Obama, Mexico's Calderon vow more drug crime cooperation

WASHINGTON Mon Apr 2, 2012 6:58pm EDT

U.S. President Barack Obama, (R), and Mexico's President Felipe Calderon (L) hold a joint press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, April 2, 2012. REUTERS/Larry Downing

U.S. President Barack Obama, (R), and Mexico's President Felipe Calderon (L) hold a joint press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, April 2, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Mexican President Felipe Calderon told President Barack Obama on Monday that drug violence would continue unabated in his country unless the flow of American guns is curbed, while Obama promised closer cooperation with Mexico in fighting the narcotics trade.

Obama acknowledged a responsibility to quell the U.S. demand for illegal drugs that helps drive narcotics trafficking, and said coordination with Mexico in the fight is becoming better than ever.

"We have a responsibility to make sure not only guns but also bulk cash isn't flowing into Mexico, and obviously President Calderon takes very seriously his responsibilities to apply effective law enforcement within Mexico," Obama added.

For his part, Calderon acknowledged the political reality that it is unlikely that American gun laws will be tightened amid in the run-up to the November 6 U.S. election in which Obama is seeking a second term in office.

"I understand the internal problems from the political point of view," Calderon told a White House news conference with Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, also referring to the right to bear arms enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

"But I know that if we don't stop the traffic of weapons into Mexico ... then we are never going to be able to stop the violence in Mexico," he said, noting there were around 8,000 gun stores along the U.S.-Mexican border.

Mexico wants the United States to do more to reduce the use of illegal drugs by Americans and curb illegal arms shipments as well as cash flow to Mexican gangs.

Turf wars between Mexican drug gangs have spread beyond smuggling hot spots along the U.S. border and increasingly brutal violence has sapped confidence in the country's security forces, harming its international standing.

The drug-related violence also threatens Mexico's vital tourist industry.

Obama said, "Defense ministers from our three countries (Mexico, the United States and Canada) met last week as a group for the first time ever, and we're going to be coordinating our efforts more closely than ever" to combat narcotics trafficking.

Brutal clashes between drug cartels and Mexican authorities have killed more than 50,000 people since Calderon launched a crackdown on the cartels in late 2006.

In a pitch for his country as a tourist destination, Calderon said the murder rate in the U.S. capital Washington remains higher than in big Mexican cities, a claim uttered while standing beside Obama in the White House Rose Garden.

"That explains why, for instance, despite the perception of my country, last year 23 million tourists came to our country by plane, plus another 7 million in cruise ships, plus another 50 million who crossed the land borders," Calderon said.

Drug gangs will be an important topic for the leaders at the Summit of the Americas in the Colombian resort town of Cartagena later this month. Obama said drug-trafficking poses a grave threat, especially to Central America.

"If you start getting a larger and larger space in which they (drug gangs) have control over serious chunks of the economy, if they're undermining institutions in these countries, that will impact our capacity to do business in these countries," Obama said.

(Reporting By Alister Bull; Editing by Will Dunham)

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Comments (4)
gregbrew56 wrote:
Prohibition does not work. Never has. Never will.

Apr 02, 2012 7:09pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
quatra wrote:
Everybody knows the US exists because of the weapons trade (legal or illegal). They don’t have anything else of worth to subsist. Their end is near. So, whatever Obama says is just tipid saliva.

Apr 02, 2012 8:35pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This phenomenon of drug cartels taking over Mexico has far more serious ramifications than the average American realizes. There is an economic downturn in the United States and upward of 20 million illegal immigrants here; how many of those are going to start looking for work with Mexican organized crime, and how pervasive would the cartel influence be in the United States if they mobilized but a small fraction of these potential assets? This has national security implications, to be sure, and I wonder whether this administration realizes the proportions of this problem, because it doesn’t end in Mexico, but continues clear down to Bolivia, and then outward toward South and West Africa. Mexican cartels are like the UPS of the drug world- but transporting illegal, lucrative merchandise pays well. Ironically, the only way to get this stuff under control is probably to legalize it, regulate it, and tax it, but politicians would rather have citizens breathe air and drink water contaminated with chemical toxins from their corporate buddies than to give citizens access to organic products.

Apr 03, 2012 2:34am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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