Sen. Bob Menendez would not commit to labeling drug cartels terrorist organizations until the Mexican government becomes more aggressive in dealing with them.
“Well, slapping a designation isn’t in and of itself going to change anything,” said Menendez during an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press March 12. “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.”
When asked if designating the cartels as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) would help or hurt the ability to work with the Mexican government, Menendez opined that designation should be saved “for truly terrorist organizations in the world” and the placing that designation “in and of itself means nothing.” “I’m more interested in doing something that ultimately seeks to destroy the cartels than to just name them,” he said. “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.”
López Obrador Criticism
Menendez was critical of the policies of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, saying that it has contributed to the high profile abduction of four Americans, leading to the death of two of them.
“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,” said Menendez. “The reality is along the border communities it is the cartels that run the border communities, not the government of Mexico.”
Menendez said a course correction is needed within Mexico and how the U.S. engages with the country on the Southern border as “we are headed in the wrong direction in Mexico.”
Sharing of Intel
“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,” he said. “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.”
“We have to engage the Mexicans in a way that says, ‘You’ve got to do a lot more on your security’,” stated the chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “We can help them. We have intelligence. We have other information we can share. But we need them to enforce in their own country.
Asked about the recent direction of the Biden Administration in regards to illegal immigration at the Southern border, New Jersey’s senior senator wants “a surge at the border” of resources to help with the crisis.
Fixing Immigration Pathway
“What we need is a comprehensive plan to deal with the border, and what are the elements, the push and pull factors, that bring people to this country?” he said. “We’ll need to find legal pathways so that people don’t surge to the border because they are fleeing, because if my situation is I am in a country where staying means I will most certainly die, see my daughter raped or my son forced into a gang, I’m going to flee.”
Menendez noted that three biggest countries coming across the border currently are Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, people fleeing dictatorships.
“When the administration opened up a legal pathway for those fleeing, it dramatically saw the reduction,” he said. “It’s just an example of what you can do in a way that both is good for the border and preserves our nation as a nation that preserves asylum.”
“But if not, if the administration does go down this path, I am afraid that the president will become the “Asylum Denier-in-Chief.”