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Old 09-28-09, 07:51 PM   #1
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Post Mexican FM says hardline on drug smuggling working (AP)

AP - Mexico's Foreign Minister said Monday the startlingly high death toll of her government's all-out war against drug trafficking shows the policy is working.

But, she conceded, the campaign has unleashed too much reciprocal violence to be considered a complete success.

Since President Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006, his offensive against the cartels that smuggle drugs into the United States has been met with unprecedented brutality, leaving more than 13,500 people dead.

Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press that the policy of taking the fight to the traffickers would continue even as the number of Mexicans slain rises, and argued that the "great, majority, immense majority" of victims are drug pushers or gangsters and foot soldiers linked to cartels.

"This is a very ugly statistic," she said, "but a good percentage of those killed never have their bodies claimed, their families never go and get them ... That is a very clear indicator that these people were involved in drug trafficking."

Espinosa was in New York to address the United Nations General Assembly. She said much of the killing is the result of turf battles between rival drug factions "hit hard" by the crackdown, or "because of the necessity to show their power and capacity for violence."

The foreign minister said that in the last two years, Mexico has captured about 60,000 drug smuggling suspects and that since Calderon took office, authorities have seized 50,000 weapons, "a bit more than 90 percent" of which came from the United States.

Espinosa said that while Mexican authorities believe the price of narcotics on U.S. streets has gone up slightly and that purity has declined since the Calderon government began taking the fight to the cartels, "it's difficult to say it's been successful when we've seen this violence."

"We've seen such terrible things," she said, "things that have totally shocked us."

Espinosa said assault rifles are the main weapon used in Mexican drug violence and that they and other arms often arrive from the U.S. in cars carrying small caches, some of which include bazookas and rocket launchers capable of downing Mexican anti-narcotics helicopters.
"We have to realize this is a common problem and we have to resolve it jointly," she said, referring to the United States.

Espinosa stopped short of saying U.S. authorities are not taking the onslaught of American guns pouring into Mexico seriously and instead praised U.S. border agents who have begun performing spot checks on some of the traffic heading into Mexican.

She said her country has discussed the problem of guns flowing south with the Obama White House and made considerable strides with lawmakers.
"I think in Congress we've succeeded in making them aware of just how grave this problem is and, more than anything, that what's feeding this level of violence are weapons that come from the United States," Espinosa said.

Asked about whispers that behind-the-scenes diplomatic meetings between the U.S. and Cuba could mean ice-cold relations between them are truly ready for a thaw, Espinosa said, "we've heard that there are important evolutions in the bilateral relationship."

"It's something we congratulate," she said, "if these relations improve, it will be very positive for the two countries, but also for the hemisphere as a whole."


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