Drug violence in Mexico has “gotten out of hand” and poses a serious threat to communities along the US-Mexico border, US President Barack Obama said Sunday.
But Obama, in an interview with CBS TV, said his administration would wait to see the impact of stepped up US law enforcement efforts before deploying national guard troops to the border.
“I don’t think that it is what would be called an existential threat. But it’s a serious threat to those border communities and it has gotten out of hand,” he said.
Echoing comments in Mexico last week by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Obama called the drug crisis in the south a “two-way street” fueled by US demand for drugs and availability of weapons.
“We’ve got to reduce demand for drugs. We’ve got to do our part in reducing the flow of cash and guns south,” he said.
Administration officials announced plans last week to send 360 more federal agents and officers to the border area to target the movement of drugs and guns and to reinforce security and intelligence along the border.
Obama said the administration was considering calls for national guard troops in the border areas.
“But we want to first see whether some of the steps that we’ve taken can help quell some of the violence,” he said. “And we want to make sure that we are consulting as effectively as we can with the Mexican government in moving this strategy forward.”
Clinton delivered that message in Mexico City last week, vowing to stand with the government of Mexican President Felipe Calderon in the fight against powerful drug cartels.
She also pledged to provide Mexico with US$80 million to buy Blackhawk helicopters to pursue the drug cartels.
An estimated 6,300 have been killed in drug related violence in Mexico since last year in an intensifying war as Mexican troops go after drug cartels and the gangs vie among themselves for lucrative smuggling routes into the US.
Obama said the drug cartels were “undermining and corrupting huge segments of Mexico society,” but he praised Calderon for taking them on “in the same way that Elliot Ness took on Al Capone back during prohibition.”
“Oftentimes that causes even more violence and we’re seeing that flare up,” Obama said.
In a separate interview, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Fox TV that Calderon had acted with “enormous courage” in sending in Mexican troops to try to control the situation.
“I think that the chances of the Mexican government losing control of some part of their country or becoming a failed state are very low,” he said.
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