by Tom Ramstack

Washington, D.C.

Drug cartels are trying to overcome resistance to their U.S. distribution networks through "narco-terrorism," according to 2012 presidential candidates.

The candidates are speaking out against drug smugglers who use extreme violence and threats at a time Congress is searching for solutions to the international crime.

A House Foreign Affairs subcommittee plans a hearing for Wednesday on the suspected drastic methods cartels use to establish footholds in the United States.

Last week, Republican presidential candidate Michelle Bachman advocated a tougher stance against Mexican drug cartels.

She said during a campaign speech in Sioux City, Iowa the U.S. government should erect a fence over the entire southern border to keep out drug smugglers.

"We should build a fence on every mile, every yard, every foot and every inch of that southern border because we are engaged in a narco-terrorism war," Bachmann said. "Narcotics are coming through. Guns are coming through and also terrorists."

Her rhetoric against drug gangs was joined by Republican candidate Rick Perry, who said narco-terrorists represent a "clear" and "imminent" danger to the United States.

He said the federal government should consider all its options to respond to the "threat."

Perry spoke during a conference organized by conservative groups.

"Make no mistake," Perry said. "What we are looking at south of the border is nothing less than a war waged by these narco-terrorists. They are spreading violence in American cities and selling poison to our children."

He was referring to Mexican President Felipe Calderon's effort to eradicate drug cartel influence in his own country. Calderon ordered troops to help police fight the cartels in December 2006, prompting a war that has killed about 41,000 people.

Perry infuriated Mexicans last month when he said that if he is elected president, he would consider sending American troops to help fight the cartels in Mexico.

He said last week the United States should make no concessions to the cartels. He also mentioned that as governor of Texas he has appropriated about $400 million to secure his state's border with Mexico.

The House subcommittee on terrorism, nonproliferation and trade plans to examine narco-terrorism far beyond Mexico. Drug smuggling is suspected of funding the Taliban in Afghanistan, socialist revolutionaries in South America and militant dissidents in Southeast Asia.

A second House hearing on narco-terrorism is scheduled for Friday by the Homeland Security subcommittee on oversight and investigations.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the subcommittee, said, "Every American needs to be aware of the threat these narco-terrorists pose to our communities in every state, and to our national security. If the White House does not heed the warning that now is the time to commit to a comprehensive strategy to secure the border, it unfortunately may take a catastrophic event to get their attention."

Narco-terrorism is a phrase coined by former Peruvian President Fernando Belaunde Terry in 1983 to describe attacks against his nation's police.

Examples in the United States are suspected of including recent murders of ranchers near the border with Mexico who live near drug smuggling routes.

On June 7, New Mexico rancher Larry Link was gunned down on his own property.

Although state police have not solved the murder, other ranchers in the area say the location near a drug smuggling route leaves little doubt drug gangs were responsible.

The murder of Link followed closely the shooting of Arizona rancher Rob Krentz, who was killed by unknown assailants near the Mexican border.

Other ranchers have started carrying guns with them everywhere they go since the murders.

They also report a rise in robberies and burglaries.

Other warnings about the increasing risk to the United States came from a recent report on border security sponsored by the state of Texas.

The report, "Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment," says drug cartels are trying to establish sanctuaries from the Mexican military in border areas inside the United States.

It also says the Mexican military's successes against drug cartels are likely to drive more gang competition and violence into Texas.


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GOP Candidates Look at Narco-Terrorism Risks | Politics