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Clinton: US Stands Shoulder-to-Shoulder With Mexico in Fight Against Drug Gangs

In Mexico City Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised the Obama administration will stand side-by-side with Mexico in its fight against drug cartels, and acknowledged that the United States shares blame for the deadly unrest. Clinton laid groundwork for next month's Mexico visit by President Obama.

Secretary Clinton's first Latin American trip is partly aimed at soothing Mexican feelings over recent suggestions by some U.S. analysts that the government of President Felipe Calderon is losing the war with drug cartels, or that Mexico might be on its way to becoming a failed state.

In talks with President Calderon and other senior officials, and in a series of press events and interviews with Mexican media, Clinton stressed U.S. faith in, and tangible support, for the Mexican government.

At a news conference with Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa, Clinton hailed what she termed the great courage and dedication of Mr. Calderon, and said the U.S.-Mexican relationship is stronger than any problem they confront including the drug violence.

"We are confident that with the courageous efforts undertaken by President Calderon, the government of Mexico, the military and police of Mexico, and the people of Mexico, that the efforts undertaken to strengthen this country's response: to stamp out corruption, top build strong institutions will succeed," said Hillary Clinton. "And we will stand shoulder to shoulder with you as you undertake all of these actions."

Clinton, advancing an administration plan announced Tuesday to curb cross-border drug, money and weapons traffic, said the United States will given Mexico more than $80 million to buy U.S.-made Blackhawk helicopters to bolster its arsenal against traffickers.

She also said the United States' insatiable appetite for illegal drugs makes it co-responsible for the drug violence - mainly in Mexican towns near the U.S. border - that has claimed seven thousand lives since the beginning of last year.

"We have accepted that this is a co-responsibility," she said. "We know very well that the drug traffickers are motivated by the demand for illegal drugs in the United States, that they are armed by the transport of weapons from the United States to Mexico, and therefore we see this as a responsibility to assist the Mexican government and people in defeating an enemy that is committing violence and disruption that is very harmful."

Foreign Secretary Espinosa, for her part, said she would welcome repeated visits by U.S. officials to cities all over Mexico to dispel the notion that the Calderon government is losing control of parts of the country to the drug cartels.

"I have rejected also the idea that Mexico is a failed state," said Patricia Espinosa. "And I have stated that it is very clear for anybody who comes to this country, for any person who lives here, that this is a democratic country, with strong institutions, with very strong leadership, where the citizens can really have a normal life, every day."

Clinton ends her brief Mexico visit Thursday with a stop in the northern industrial city of Monterrey.

Monterrey has been the scene of some violence but Clinton said she is going there to highlight the city's high-tech industries including work on alternate energy sources.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder are due in Mexico early next month for further talks on anti-drug cooperation.

President Obama visits in mid-April before attending the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago.