Clinton Pledges Security Help During Mexico Visit
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Mexico, talking about cooperation with that government in the war on drugs. Yesterday, she met President Felipe Calderon. But her trip is about more than just fighting drug smuggling. Today, she heads to the northern industrial city of Monterrey, and she is stressing the close ties between the United States and its neighbor. NPR's Jason Beaubien reports from Mexico City.
JASON BEAUBIEN: The drug war in which President Calderon has sent tens of thousands of troops to fight the cartels dominates Mexico right now, and it also dominated the first day of Secretary of State Clinton's visit. As she was flying into the country, the Mexican attorney general's office was parading one of the most wanted cartel members in the country before the press.
Army General Luis Arturo Oliver says Hector Huerta Rios was captured, along with four bodyguards and a stash of weapons in Monterrey.
General LUIS ARTURO OLIVER (Mexican Army): (Spanish spoken)
BEAUBIEN: The army general says Huerta Rios had several assault rifles with him, including two AK-47s.
Gen. OLIVER: (Spanish spoken)
BEAUBIEN: The army also seized several pistols with armor-piercing bullets and four fragmentation grenades.
Gen. OLIVER: (Spanish spoken)
BEAUBIEN: In addition to being one of the Sinaloan cartel's top men in northern Mexico, Huerta Rios is also suspected of orchestrating the 2006 murder of the head of State Investigative Police in Nuevo Leon.
Huerta Rios is the type of criminal, Clinton said, that the U.S. has been supporting through its insatiable demand for drugs.
Secretary HILLARY CLINTON (Department of State): We know very well that the drug traffickers are motivated by the demand for illegal drugs in the United States.
BEAUBIEN: This acknowledgement by a high-ranking Washington official of the U.S. role in Mexico's bloody drug war is something Mexicans have been waiting to hear for years. Last year alone, more than 6,000 people were killed in drug-related violence here.
After meeting with President Felipe Calderon and Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinoza, Clinton said the battle against what had become the world's largest drug trafficking organizations is not just the responsibility of Mexico.
Sec. CLINTON: We realize that drug trafficking is a shared problem. I have discussed with the secretary and the president what the United States can do to reduce the demand for drugs in our own country and to stop the flow of illegal guns across our border to Mexico.
BEAUBIEN: Just before Clinton came here, the Obama administration announced a broad plan to deploy more technology and U.S. law enforcement officers along the border. The plan specifically targets the cartel's drugs, guns and money. But this trip is about more than just the drug war. The U.S. is Mexico's largest trading partner. Trade between the two countries topped $360 billion last year.
Mexican Foreign Secretary Espinoza said she spoke with the secretary of state about issues ranging from NAFTA to the environment to the mistreatment of Mexican nationals working in the U.S.
Secretary PATRICIA ESPINOZA (Foreign Secretary, Mexico): (Spanish spoken)
BEAUBIEN: I took the opportunity to bring up with Secretary Clinton, Espinoza said, the concern of the Mexican government of the situation that confronts our citizens in the United States and the need to change the climate in which Mexicans are living.
For her part, Clinton said Mexico and the U.S. have an extremely close and important relationship and will inhabit a common future.
Sec. CLINTON: The global financial crisis has reinforced how closely our economies are linked. If there was any doubt before, there should be none now. We rise and fall together.
BEAUBIEN: The Obama administration is underscoring the value it places on Mexico. In addition to Secretary of State Clinton, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder both are planning to come down here late next week. And President Barack Obama has scheduled a visit himself in mid-April.
Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Mexico City.
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