President Donald Trump has decided to delay his plans to legally designate Mexican drug cartels as terrorist groups.
He had vowed to label the gangs as terrorists after the killing last month of nine American citizens from a Mormon community in Mexico.
However, the president has put the plans on hold on the request of his Mexican counterpart, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
The Mexican president said: “I celebrate that he has taken our opinion into account.”
“We thank President Trump for respecting our decisions and for choosing to maintain a policy of good neighborliness, a policy of cooperation with us,” Andrés Manuel López Obrador added.
President Trump’s original announcement came after three women and six children of dual US-Mexican nationality were killed in an ambush in a remote area of northern Mexico.
Following the attack the victims’ community, the LeBarons, petitioned the White House to list the cartels as terror groups, saying: “They are terrorists and it’s time to acknowledge it.”
The move would have widened the scope for US legal and financial action against cartels but Mexico saw it as a violation of its sovereignty.
President Trump has now put the plans on hold.
He tweeted: “All necessary work has been completed to declare Mexican Cartels terrorist organizations.
“Statutorily we are ready to do so.”
However, he said his Mexican counterpart is “a man who I like and respect, and has worked so well with us,” adding that he was temporarily holding off on the designation and stepping up “joint efforts to deal decisively with these vicious and ever-growing organizations!”
President Trump did not comment on how long the delay would last.
Mexico’s brutal drug war claims tens of thousands of lives every year, as powerful trafficking groups battle for territory and influence.
In 2017 more than 30,000 people were killed in Mexico, with the murder rate having more than tripled since 2006.