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Hillary Clinton wraps up Mexico visit, calls drug violence 'intolerable'

MEXICO UNDER SIEGE

The secretary of State tours a high-tech police facility in Mexico City and meets with university students in Monterrey.

March 27, 2009|Ken Ellingwood

MEXICO CITY — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, ending a two-day visit to Mexico that centered heavily on the drug war, toured a state-of-the-art police center and condemned drug violence in a meeting with university students Thursday.

"This situation is intolerable for honest, law-abiding citizens of Mexico, my country or of anywhere people of conscience live," Clinton told the students in Monterrey, a business hub 120 miles south of the U.S. border.

Bilateral matters stretch far beyond crime, Clinton said, and she mentioned economic and family ties, trade, energy and the world's financial meltdown. But the conversation kept returning to the drug war, which has killed more than 7,000 people in Mexico since the beginning of 2008.

Clinton said again that the battle against Mexican drug traffickers was a shared burden between Mexico and the United States. On Wednesday, she bluntly acknowledged that the United States bears some blame for the crisis because of its "insatiable" appetite for illicit drugs and its role as a supplier of weapons that are smuggled into Mexico to arm the cartels' hit men.

Clinton hoped during her stay to soothe Mexican leaders stung by commentary in the U.S. suggesting that Mexico is losing ground to the cartels.

President Felipe Calderon's government applauded an Obama administration plan, announced Tuesday, that will target the cartels by placing more U.S. agents and other personnel along the border. And the news media and Mexican politicians lauded Clinton's frank declaration of blame as long overdue.

Clinton began Thursday by touring the high-tech federal police base in Mexico City, accompanied by the nation's public safety chief, Genaro Garcia Luna. The facility, boasting a command center linked by live video to police stations around Mexico, is a centerpiece of the Calderon administration's effort to revamp the police forces, part of his 2-year-old campaign against drug traffickers.

Clinton then flew to Monterrey, Mexico's bustling financial capital. Drug-related violence has soared in the city and the surrounding state of Nuevo Leon. In recent months, attackers have thrown grenades at the U.S. Consulate and a Mexican television station in Monterrey, though no one was injured.

This week, Mexican officials announced the arrest of Monterrey-based Hector Huerta Rios, one of the country's 37 most-wanted drug suspects.

Huerta allegedly ran operations in Monterrey for the Beltran Leyva trafficking ring, based in the northwestern state of Sinaloa, and served as the group's liaison with the so-called Gulf cartel, in the country's northeast.

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ken.ellingwood@latimes.com

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