Clinton Says Mexico Reform ‘Essential’ to Beat Cartels

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that judicial reform in Mexico is “essential” to beating drug cartels.

“We are aware that what the Mexican government is doing to improve the judicial system, the detention and corrections system is essential to the ultimate war against the drug cartels, so we support those efforts,” Clinton said.

Clinton is in Mexico today to meet with Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa and President Felipe Calderon to discuss security on the U.S.-Mexico border, the strength of Mexico’s judicial system, and trade.

Mexico has been wracked by drug-related violence. The drug war in the border town of Ciudad Juarez generated a record 15,273 homicides in 2010, with a total of 34,612 over the four years since Calderon launched an offensive against drug cartels, according to Foreign Policy in Focus, a Washington-based policy group.

Judicial reform has also come under scrutiny in Mexico after the killer of a 16-year-old girl, Rubi Escobedo, was absolved in a Ciudad Juarez court even though he had confessed to the crime. The girl’s mother was subsequently shot dead.

The struggle against the cartels will not be easy, Clinton warned. “The drug traffickers are not going to give up without a terrible fight,” she said. “When they do things that are barbaric, like behead people, it’s meant to intimidate.”

‘It Is Hard’

Countering the cartels “is very hard, and what President Calderon has done is absolutely necessary. If it was easy, it would have been done before,” she said. “It is hard; it carries all kinds of costs.”

Clinton said that the U.S. under President Barack Obama accepted responsibility for some of the drug violence at the border.

“The U.S. has been willing under President Obama to admit that we have a responsibility for some of the very difficult transnational organized crime challenges that Mexico is dealing with” Clinton said, referring to weapons trafficking from the U.S. to Mexico.

Clinton said the U.S. was “trying to do more on our side of the border” to prevent money-laundering and weapons trafficking and to upgrade the border to speed trade and tourism.

Resolving Truck Dispute

She said the U.S. was also committed to solving a longstanding trade dispute over the passage of Mexican trucks from factories south of the border to destination points in the U.S. Though the U.S. is bound by the North American Free Trade Agreement to allow Mexican trucks through, opponents in Congress have blocked U.S. compliance, citing safety concerns.

The U.S. wants to “create trucking policies that reduce transit costs and enhance safety on our roads,” she said.

“We are committed to this relationship on every single level, and we’re following through on the declaration by both of our presidents on 21st-century border management,” Clinton said.

Clinton and Espinosa met in the colonial town of Guanajuato to confer on regional security, both along Mexico’s border with the U.S. and inside the country. Trade, climate change and Haiti’s stability were on the agenda as well, according to the State Department.

They also discussed preparations for a February summit meeting to be attended by Calderon, Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. During their last meeting in Canada on Dec. 13, Clinton and Espinosa met with Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon to work on the agenda for the summit on regional security and economic integration.

At the end of the day, Clinton met with Calderon in Mexico City, where she revisited subjects she had covered earlier with Espinosa, according to a State Department official.

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