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on emerging threats and security in the western hemisphere.

Brownfield, assistant secretary at the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, was responding to a question from Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.), chairman of the Foreign Affairs western hemisphere subcommittee.

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“If the cartels in Mexico are offering health care, if they’re trying to displace the government, isn’t that a political – isn’t that politically motivated? Mack asked. “[G]oing into these communities and putting on barbecues or picnics and trying to win the support of the public so the public will listen to the cartels and not the government, isn’t that a political motivation?”

Following Brownfield’s response, Mack remarked, “It is clear that an insurgency is happening in Mexico.”

Asked by Mack about difference between Mexican drug cartels and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Brownfield contended that while the Colombian group “claims to have a political, philosophical, and ideological philosophy” the Mexican organizations do not.

Mexican soldiers stand guard around a huge cache of arms seized in a 2008 raid on safe houses in northern Mexico – across the Rio Grande from Hidalgo County, Texas – belonging to the notorious Los Zetas drug cartel. (AP Photo)

Last March, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the Homeland Security subcommittee on oversight, investigations and management, introduced legislation directing the State Department to designate Mexican drug cartels as “foreign terrorist organizations” (FTOs).

FTO designation would place the gangs in the same category as organizations such as FARC, al-Qaeda and Hezbollah. It would allow the U.S. government to freeze the cartels’ monetary assets and prosecute anyone providing them with material support or financial resources.

Administration officials argue that McCaul’s initiative is unnecessary, on the grounds there are already enough laws on the books to deal with the drug gangs.

“We have to look through just the [FTO] label and think through what the implications of the label would be,” Brownfield said during an Oct. 4 joint hearing of Foreign Affairs and Homeland Security subcommittees.

“What is the implication of us making this determination?” he asked. “What does it give us that is more than what we already have?”

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