President Obama vigorously defended his Mexican counterpart in Guadalajara on Monday, crediting Mexican President Felipe Calderon for his efforts in fighting drug traffickers permeating Mexico's society while rejecting the charge of heavy-handedness.
"I have great confidence in President Calderon's administration applying the law enforcement techniques that are necessary to curb the power of the cartels but doing so that's consistent with human rights," Obama said as he joined Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at a regional summit.
The issue of human rights stems from U.S. concerns over what some see as tough tactics by Mexico's military as it carries out Calderon's anti-drug war. It's those concerns that have delayed the implementation of the entire Merida Initiative aid package, in which the United States is providing anti-drug equipment and resources to the Mexican government.
Calderon appealed directly to Obama for the money when the two met in Mexico on Sunday.
Obama gave Calderon the benefit of the doubt in his "courageous effort" in dealing with the crisis, which has ramifications for U.S. security as well.
"The biggest, by far, violators of human rights right now are the cartels themselves that are kidnapping people and extorting people and encouraging corruption in these regions. That's what needs to be stopped," the president said.
Calderon strove to assure the international press gathered that his government is playing by the rules and he challenged anyone to show him otherwise.
"In the struggle for the security and safety of the Mexican people, obviously we have a strong commitment to protect human rights of everybody, the victims and even of the criminal themselves. And this is how it has been; this is how it will continue to be," he said.
"Anyone who says the contrary certainly would have to prove this: any case, just one case, where the proper authority has not acted in a correct way, that the competent authorities have not punished anyone who has abused their authority, whether they be police officers or they be soldiers or anyone else," he said.