Wed, Jan 26, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Clinton backs Calderon’s drug war

REUTERS, GUANAJUATO, MEXICO

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered strong support for Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s war on narcotics traffickers on Monday even as drug-related violence showed no sign of abating.

Making her second visit to Mexico in less than a year, the US secretary of state arrived in the central colonial city of Guanajuato as State Department cables released by WikiLeaks revealed US doubts about Mexican intelligence gathering.

More than 34,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since Calderon deployed thousands of army troops and federal police to combat gangs soon after he took office in late 2006. More than 15,000 people were killed last year alone.

The Mexican government says the bloodshed is a sign the gangs are weakening. However, rampant killings, including grenade attacks and decapitations, are spreading across Mexico and beginning to spook international investors.

“The drug traffickers are not going to give up without a terrible fight,” Clinton told reporters at a news conference with Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa in Guanajuato.

“When they do things that are just barbaric, like beheading people, it is meant to intimidate,” she added, saying Calderon had no choice but to confront them. “It is hard. It carries all kinds of costs. But there is no alternative.”

“I’m a fan. I believe [in] and greatly admire what President Calderon is doing,” she said.

Clinton acknowledged the vast US demand for illegal drugs and the flow of US weapons south across the border to drug smugglers were major contributors to the violence.

About two dozen protesters chanted “No more guns” as Clinton arrived for her talks with Espinosa. Later, as they had lunch, another small group shouted “No more violence.”

Clinton then flew to Mexico City for talks with Calderon expected to focus on his push to overhaul Mexico’s troubled judicial system and overcrowded jails despite some opposition in the Mexican Congress.

“Just stay with it,” she told reporters with Espinosa. “A well-equipped, well-trained judicial system is essential.”

Clinton cited the killing and capture of more than two dozen top cartel capos as a sign of Calderon’s success.

However, in a leaked cable from 2009 published by the Spanish newspaper El Pais, US -embassy officials said: “Calderon’s security strategy lacks an effective intelligence apparatus to produce high-quality information and targeted operations.”

The cable described the Mexican government’s intelligence apparatus as “fractured, ad hoc and reliant on US support.” Clinton said she could not comment on the alleged State Department documents released on the Internet.

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