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Clinton admits US shares blame in drug violence

Video by Kate WILLIAMS

Latest update : 2009-03-26

On a visit to Mexico, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States, with its “insatiable drug appetite”, played a role in Mexico’s drug violence. She pledged additional funds to help fight cartels.

AFP - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived here Wednesday acknowledging the United States shares blame for Mexico's drug wars in which she says security forces are often outgunned by military-style equipment bought in the US.
   
With violence now spilling over into the United States, Clinton said the Obama administration was looking at yet more ways to stop the flow of weapons to the drug cartels under a new strategy unveiled at the White House on Tuesday.
   
"It's not only guns, it's night-vision goggles, it's body armor," Clinton told reporters on the plane to Mexico City.
   
"These criminals are outgunning law enforcement officials" with "military-style equipment," the chief US diplomat said.
   
"And since we know that the vast majority, 90 percent of that (weaponry), comes from our country, we're going to try to stop it from getting there in the first place," Clinton said.
   
More than 1,000 people have died in the drugs wars so far this year.
   
In addition to tougher automobile and railcar inspections along the 2,000-mile border, she said, the administration was trying "to get more tools" to prevent thousands of gun dealers from selling to the cartels.
   
She gave no details.
   
She promised to accelerate efforts to deliver to Mexico hardware -- such as helicopters, scanners and other equipment -- under the three-year, 1.4-billion-dollar Merida Initiative, aimed at tackling the drug trade in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.
   
White House officials unveiled Tuesday broad plans to cut US drug consumption as well as stop cash and weapons flows from the United States to the cartels -- all steps that Mexican President Felipe Calderon has called for.
   
Obama later vowed to do more if needed.
   
Analysts say the strategy represents a break from the administration of George W. Bush, which offered to help Mexico fight the scourge even though it largely viewed it as a Mexican problem.
   
They also say it will help boost Calderon's political standing at home, although Clinton denied there was any link.
   
But Clinton said she will publicly acknowledge US counter-narcotics failures every chance she gets during her two-day visit to Mexico City and Monterrey, a city near the border with the US state of Texas.
   
"Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade," Clinton said on her third trip abroad.
   
"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," the chief US diplomat said.
   
"So yes, I feel very strongly we have a co-responsibility, and part of what we are trying to do is not only acknowledge that but working with the Mexicans to create very best possible responses," she said.
   
Clinton is paving the way for a flurry of high-level visits involving Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that will culminate with an Obama-Calderon summit on April 16-17.
   
Vanda Felbab-Brown, a counter-narcotics analyst at the Brookings Institution, said it could take years before the administration reaps benefits from its bid to blunt consumer demand, which she calls the "crux of the problem."
   
In the meantime, she expects Washington to do more to choke off the flow of weapons from thousands of weapons stores on the US side of the border, even if she fears the cartel will find other ways to buy arms on the global market.
   
Calderon launched a wide-ranging crackdown on drug cartels soon after taking office in late 2006. The cartels in turn hit back with ever-higher levels of violence and intimidation.
   
Some 5,300 people were murdered in drug violence across Mexico in 2008.
   
Cocaine is produced in South America, but the Mexican cartels control most of the multi-billion-dollar trade.
   
During her trip, Clinton will also discuss the North American Free Trade Agreement and preparations for an April Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, US officials say.
   
Clinton is due to meet her counterpart Patricia Espinosa, Calderon and leading public security officials.

Date created : 2009-03-25

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