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Mexico prosecutes drug traffickers as terrorists

Mexico prosecutes drug traffickers as terrorists

Mexico is using anti-terror laws to prosecute drug traffickers, according to records obtained by The Associated Press, in a dramatic shift for a country that strongly opposed a U.S. proposal to label drug cartels as terrorist organizations.
Last week, for the first time, a furious President Felipe Calderon publicly labeled drug gang members as terrorists.
"We are not confronting common criminals. We are facing true terrorists who have gone beyond all limits," he said in a televised speech after a fiery casino attack left 52 people dead.
And on Wednesday, a Mexican judge charged two people with terrorism and sabotage for allegedly tweeting rumors of purported shootouts and other drug violence that caused a panic in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz.
A U.S. bill by Texas Republican Rep. Mike McCaul would have made providing drug traffickers with money, identification, lodging, training, weapons or transportation subject to 15 years in prison, a life sentence or the death penalty. It was rejected by the Obama Administration, and criticized by Mexico.
Mexico doesn't want to have the U.S. butting into its judicial affairs, or to give the perception that it is a haven for terrorists. And while Mexico defines a terrorist as just about anyone who sets off a bomb, the U.S. definition includes intent to influence the public or government.
Mexican officials repeatedly deny ties between drug cartels and terrorist groups such as al-Qaida.
"Transnational criminal organizations operating in Mexico and the U.S. _ and throughout the Hemisphere _ are not terrorist organizations," said Arturo Sarukhan, Mexican ambassador to the U.S. "They have no political motivation or ideological agenda beyond their attempt to defend their illegal business."
It's an important point in Mexico, where many object to the $90 billion U.S. buildup along the southern border since the Sept. 11 attacks.
Even though no known international terrorist groups operate in Mexico, prosecutors have charged 29 alleged terrorists since 2007 and issued 86 arrest warrants, according to reports released to the AP under Mexico's freedom of information law. Terrorism charges have been levied against cartel members for grenade attacks, blowing up gas lines and other explosions.
Andrew Selee, who directs the Washington-based Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a nonpartisan think tank, said Mexican prosecutors use whatever tools they have to put cartel members behind bars. According to official figures, at least 35,000 people have been killed in drug violence in Mexico since late 2006.
"Mexico's use of anti-terrorism laws is an attempt to get convictions in an inefficient and ineffective judicial system, which desperately needs to be reformed. But it would be a mistake to think that organized crime groups are actually terrorists," said Selee. "They are really more like the mafia than they are like al-Qaida."


Updated : 2021-10-21 09:21 GMT+08:00