Thursday, September 09, 2010

Hillary Clinton: Mexican drugs war is Colombia-style insurgency

US secretary of state angers politicians and raises fears that controversial Plan Colombia may be used in Mexico

Hillary Clinton on the drugs war in Mexico Link to this video

Hilary Clinton has sparked a diplomatic row with Mexico by likening the country's drugs war to a Colombia-style "insurgency", a charge angrily rejected by Mexican politicians.

The US secretary of state pointed to the use of car bombs, a tool once favoured by cartel-allied rebels in Colombia, as evidence that Mexican drugs gangs "are now showing more and more indices of insurgency". Her remarks came as the third mayor in a month became the latest victim of violence in Mexico.

Her comments were dismissed in Mexico, but raised fears there that Clinton was preparing the ground to implement a Mexican version of Plan Colombia – a controversial anti-drug programme in the late 1990s involving US troops working with the Colombian army against the dominant Medellin drug cartel.

In a speech in Washington, Clinton said drugs gangs were "morphing into, or making common cause with, what we would consider an insurgency in Mexico and in Central America".

"It's looking more and more like Colombia looked 20 years ago, where the narco-traffickers controlled certain parts of the country."

Referring to Plan Colombia, she acknowledged its problems, but claimed it worked. "We need to figure out what are the equivalents [for Mexico and Central America]," she said.

Her comments came as the death was announced of Alexander Lopez Garçia in the northern town of El Naranjo. His was the latest of 28,000 murders since President Felipe Calderón launched a crackdown on cartels in 2006.

Shot in his office by four gunmen, Garçia was the third mayor to be killed in less than a month. Mexican police also reported they had found four bodies in a clandestine grave that they linked to the arrest of drug hitman Edgar Valdez Villarreal, known as La Barbie.

Mexico is strongly opposed to US troop involvement in dealing with the violence.

"We are not going to permit any version of a Plan Colombia," said Santiago Creel, a Mexican senator and member of Calderon's National Action party. Opposition politicians agreed. Senator Ricardo Monreal of the Labour party said US aid to Colombia hadn't stopped drug trafficking there. "Whoever thinks Colombia is a cure-all, and if the United States thinks it is necessary to apply the same model to us they applied to Colombia, they are mistaken," he said.

Mexico's senior national security official, Alejandro Poire, said: "There are very important differences between what Colombia faced and what Mexico is facing now."

He suggested that US demand for drugs was the root of the problem. Both Colombian and Mexican drug gangs were "nourished by the enormous, gigantic demand for drugs in the United States", he told a news conference.

Yesterday, the Mexican government announced that marines had arrested seven gunmen suspected of killing 72 Central and South American migrants last month in the worst drug cartel massacre to date.

Four of the suspects were arrested after a gun battle last Friday.

Poire alleged the seven belonged to the Zetas drugs gang, but he gave no further details on their identities or what led to their arrests. Investigators believe the migrants were kidnapped by the Zetas and killed after refusing to work for the cartel.

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