WASHINGTON, D.C. (WCBD)- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Wednesday said it was time to unleash the “fury and might of the United States” on Mexican drug cartels following the kidnapping of four American citizens on Friday.
The call came during a Wednesday press conference with Sen. Ted Kennedy (R-La.) in which Graham said Mexican cartels have been terrorizing Americans for decades.
“We’re going to destroy their business model and their lifestyle because our national security and the security of the United States as a whole depends on us taking decisive action,” he said.
Graham detailed plans to introduce two-part legislation that would designate certain cartels in Mexico as foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) under U.S. law and authorize the use of military force against them.
“Once you’re designated an FTO, the second step we’ll be engaging in is giving the military the authority to go after these organizations wherever they exist,” Graham said.
A driving force behind the proposal is the number of illegal drugs, primarily fentanyl, pouring into the U.S. through the southern border, which Graham said was a “game-changer.”
In 2021, more than 106,000 drug overdose deaths were reported in the U.S., about 70,000 of which involved fentanyl, according to the National Institute of Health.
“Fentanyl is a weapon of mass destruction,” Graham said. “It’s time now to get serious and use all the tools in the toolbox.”
The senator had also strong words for Mexico’s top leadership, saying the country has become a “narco-terrorist state” and a safe haven for cartels.
“It’s coming from your country. You’re allowing safe havens for these groups to operate with impunity because what you’re doing is not working,” he said, addressing Mexico’s president. “Your country is being used by narco-terrorists to poison America…you’re leaving us with no other choice.”
The White House responded to the push from lawmakers to designate Mexican cartels as terror groups, arguing it would have little impact.
“Designating these cartels as [foreign terrorist organizations] would not grant us any additional authorities that we don’t really have at this time,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a briefing with reporters. “The United States has powerful sanctions authorities specifically designated to combat narcotics trafficking organizations and the individuals and entities that enable them. So, we have not been afraid to use them.”
Graham and Kennedy said they plan to unveil the legislation in the coming days.