Clinton says U.S. shares blame for Mexican violence

Arms flow south, fueling drug war

McClatchy NewspapersMarch 26, 2009 

— The U.S. bears much of the blame for violent drug wars roiling Mexico because of its demand for drugs and its failure to stop illegal weapons from crossing the border, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday, accepting "shared responsibility" for the problem.

Clinton, on an inaugural visit to Mexico to pave the way for an April trip by President Barack Obama, rejected the notion -- put forward by some of U.S. government intelligence analysts -- that Mexico could lose control of parts of the country to the drug cartels.

"I don't believe there are any ungovernable territories in Mexico," she told a news conference, while lauding Mexican President Felipe Calderon's "great courage" in battling the drug traffickers.

She announced that Obama would seek $80 million, most of it in an upcoming supplemental budget request, to provide Mexico with three Blackhawk helicopters.

More than 7,000 Mexicans have been killed in drug wars here since January 2008. The violence, while brutal, has been mostly localized to a handful of cities. Most of the dead are drug traffickers involved in turf battles and Mexican security forces.

Clinton's acceptance of U.S. responsibility appeared designed to address Mexican complaints that its drug wars have deep roots north of the border and to avoid a blame game that might distract from the counter-narcotics effort.

Clinton offered the bluntest comments to date by any senior U.S. official that Americans' habits and government policies have stoked the drug trade and the accompanying violence.

"How could anybody conclude any differently?" she said. "Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade. Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians."

U.S. domestic drug-control strategies during the past three decades have largely failed, she said, suggesting that the Obama administration will try to reduce demand and emphasize treatment more than its predecessors.

Clinton also announced that the administration has set aside $720 million to modernize border crossings and streamline commerce.

During her visit to Mexico, Clinton briefly changed the topic to North Korea, warning Pyongyang that firing a missile for any purpose would be a "provocative act" that would have consequences.

North Korea is loading a rocket on a launch pad in anticipation of the launch of a communications satellite between April 4 and 8, U.S. counterproliferation and intelligence officials have said. Clinton told reporters that the U.S. thinks the North Korean plan to fire a missile for any purpose would violate a U.N. Security Council resolution barring the country from ballistic activity.

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