WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said he will designate Mexican drug cartels as terrorist groups for their role in trafficking narcotics and people, prompting a speedy request for talks by Mexico.
"They will be designated … I have been working on that for the last 90 days. You know, designation is not that easy, you have to go through a process, and we are well into that process," Trump said in an interview aired on Tuesday with conservative media personality Bill O'Reilly.
Soon afterwards, Mexico's foreign ministry issued a statement saying it would quickly seek a high-level meeting with US State Department officials to address the legal designation as well as the flow of arms and money to organised crime.
"The foreign minister will establish contact with his counterpart, Michael R Pompeo, in order to discuss this very important issue for the bilateral agenda," the ministry said.
Once a particular group is designated as a terrorist organisation, under US law it is illegal for people in the United States to knowingly offer support and its members cannot enter the country and may be deported.
Financial institutions that become aware they have funds connected to the group must block the money and alert the US Treasury Department.
Earlier this month, Trump had offered in a tweet to help Mexico "wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth" in the aftermath of the bloodiest attack on US citizens in Mexico for years.