President Barack Obama bluntly rejected the assessment of his own secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, that Mexico was in the same situation Colombia faced 20 years ago when it was controlled by violent drug cartels, according to Reuters.
The difference is significant because, if Obama accepted Clinton’s assessment, it would put more pressure on him to deal with the unraveling border security issue in Arizona.
Obama reportedly made the comments in an interview with La Opinion, a Los Angeles-based Spanish language newspaper. The White House said there was no English language translation of the president’s comments, though he clearly gave them in English since he doesn’t speak Spanish.
Reuters reported that Obama told the newspaper that "Mexico is vast and progressive democracy, with a growing economy, and as a result you cannot compare what is happening in Mexico with what happened in Colombia 20 years ago.”
Clinton made her controversial comments Wednesday after a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in response to a question.
“We face an increasing threat from a well-organized network drug trafficking threat that is, in some cases, morphing into or making common cause with what we would consider an insurgency in Mexico and in Central America,” Clinton said. “And we are working very hard to assist the Mexicans in improving their law enforcement and their intelligence, their capacity to detain and prosecute those whom they arrest. I give President Calderon very high marks for his courage and his commitment. This is a really tough challenge. And these drug cartels are now showing more and more indices of insurgency; all of a sudden, car bombs show up which weren’t there before.
“So it’s becoming – it’s looking more and more like Colombia looked 20 years ago, where the narco-traffickers control certain parts of the country, not significant parts,” the secretary of state added.
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