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Clinton: Mexico Violence Fueled By America's 'Insatiable' Demand For Drugs

MATTHEW LEE   03/25/09 10:45 PM ET   AP

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MEXICO CITY — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday pledged to stand "shoulder to shoulder" with Mexico in its violent struggle against drug cartels, and admitted America's demand for illegal narcotics and arms markets was partly to blame.

After allowing that an "insatiable" appetite for illicit drugs in the U.S. along with relatively easy access to powerful war are drug violence in Mexico that threatens greater spill over across the border, Clinton promised to boost cooperation to improve security on both sides.

"The criminals and kingpins spreading violence are trying to corrode the foundations of law, order, friendship and trust between us that support our continent," she told a news conference with Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Patricia Espinosa. "They will fail."

"We will stand shoulder to shoulder with you," she said after lengthy talks with Espinosa and Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

On Tuesday, the Obama administration pledged to send more money, technology and manpower to secure the border in the U.S. Southwest and help Mexico battle the cartels.

Clinton said Wednesday the White House would also seek an additional $80 million to help Mexico buy Blackhawk helicopters.

All that is in addition to a three-year, $1.4 billion Bush administration-era program to support Mexico's efforts. Congress already has approved $700 million of that. President Barack Obama has said he wants to revamp the initiative.

Obama said Tuesday he wanted the U.S. to do more to prevent guns and cash from illicit drug sales from flowing into Mexico.

But Clinton's remarks were more forceful in recognizing the U.S. share of the blame. In the past, particularly under the Bush administration, Mexican officials have complained that Washington failed to acknowledge the extent that U.S. drug demand and weapons smuggling fuels the violence.

"I feel very strongly we have a co-responsibility," Clinton told reporters aboard her plane on her way to Mexico.

"Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade," she said. "Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians."

Criminals are outgunning law enforcement officials, she said, referring to guns and military-style equipment such as night-vision goggles and body armor that the cartels are smuggling from the U.S.

"Clearly, what we have been doing has not worked and it is unfair for our incapacity ... to be creating a situation where people are holding the Mexican government and people responsible," she said. "That's not right."

Officials said her priorities included encouraging Calderon's government to increase its battle against rampant corruption by promoting police and judicial reform.

Clinton will visit a police station in the capital on Thursday before heading to the northern city of Monterrey, where she will speak with university students about U.S.-Mexican relations.

Just hours before she arrived in Mexico, the Mexican army announced it had captured one of the country's most-wanted smugglers, a man accused of controlling the flow of drugs through Monterrey for the powerful Beltran-Leyva cartel.

The U.S. measures outlined Tuesday include increasing the number of immigrations and customs agents, drug agents and antigun-trafficking agents operating along the border, as well as sending more U.S. officials to work inside Mexico.

Those measures fall short of calls from some U.S. states that troops be deployed to prevent further spillover of the violence, which has surged since Calderon stepped up his government's battle against the cartels.

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Filed by Jessica Gusman  |