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Mexican Official Criticizes US Comments on Illegal Drug Violence

Mexican Foreign Minister, Patricia Espinosa (File)

Mexico has criticized recent comments by U.S. officials about the country’s drug war, which has claimed more than 34,000 lives since President Felipe Calderon took office more than four years ago. Cindy Lavanderos reports from Mexico City.

Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa said remarks by a top U.S. Army official this week were "totally unacceptable" and do not reflect the cooperation both governments had been building during the past years.

Espinosa was referring to a statement made by U.S. Under Secretary of the Army Joseph Westphal on Monday that compared Mexico’s drug war to an "insurgency" and suggested that the United States might send troops to Mexico to keep organized crime from taking over the government.

Remarks retracted

Although Westphal later retracted his remarks, saying they were inaccurate, Espinosa told the press on Wednesday that his comments were regrettable, saying that the drug war should not be viewed from a unilateral position.

"The drug cartels," she said, "are not promoting a political agenda. Rather, they are seeking economic benefit through criminal activities, such as drug trafficking, kidnapping and extortion."

It was not the first time that a U.S. official has compared Mexico’s drug traffickers to an "insurgency." Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a similar comparison in September, sparking tensions with Mexican officials when she likened the situation in Mexico to that of Colombia in the 1980s. President Barack Obama later rejected Clinton’s comments.

US not pleased

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano referred to Mexico during a congressional hearing on terrorism on Wednesday. When asked whether terrorists might use the illegal drug distribution network in Mexico, she warned that if the drug violence spilled over into the United States, the U.S. would respond aggressively.

She spoke of the potential threat to the United States if terrorists and Mexican drug cartels worked together.

"I’ve been thinking ahead about what would happen if al-Qaida were to unite with the Zetas, one of the drug cartels, and I’ll just leave it at that," Napolitano said.

Mexican criticism

Mexico has repeatedly criticized the United States for not curbing arms trafficking into the country and not doing enough to decrease illegal drug use.

Mexican Senator José Gonzalez Morfin of the ruling National Action Party told a local television station that if the United States were to focus on these issues, that would be the best way to help the Mexican government in its fight against organized crime.