- The Washington Times - Friday, February 27, 2009

MEXICO CITY (AP) — President Felipe Calderon denies that Mexico is a failed state.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, he rejected U.S. government reports that questioned whether the Mexican government is losing control of its territory to drug cartels.

Calderon said his government has not “lost any part — any single part — of the Mexican territory” to organized crime, and called it “absolutely false” to label Mexico a failed state.

Calderon also told the AP that the U.S. government should do more to fight corruption north of the border.

U.S. government reports have recently sounded the alarm on rising violence in Mexico. One said Mexico and Pakistan were at risk of becoming failed states if the violence continues.

Earlier Thursday, Mexico’s top prosecutor said that more than 1,000 people have been killed in drug violence so far this year, but that he believes the worst is nearly over.

Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora also told the AP that 6,290 people were killed last year — the most specific government accounting yet of drug killings that doubled the 2007 toll.

Medina Mora said the world’s most powerful drug cartels are “melting down” as they engage in turf wars and fight off a nationwide crackdown.

The government doesn’t expect to stop drug trafficking, but hopes to make it so difficult that smugglers no longer use Mexico as their conduit to the United States.

“We want to raise the opportunity cost of our country as a route of choice,” Medina Mora said.

He applauded cross-border efforts that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said culminated this week with the arrests of 755 Sinaloa cartel members and seizure of $59 million in criminal proceeds in the United States. But he called for more U.S. prosecutions of people who sell weapons illegally to the cartels, and stronger efforts to stop drug profits from flowing south.

Mexico has spent $6.5 billion over the last two years in this fight, on top of its normal public security budget, but he said that falls short of the $10 billion Mexican drug gangs bring in annually.

“I believe we are reaching the peak,” Medina Mora said, but added that the government won’t achieve its objective “until Mexican citizens feel they have achieved tranquility.”

Even as he spoke, five more suspected drug killings were announced by authorities in the Pacific coast state of Guerrero. The men were shot Wednesday night.

While violence in Tijuana is down sharply from last year, killings have spiked in the largest border city, Ciudad Juarez. The city of 1.3 million across from El Paso, Texas, is now the most worrisome of a number of hotspots, Medina Mora said.

“But this is not reflecting the power of these groups,” he said. “It is reflecting how they are melting down.”

About 90 percent of the dead were suspected drug traffickers, and most of the rest were police and soldiers, Medina Mora said. Innocents caught in the crossfire account for about 4 percent of the toll, he estimated.

Medina Mora also said that since the crackdown began in 2006, the price of cocaine has shot up by 100 percent in the United States, while its purity has dropped by 35 percent. And he said the government crippled Mexico’s methamphetamine trade by banning precursor chemicals.

“The raw material is not here anymore” he said.

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