US federal police officer
© REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
A federal police officer keeps watch after the U.S. Attorney General William Barr's convoy arrived at the Mexico's Attorney General Office, in Mexico City, Mexico December 5, 2019.
US President Donald Trump said he will hold off on designating Mexican drug cartels as terrorists at the request of the country's president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, adding that they will "deal decisively" with them together.

Calling Lopez Obrador, known as AMLO, "a man who I like and respect, and has worked so well with us," Trump said that he will "temporarily" hold off on the terrorist designation despite all the necessary work already being completed.


Obrador responded to the move later on Friday, hailing the decision and expressing gratitude that Trump took his views into consideration, arguing that the two countries ought to work together and respect one another's sovereignty. Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard also weighed in, saying he was "thankful" and that he expected "good results" from future cooperation with the US.

The president initially promised the designation late last month in response to a grisly cartel-linked killing of an American family of nine south of the border, calling on Mexico to "wage war" on organized crime. The request was rebuffed by Mexico City, however, with Obrador insisting that "we can't have foreign forces on our territory for military ends," though he still left "cooperation" on the table.


Earlier this year, under threat of new US tariffs, Mexico agreed to dispatch some 15,000 soldiers to its border to help quell the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States. President Trump may have been referring to that move when he commended Obrador for "working" with Washington.

The Mexican government has come under fire for its handling of cartel violence, which marred last year's election season with a wave of assassinations. Despite waging a low-level military campaign against the armed criminal groups for years, the government was forced to release the son of the notorious drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman in October, finding itself outgunned by the cartels. Officials have since called for a less violent approach focused on negotiations, but it remains unclear whether the new strategy will produce better results.