Clinton Voices U.S. Support of Mexico in Trip

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks alongside Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa during a joint press conference at the Alhondiga de Granaditas in Guanajuato, Mexico, January 24, 2011. Clinton traveled to Mexico on a one-day trip for meetings on border security and drug trafficking. (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

GUANAJUATO, Mexico, Jan 25 (KATAKAMI.COM / NY Times) — More than a month after the disclosure ofcables in which American diplomats questioned progress in Mexico’s drug war, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton came here on Monday to deliver a message of solidarity with President Felipe Calderón and to rebut public doubts about persistent violence.

After a private meeting with the Mexican foreign secretary, Patricia Espinosa, in this historic, pastel-splashed colonial city, Mrs. Clinton declined during a news conference to directly address the cables, published by several news organization after they were revealed by WikiLeaks.

The cables, written by American diplomats in Mexico, said that the country suffered from squabbling and mistrust among agencies, intelligence missteps, and a less than complete dedication to the rule of law. Among the results, according to the cables, is that criminals are not prosecuted or prosecutions are delayed. In one of the cables, a Mexican government official raised the fear that some territory was falling under the control of organized crime groups.

But Mrs. Clinton said that the United States supported Mr. Calderón’s resolve to dismantle major organized crime groups, even if “it is not easy.”

The grisly nature of the violence, including the beheading of drug-gang rivals, shocks and worries the public on both sides of the border, she said.

The Mexican government’s crackdown, begun in December 2006, along with fighting among the gangs for control of smuggling and other criminal enterprises, has killed 34,600 people in the past four years, the government said this month, including 15,273 people last year alone.

Drug traffickers are not going to give up without a terrible fight, and when they do barbaric things like behead people, it is meant to intimidate,” Mrs. Clinton said, before touring a historic theater and meeting with Mr. Calderón in Mexico City. “It is meant to have the public say just leave them alone, but a president cannot do that.”

Mrs. Clinton, nodding to sensitivities here, took pains to concede the United States’ role in providing guns and money to Mexico’s gangs, calling them transnational.

In her first visit since she compared Mexico’s battle to an insurgency, in remarks in September that drew the ire of Mr. Calderón, Mrs. Clinton made a friendlier comparison this time.

“There was a time 20, 30 years ago people thought New York was going to be lost to gangs and drugs and crime, and innocent people couldn’t walk down the street,” she said. “They couldn’t take their children to a park. And through hard work by law enforcement and a lot of support and a lot of reforms we’ve seen a lot of change.”

Aides to both secretaries said the visit, to a city that has experienced little drug war violence, originated with an invitation from Ms. Espinosa for a catching-up session over a number of issues.

Ms. Espinosa told reporters that she hoped Mrs. Clinton’s visit, her first since last March, would also help show another, quieter face of Mexico.

Mrs. Clinton spoke in a museum that commemorates a bloody revolt against Spanish loyalists at the beginning of Mexico’s war of independence in 1810.

It shares something with today’s headlines. The heads of four insurgents were hung here during the war of independence.  (*)

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