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Ron DeSantis says he’s open to drone strikes on Mexican drug cartels

The GOP presidential candidate has also endorsed using "deadly force" on migrants smuggling drugs into the U.S.
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CORALVILLE, Iowa — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that he would be open to using drone strikes against Mexican drug cartels if he’s elected president. 

“We will absolutely reserve the right if they’re invading our country and killing our people,” DeSantis said when a voter asked whether he would be willing to use drones against the cartels. 

Asked later by NBC News to clarify, DeSantis said: “I said I would use whatever force we need to defend the country.

“We’d be willing to lean in against them, and we reserve the right to defend our country,” he added.

DeSantis has been leaning hard into immigration as a theme in his presidential campaign, pushing to the right to distinguish himself from former President Donald Trump. 

In June, DeSantis endorsed the use of “deadly force” against migrants suspected of trafficking drugs. He reiterated the policy again Thursday as he spoke to a crowd of more than 150 voters in a packed restaurant here. 

“We’re authorizing deadly force. They try to break into our country? They will end up stone-cold dead,” he said to a rousing round of applause. 

In a recent interview, DeSantis discussed how he would distinguish between migrants who are smuggling drugs and those who aren’t. 

“Same way a police officer would know,” he said. “Same way somebody operating in Iraq would know. You know, these people in Iraq at the time, they all looked the same. You didn’t know who had a bomb strapped to them. So those guys have to make judgments.”

In May, DeSantis authorized 1,100 members of Florida law enforcement agencies and the National Guard to be sent to the southern border. And long before he announced his run for president, he flew migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts — a stunt he frequently brags about on the campaign trail. 

“We banned sanctuary cities, we sent support to Texas to help secure the border, and we even helped transport illegal aliens to beautiful Martha’s Vineyard,” he said Thursday. 

He has also pledged to end birthright citizenship, a policy under which children who are born in the U.S. automatically become citizens, regardless of whether or not their parents are citizens. 

A few other Republicans, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, have also said they would back military attacks on Mexico

The U.S. military has used drone strikes in Syria as early as this spring, retaliating against a deadly Iranian attack. The military has also used drone strikes in Afghanistan in the past but never in Mexico.