Abbott signed the order on Wednesday as the state continues border security measures under Operation Lone Star. The governor made the announcement at a news conference in Midland with some elected officials and law enforcement officers, including Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steve McCraw.
“Fentanyl is a clandestine killer, and Texans are victimized by Mexican cartels that produce and import it. So, cartels are terrorists, and it’s time that we started treating them that way,” Abbott said.
The governor stated that the leading cause of death of Americans between the ages of 18 and 45 is fentanyl overdoses.
“This is extraordinarily dangerous and could be a weapon of mass destruction imposed by Mexican cartels,” Abbott said, noting that most of the “subcomponents” of fentanyl are produced in China.
By declaring cartels terrorist organizations, Abbott directed DPS to “seize assetts” and “disrupt cartel networks.”
Abbott also said that he will work to pass a bill during the 88th Legislature to label fentanyl overdose deaths as “fentanyl poisoning” and “elevate to murder the charge of anyone who knowingly provides fentanyl to someone who loses their life because of it.”
Former President Trump almost declared criminal Mexican cartels terrorist organizations during his administration, but decided against it after the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, opposed the move. Trump hoped to keep good diplomatic relations with López Obrador.
Last week, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton joined attorneys general from 16 other states and Guam calling on President Biden or Congress to declare fentanyl a weapon of mass destruction.
Via Operation Lone Star, law enforcement in Texas has confiscated enough fentanyl to cause 340.5 million fatal overdoses, enough to kill the entire population of the United States, according to a recent update from Abbott’s office.
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Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."