A Republican senator has sparked controversy and criticism for proposing a bill that would designate nine Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations and authorize the use of military force against them.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he introduced the bill, called the Ending the Notorious, Aggressive, and Remorseless Criminal Organizations and Syndicates (NARCOS) Act, in response to the recent kidnappings and killings of four Americans in Matamoros, Mexico, and the ongoing fentanyl crisis in the United States.
Graham argued that the Mexican government is unable or unwilling to confront the cartels, which he said are making billions of dollars by sending drugs and violence across the border. He said his bill would allow the US to target the cartels and their supporters with sanctions, prosecutions, deportations, and military strikes.
However, Graham’s bill has been met with strong opposition and criticism from various quarters, including the Mexican government, human rights groups, experts, and some Democrats.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador rejected Graham’s proposal as an interference in his country’s sovereignty and a violation of international law. He said Mexico is not a failed state and that his administration is working to combat the cartels through social programs and dialogue.
Human rights groups warned that Graham’s bill would escalate the violence and suffering in Mexico and undermine the rule of law and human rights. They said labeling the cartels as terrorist groups would not address the root causes of the problem, such as poverty, corruption, impunity, and US demand for drugs.
Experts questioned the effectiveness and legality of Graham’s bill, saying that the cartels do not fit the criteria for terrorist groups, which are defined as having political or ideological motives. They also said that using military force against the cartels would be counterproductive and risky, as it could trigger retaliation, destabilize the region, and harm innocent civilians.
Some Democrats also criticized Graham’s bill as a political stunt and a distraction from other pressing issues. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he does not support Graham’s bill and that he does not consider the cartels to be terrorist groups. He said he favors a more comprehensive and cooperative approach to address the security challenges in Mexico and the US.
Graham’s bill has been co-sponsored by five other Republican senators: Ted Cruz (R-TX), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Rick Scott (R-FL). It is unlikely to pass in the Democratic-controlled Senate or to be signed by President Joe Biden.