U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that the United States, with an "insatiable" demand for illegal drugs, bears "co-responsibility" for rampant drug-related violence in Mexico along the U.S. border. Clinton is in Mexico City for talks with President Felipe Calderon on the drug issue, trade and other regional issues.
U.S. drug officials say Mexico is either the source or a transshipment route for most of the illegal drugs that enter the United States.
But as she began a series of meetings with President Calderon and other officials centering on drug violence, Clinton candidly acknowledged that U.S. demand for illegal drugs is in large measure responsible for the problem.
Speaking with reporters en route to the Mexican capital, Clinton said that some 30 years of U.S. efforts to curb drug demand, including law enforcement and anti-addiction efforts, have largely failed, and that U.S. drug demand and weapons smuggled from the United States are fueling Mexico's drug wars.
"I agree," she said. "We are. How could anybody conclude any differently? 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 death of police officers, soldiers and civilians. So yes, I feel very strongly we have a co-responsibility."
Clinton arrived here a day after the Obama administration announced it was sending more money, technology and manpower to secure the Mexican border and help Mexican authorities in their battle with drug cartels.
The secretary's visit marks the start of intensive U.S.-Mexico dialogue on the matter. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, a key figure behind this week's aid package, will visit Mexico early next month along with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
President Barack Obama goes to Mexico City in mid-April to meet Mr. Caldron before both leaders attend the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago.
In her talk with reporters, Secretary Clinton praised the Calderon administration's performance in the drug fight, saying that Mexican forces are often out-gunned by drug gangs armed with military-style weapons bought in the United States.
She said the Obama administration intends to devote hundreds more agents and more effective equipment to stem gun-running across the border and curb illegal purchases in U.S. gun shops by so-called "straw men" fronting for Mexican criminals.
Clinton also said the United States must avoid protectionist policies that could harm Mexico as it deals with the economic crisis.
She said the Obama administration is making progress with the U.S. Congress in efforts to end a dispute over access to the United States by Mexican truckers that has spurred heavy Mexican tariffs against American goods.