WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump said Friday in a tweet that he will hold off on designating Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations.
Trump said all the work had been completed and he was statutorily ready to issue a declaration but had decided to delay at the request of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
There was no immediate confirmation from Mexico, but the government had pushed back against Trump's plan, saying such a step by the U.S. could lead to violations of its sovereignty.
“All necessary work has been completed to declare Mexican Cartels terrorist organizations,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Statutorily we are ready to do so.”
“However, at the request of a man who I like and respect, and has worked so well with us, President Andres Manuel (at) LopezObrador — will will temporarily hold off on this designation.”
Under pressure from Trump's threat to impose tariffs, Mexico has pressed thousands of national guard troops into service to help block Central American migrants from traveling through Mexico to reach the U.S.
In place of designating the cartels as terrorist outfits, Trump said the U.S. and Mexico instead will “step up our joint efforts to deal decisively with these vicious and every-growing organizations.”
Trump had said in a radio interview just last week that he “absolutely” would move ahead with designating the drug cartels as terrorist organizations, attributing American deaths to drug trafficking and other activity by the cartels.
“I’ve been working on that for the last 90 days,” Trump said in the interview when host Bill O'Reilly asked whether such a designation would be forthcoming.
O'Reilly had asked if Trump would designate the cartels “and start hitting them with drones and things like that?”
Trump replied: “I don't want to say what I'm going to do, but they will be designated.”
Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard sought meetings with U.S. government officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Ebrard also said on Twitter that he would use diplomacy to “defend sovereignty.”