Gates: US Military Can Help Mexico in Drug Fight

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. military is in a better position to provide Mexico's military with training, resources and intelligence as its southern neighbor battles deadly drug cartels, Defense Secretary Robert Gates says.

More than 1,000 people have been killed in Mexico in drug-related violence this year. In 2008 the toll doubled from the previous year to 6,290. Both the U.S. and Canada have warned that murders related to drug activity in certain parts of Mexico, particularly along the border with the U.S., raised the level of risk in visiting the country.

"I think we are beginning to be in a position to help the Mexicans more than we have in the past. Some of the old biases against cooperation with our — between our militaries and so on, I think, are being set aside," Gates said in an interview aired Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"It clearly is a serious problem," he said.

Gates praised Mexican President Felipe Calderon for taking on the cartels and sending the Mexican army into the fight.

"What I think people need to point out is the courage that Calderon has shown in taking this on, because one of the reasons it's gotten as bad as it has is because his predecessors basically refused to do that," he said.

President Barack Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, said Obama and Calderon agreed to work together to stabilize the border when they met shortly before Obama's inauguration. Calderon was the first foreign leader Obama met as president-elect.

A U.S. report has found that weapons in the drug killings are coming from north of the border. Mexican authorities are outgunned by the drug cartels because the criminals are receiving their high-powered arms from the United States, Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday.

Emanuel said the two nations have a mutual interest in securing their common border.

"They want to clearly stop the guns from the United States going south. We want to stop the drugs coming north," Emanuel said on "Face the Nation" on CBS. "That border is important to us and Mexico is a key ally of ours."

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told Congress last week that the drug-related violence in Mexico was a top priority and that she was working with other U.S. agencies to end weapons trafficking and to support the Mexican government.

More than 700 suspects have been arrested as part of a wide-ranging crackdown on Mexican drug cartels operating inside the United States, the Justice Department said last week.

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