MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Friday Mexico had not been invaded for more than a century and he would not permit another foreign intervention, reflecting tensions over a Trump administration plan to designate drug cartels based in Mexico as terrorist groups.
Designating groups as foreign terrorist organizations is aimed at disrupting their finances through the imposition of U.S. sanctions. While it does not directly give authority for overseas military operations, many Mexicans are nervous that it would lead to unilateral U.S. action against gangs.
“Since 1914 there hasn’t been a foreign intervention in Mexico and we cannot permit that,” Lopez Obrador said at a regular news conference, referring to the U.S. occupation of the port of Veracruz 105 years ago.
“Armed foreigners cannot intervene in our territory,” he said, instead offering more cooperation with the United States on fighting drug gangs, which have shown their power with a series of battles with security forces and civilians in recent months.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr will visit Mexico next week to discuss further security cooperation, Mexico’s foreign minister said earlier. The U.S. embassy in Mexico did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lopez Obrador was responding to comments by U.S. President Donald Trump this week that he was working to designate Mexican cartels as terrorist groups.
The planned Barr visit will be the highest level meeting since a gangland massacre of a U.S.-Mexican family triggered Trump’s terrorist comments.
“What we need to address organized crime is more mutual cooperation, not elements that will put distance between us or create hostilities,” said Ebrard.
(Reporting by Anthony Esposito, Miguel Angel Gutierrez and Abraham Gonzalez; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Berkrot)