March 27, 2009 / 12:15 PM / 10 years ago

Mexico wants more U.S. funds for drug battle: report

LONDON (Reuters) - Mexican President Felipe Calderon has asked the United States to contribute billons of dollars in additional funds to help Mexico fight its war on drugs, the Financial Times reported on Friday.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon greets Secretary of State Hillary Clinton inside the Los Pinos presidential residence in Mexico City, March 25, 2009. REUTERS/Daniel Aguilar

Drug gang killings in Mexico surged to 6,300 last year, rattling investors and scaring off tourists.

Crushing the cartels, who arm themselves with smuggled U.S. weapons and leave slain rivals, sometimes beheaded, on streets, has become one of the biggest tests of Calderon’s presidency.

The Mexican president, who will make a state visit to Britain next week, told the Financial Times that neither Washington’s financial aid so far, nor its attempts to stop illegal activity along its 2,000-mile border, were enough.

“The help should be equivalent to the flow of money that American consumers give to the criminals,” he said, referring to narcotics purchases from Mexican drug cartels by people in the United States.

Mexican cartels are believed to operate in some 230 U.S. cities.

When asked how much money would be needed, Calderon replied: “Between $10bn and $35bn - the truth is that nobody knows.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during a visit to Mexico this week that “insatiable demand” in the United States for illegal drugs was in part to blame for much of Mexico’s violence.

The Obama administration also outlined a $184 million program to add 360 security agents to border posts.

But the U.S. Congress this month trimmed the amount of drug aid money it will set aside this fiscal year to $300 million from $400 million last year, under a pledge of $1.4 billion To Mexico and Central America over three years.

Calderon, who since taking office in 2006 has spent more than $6.4 billion on the drug war, said: “Obviously the money is not enough, particularly if the amount is reduced like that.”

Writing by Catherine Bosley; Editing by Keith Weir

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