At a campaign stop in Iowa on Thursday, a voter asked the presidential candidate whether he would be willing to use drone and military force to secure the southern border against drug and human traffickers.
“Yes, I’ve already said that we will,” DeSantis answered. “We will lean in against the drug cartels. We will absolutely reserve a right — if they’re invading our country and killing our people — we have a right to defend this country.”
DeSantis added he’d be willing to use “whatever force we need” to hold the cartels “accountable” — and not just when they illegally cross the border into the U.S.
“We have the right to hold them accountable, and it’s not just that they happen to come over our border,” he said. “And if Mexico’s not going to help us with that, well, then we’re going to have to do what we have to do.”
DeSantis also expressed support for designating the cartels as a terrorist organization.
“They’re killing tens of thousands of Americans right now,” he said, referring to U.S. overdose deaths caused by fentanyl trafficked over the border. “They’re trafficking people into this country. They’re abusing people, sexual abuse. It’s really the worst of humanity. I would categorize them as something akin to a foreign terrorist organization. I think that’s what they’ve proven to be.”
Former President Donald Trump considered taking military action against the cartels in 2019, and has reportedly asked his 2024 campaign advisers for a range of military options he could employ against the cartels.
“‘Attacking Mexico,’ or whatever you’d like to call it, is something that President Trump has said he wants ‘battle plans’ drawn for,” a source close to the Trump campaign said in March. “He’s complained about missed opportunities of his first term, and there are a lot of people around him who want fewer missed opportunities in a second Trump presidency.”