Nov. 27 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump said in an interview Tuesday he plans to formally designate Mexican drug cartels as foreign "terrorist" organizations.
Trump's comments, posted on the website of conservative commentator and author Bill O'Reilly, came just weeks after nine members of an American family were killed in an ambush on a Mexico highway believed to have been linked to a drug cartel.
Trump said the designation gives the United States more authority to target Mexican drug organizations.
"We are losing 100,000 people a year to what is happening and what is coming through from Mexico," Trump said in his remarks. "Absolutely they will be designated. I have been working on that for the last 90 days.
"Designation is not that easy, you have to go through a process, and we are well into that process."
Trump's plan likely comes as a surprise to Mexican officials. Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard told reporters Monday he didn't anticipate cartels would receive a U.S. "terrorist" designation.
"You do not need to designate or classify a specific group as terrorists so that we act together against it," he said then.
After Trump's comments, Ebrard tweeted that Mexico rejects unsolicited foreign influence in domestic affairs.
"Mexico will not allow any action that signifies violation of its national sovereignty," he said. "Mutual respect is the basis of cooperation."
Mexico's Foreign Ministry responded by saying it will address the issue with U.S. authorities to understand "the content and the reach" of the plan.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he would rather "send a hug to Americans" than comment on the potential terrorist designation.
"Just to say cooperation yes, interventionism no," he said.