Page last updated at 10:14 GMT, Monday, 2 March 2009

US ready to aid Mexico drug fight


US Defence Secretary on Mexico's drug trafficking problems

By Emilio San Pedro
BBC News

Defence Secretary Robert Gates has said the US wants to increase the military assistance it provides Mexico for its fight against drugs trafficking.

He pointed to what he described as the Mexican president's courageous effort against the cartels.

Mr Gates said Washington was more prepared now to help Mexico in its fight against the cartels which control the flow of illegal narcotics.

More than 1,000 people have been killed so far in 2009.

Mr Gates said aid could come in the form of military hardware, training and intelligence support to help the Mexican authorities in their fight against the well-armed and organised drugs traffickers.

Death and destruction

"It clearly is a serious problem," Mr Gates said.

But he pointed to Mexican President Felipe Calderon as the main reason for this renewed interest on Washington's part.

He said: "What I think people need to point out is the courage that Calderon has shown in taking this on, because one of the reasons it's gotten as bad as it has is because his predecessors basically refused to do that."

However, the comments may also be aimed at defusing a diplomatic row which ensued between the two countries just days ago, after the publication of a US Pentagon report which said the drugs-related violence could turn Mexico into a failed state.

That prompted a terse response from Mr Calderon, who rejected the report's findings and said the authorities in Mexico were very much in control of the country.

Beyond the political rhetoric, the drugs-related violence has left a path of death and destruction in its wake.

More than 6,000 people were killed in the violence last year.

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