The extended family of three women and six children who were murdered in Bavispe, Sonora, earlier this month is asking the United States government to designate Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations.
Uploaded to the White House online platform “We the People,” the LeBarón family petition says that cartels control the flow of illegal drugs into the United States from Mexico, including heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and “ultra-deadly” fentanyl.
“With seemingly unlimited resources it has proven almost impossible to stop them. They run major human trafficking networks. They kidnap and extort with almost complete impunity. Their unbridled acts of violence and murder have overrun our borders and created an international crisis. They seek political power in order to create a narco-state in Mexico,” the petition says.
“Each year, there are approximately 35% more murders committed in Mexico than by all officially designated terrorist groups combined. We cannot afford to continue the same failed policies used to combat organized crime. They are terrorists, and it’s time to acknowledge it!”
The petition needs 100,000 signatures by December 24 in order to get a response from the White House.
Bryan LeBarón, a California-based activist with close links to the Mormon communities in northern Mexico, told the newspaper El Universal that the aim of the petition is to attract the attention of the presidents of both the United States and Mexico and encourage them to develop a joint strategy to combat drug cartels.
“People are afraid that Mexico’s sovereignty will be affected but there are ways to respect the country’s laws and achieve more effective collaboration,” said the dual U.S. and Mexican citizen.
LeBarón claimed that “Mexico doesn’t have enough resources, soldiers or weapons” to combat organized crime on its own.
“We saw that in the release of the son of El Chapo Guzmán and also in the massacre of my family. They [the security forces] took almost eight hours to arrive,” he said.
“The hugs, not bullets, strategy isn’t going to work,” LeBarón added, referring to President López Obrador’s plan to reduce violence through social programs rather than the use of force.
The social change that López Obrador is trying to achieve is unattainable without security, he said.
“It doesn’t matter how much is invested in education or how much they seek to help the middle class or the poorest people, without security it’s not possible, as honorable as the president may be,” LeBarón said.
The activist said that members of the LeBarón family will ask López Obrador during a scheduled December 2 meeting to accept United States President Donald Trump’s offer to help Mexico “wage war” on cartels.
AMLO, as the president is widely known, quickly declined the offer, telling reporters on November 5 that his response to Trump was a “categorical no,” explaining, “we have to act independently in accordance with our constitution.”
Both the president and Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard repeated that message on Monday morning. The latter said the the petition to have narcos declared terrorists was unnecessary because Mexico would not permit any kind of foreign intervention.
Furthermore, he said, there have been advances in the joint investigation into the November ambush of the Mormon women and children but declined to offer details.
The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation is working with Mexican authorities on the investigation.
Security Secretary Alfonso Durazo said on November 11 that suspects had been arrested in connection with the attack, which federal authorities believe was perpetrated by La Línea, a gang with links to the Juárez Cartel. But no additional details regarding the arrests have been given.
Authorities said the gang may have mistaken the vehicles in which the murdered women and children were traveling as those of a splinter cell of the Sinaloa Cartel known as Los Salazar. However, family members rejected the hypothesis.