– Defence ministers turn guns on drug cartels

by Jeff Davis

Canada, the United States and Mexico resolved Tuesday to boost efforts to curb the bloody drug war that has claimed the lives of 150,000 Mexicans in the first-ever trilateral meeting of North American defence ministers.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay held two days of security cooperation talks in Ottawa with U.S. Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta, Mexican Secretary of Defence Gen. Guillermo Galvan and Mexican Secretary of the Navy Adm. Mariano Saynez Mendoza.

MacKay said the war with Mexico’s drugs cartels has become a major concern for Canada.

“If it’s a problem for Mexico, it’s a problem for Canada,” he said. “We have over a million Canadian citizens that go to Mexico annually, and a number of citizens who make their second home in Mexico.”

Galvan gave a detailed briefing on the drug war ravaging his country which Panetta said is now generating “tremendous violence.”

“The number the Mexican officials mentioned is 150,000 who have died because of the violence, largely among these cartels in Mexico,” Panetta said.

Mexico is facing a “colossally huge” threat from the drugs cartels, Galvan told media. The cartels are fighting primarily for control of the smuggling routes used to move their product north to lucrative markets in the U.S. and Canada, he said.

The vast flow of money and guns from north of the border is fuelling the fire, he said.

The corrupting influence of the cartels is such that civil law enforcement agencies can no longer be trusted, Galvan said.

“The armed forces participate in that struggle precisely because no other agency in the government could face the drug traffickers at this time,” he said. “They will have to continue participating in this struggle until we have a professional and trustworthy law enforcement in the country.”

The three NAFTA partners will increase intelligence exchanges and security cooperation on land and sea to confront the cartels, MacKay said.

“Quite frankly, these cartels don’t recognize borders, they don’t recognize nationalities,” he said.

Panetta said the U.S. is prepared to use whatever means necessary to bust up the cartels.

“We are committed to doing everything possible to ensure that ultimately we cannot only weaken, but end this threat to our people,” he said.

Canada and the United States have regularly held bilateral defence meetings for decades, but this marks the first time Mexico has been included in a regular forum.

This being the first trilateral meeting, few tangible policy resolutions were agreed upon by the three parties.

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