U.S. State Secretary Clinton promises social angle to anti-drug fight

08:41, March 24, 2010      

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Visiting U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton told media in Mexico City on Tuesday that her nation would add a social angle to the Merida Initiative, a 400-million- dollar-a-year program through which the U.S. and Mexico cooperate to fight the drugs trade.

"We are extending the Merida Initiative beyond what it was traditionally deemed to be," Clinton told a press conference in Mexico's Foreign Ministry, with Mexican counterpart Patricia Espinosa. "It is not just about security, it is about working together to support society and economic development," she said.

The Merida Initiative, which began in 2007 under the government of George W. Bush, gives money, equipment and training to the governments of Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Mexico receives 400 million dollars a year, while 65 million dollars is spread across the other eight nations.

As a result of Tuesday's talks, Mexico will receive some equipment and money earlier than timetabled, she said.

"Mexico sought U.S. government support for noninvasive inspection equipment," Espinosa said. "We also discussed the fact that the illegal trafficking of arms from the U.S. has contributed to the culture of violence in this nation," she added.

Since President Barack Obama took office in January 2009, the United States has accepted more responsibility for three areas: the consumption of drugs, the sale of U.S. weapons south of the two nations' shared border and the flow of drug profits south. Tuesday is the second time that Clinton has visited Mexico to support the two governments' program.

Non invasive equipment uses radiation scans to detect objects hidden under travelers' clothing. It is considered more effective than metal detectors but has raised privacy fears.

"We know that guns purchased in the U.S. are used to facilitate violence in Mexico," Clinton told media. "The U.S. is doing its part to meet that challenge and we are working together to find the best way forward," Clinton added.

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