Mexico drug crackdown `necessary`: Hillary

Joint US, Mexican efforts to combat violence have increased in recent years.

Guanajuato: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave President Felipe Calderon`s controversial crackdown on drug gangs firm support on Monday in Mexico, saying it was "absolutely necessary”.

More than 34,600 people have died in rising violence since Calderon deployed tens of thousands of soldiers to take on organised crime in 2006, amid growing allegations of military abuses under the crackdown.

"What President Calderon has done is absolutely necessary," Hillary said at a news conference in the colonial city of Guanajuato with Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa.

"There is no alternative," she added, comparing Mexico`s struggle to the fight against gang violence in New York City during the 1980s and 1990s.

Hillary met with Espinosa in Guanajuato on a one-day mission aimed at improving collaboration between the closely-tied neighbours.

The two top diplomats discussed competitiveness as both countries emerge from the financial crisis, development along their 3,000-kilometer (2,000-mile) border and advancing the global climate change agenda after the Cancun Summit last December.

Hillary was later due to meet with Calderon in Mexico City.

Despite the arrests and killings of a string of gang leaders and major drugs hauls in recent years, violent attacks continue to hit the headlines.

At least 30 people were killed in a 24-hour period since Sunday in northern Mexico, including seven players gunned down at a soccer match in Ciudad Juarez near the US border.

A weekend car bomb separately killed a police officer in central Mexico, and three teenagers were injured by a grenade found in the northern city of Monterrey.

Joint US and Mexican efforts to combat the violence have increased in recent years, but tensions have also risen with the release of classified memos by WikiLeaks that showed US diplomats expressing concern about the Mexican Army`s ability to win its war on drugs.

New cables were released on Sunday by Spanish newspaper El Pais, demonstrating US fears over the porosity of its southern border.

They also showed US-Mexico collaboration on the politically sensitive topic of immigration, including Mexican authorisation for US officials to question undocumented migrants in Mexico.

The United States -- the main market for Mexico-trafficked drugs and the top supplier of illegal weapons to Mexico -- has promised training and equipment to Mexico`s security forces under a three-year, USD 1.3-billion Merida Initiative to tackle organised crime, which is set to evolve this year.

Drug violence left 15,273 dead in Mexico in 2010, according to official figures, making it the deadliest year yet since Calderon launched his military crackdown.

Human Rights Watch slammed abuses allegedly carried out by Mexican security forces under the crackdown.

"The Mexican military continues to commit serious abuses in public security operations, yet those responsible are virtually never held accountable," the New York-based watchdog said in its annual report.

Bureau Report