Page last updated at 09:12 GMT, Friday, 27 February 2009

Mexico rejects US drugs warning

Felipe Calderon
Felipe Calderon says cross-border operations with the US are working

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has rejected US concern that his country could become a failed state because of a growing wave of drug violence.

Mr Calderon, in an interview with the Associated Press, said the cartels did not control any part of his country.

He said that he intended to withdraw the army from the fight before he leaves office in 2012.

Last month, the US military singled out Mexico and Pakistan as two countries most at risk of sudden collapse.

More than 1,000 people are reported to have been killed in Mexico so far this year as gangs battle over lucrative drug routes into the US.

But President Calderon said that Mexico's territorial integrity, unlike Colombia's, was still intact.

"To say that Mexico is a failed state is absolutely false. I have not lost any part, any single point, of the Mexican territory," he said.

"Colombia lost [territory] during several decades… and even today huge parts of its territory [are] in the hands of the criminals, or the guerrillas, or some combination of drug traffickers and guerrillas.

"But in Mexico, all the territory is in the hands of the Mexican authorities."

US demand

Mr Calderon said that smuggling could not be totally eradicated as long as Americans continued to use drugs.

But he said he hoped that by 2012 the cartels would be worn down to a point where the army and federal police could withdraw and leave the problem in the hands of local police.

A report published in January by the United States Joint Forces Command called Mexico and Pakistan "two large and important states [which] bear consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse".

Mr Calderon sent troops and federal police into drug strongholds on his first day in office in December 2006.

But violence has increased, with more than 5,000 people killed in drug-related incidents in 2008.

Police investigate a tunnel under the US-Mexican border in a file photo from 2006
US police have closed many smuggling routes, but others appear

Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora, in a separate interview with AP, said that 90% of those killed were involved in the drugs trade, while only 4% were innocent bystanders. The rest, he said, were police officers and soldiers.

Mr Calderon called on Washington to do more, by stopping the flow of drugs cash and powerful US assault weapons into Mexico.

He applauded cross-border operations that US officials said culminated this week with the arrests of 755 Sinaloa cartel members and the seizure of $59m (£41m) in the US.

But he acknowledged that Mexico could not be President Barack Obama's top priority, saying the US would help Mexico most by fixing its own economic crisis.

He said Latin American leaders had high hopes for President Obama's first trip to the region at the Summit of the Americas in April.

"President Barack Obama has a tremendous opportunity to recover the leadership of the United States," he said.

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