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Tillerson puts onus of drug trafficking crisis on consumption by Americans

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson listens as Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray speaks Thursday, May 18, 2017, at the State Department in Washington. (Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson listens as Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray speaks Thursday, May 18, 2017, at the State Department in Washington. (Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)
By Tracy Wilkinson Tribune News Service

WASHINGTON – It has long been a Mexican talking point.

But on Thursday, it was the top U.S. diplomat who said the root of the deadly drug trafficking crisis killing thousands of people on both sides of the border was American drug habits.

“Americans must confront the reality that we are the market,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said. “We Americans must own this problem.”

Tillerson spoke after the latest in a series of meetings between senior U.S. and Mexican officials on security, drug trafficking, violence and related issues.

Both Tillerson and his Mexican counterpart, Luis Videgaray, spoke of new strategies involving “joint” and “integral” approaches, but offered little details.

Videgaray acknowledged they had no firm agreement but said both sides had a better understanding of the magnitude of the drug crisis.

Tillerson said drug trafficking had to be addressed as a “business model,” attacking cash flow, gun procurement, production and distribution.

Mexicans long have argued that U.S. counternarcotics strategies have failed to focus on the demand side: U.S. addicts and recreational users consuming huge amounts of cocaine, heroin and marijuana that is smuggled in from Mexico by violent drug cartels.

That, Tillerson said, must change.

“But for us,” Tillerson said, “Mexico wouldn’t have the trans-criminal organized crime problem and the violence that they’re suffering. … We really have to own up to that.”

Tillerson was joined by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, and both sought to emphasize a willingness to cooperate with Mexico despite strained relations at the start of the Trump administration.

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