The Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has rejected calls from some US lawmakers advocating military action in Mexico against drug cartels, describing the proposals as threats to Mexican sovereignty.
“We are not going to permit any foreign government to intervene in our territory, much less that a government’s armed forces intervene,” López Obrador said during a regular news conference on Thursday.
The kidnapping of four Americans – two of whom were killed – in a northern border state intensified calls from Republican lawmakers in Washington to take a tougher line on organized crime.
A Texas Republican, Dan Crenshaw, on Wednesday released a message in Spanish on Twitter asking López Obrador why he opposes a proposal the congressman introduced in January authorizing US military force targeting drug cartels in Mexico.
“In addition to being irresponsible, it is an offense to the people of Mexico,” said López Obrador, adding that Mexico “does not take orders from anyone”.
The Republican senator Lindsey Graham on Monday said in a Fox News interview that it was time to “put Mexico on notice” and advocated introducing legislation to classify some Mexican drug cartels as “foreign terrorist groups”.
In 2019, Donald Trump made a similar proposal after gunmen murdered nine women and children from an isolated Mormon community – all of whom were US citizens – but the plan went nowhere.
Experts say such a move would have limited impact on Mexico’s fragmented rival crime factions, arguing that although cartels often use terror tactics to impose control, they cannot be conflated with militants who seek political power.
But the fatal kidnappings in Matamoros could complicate delicate efforts to foster closer collaboration between the US and Mexico on immigration and the trafficking of drugs, particularly ultra-lethal fentanyl.
López Obrador said he would begin a public information campaign aimed at Mexicans in the United States about the Republican-led proposal.
If Republican lawmakers try to “use Mexico for their propagandist, electoral and political purposes, we will make a call to not vote for that party”, López Obrador said.
Migration experts have also pointed out that designating drug traffickers as terrorists could have an unintended consequence on the US southern border, where it could bolster the case of migrants fleeing criminal gangs.
US judges routinely reject asylum claims from people fleeing crime, but they have traditionally been more sympathetic to refugees from terrorism.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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