MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Bold bilateral policy with the United States is needed to combat a growing drug war that has left 7,000 people dead in Mexico and has spilled over to some U.S. cities, Mexico's secretary of foreign affairs said in an interview with FOX News.
"We will continue fighting together against this common threat that is affecting both of our countries, both of our societies, both of our young generations, and we will not give up on that fight," Patricia Espinosa said, discussing the heavy cost of her country's fight against drug cartels.
On Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano outlined her agency's southwest border security initiative that will help prevent violence in Mexico from spilling over the border and help Mexican President Felipe Calderon to crack down on drug cartels.
The United States is committing $700 million to help Mexico combat the growing drug-related violence and has announced a number of security measures. These include 360 additional officers and agents at the Mexican border, tripling the number of intelligence analysts and improved screening and technology to help Mexico target illegal guns, drugs and cash.
"It's a very clear indication that the U.S. government is taking this seriously, and they're strengthening their capabilities to fight against the drug trafficking and criminal organizations," Espinosa said.
But ties between the two countries have been strained by the overflow of violence into the U.S. and by a recent trade dispute over U.S. restrictions on Mexican trucks.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Mexico for two days starting Wednesday to try to ease that country's concerns about the U.S. commitment to free trade and the drug cartel violence.
Espinosa said she's looking forward to meeting her counterpart for the first time and to engaging in constructive bilateral talks and work.
But she said Mexico's violence won't be curtailed until the U.S. does more to curb the illegal flow of firearms from the U.S.
"It's a fact that 90 percent of the arms seized in Mexico come from the U.S. So for that reason we see this as an effort to help strengthen the application of the U.S. legislation, that provides for the prohibition of arms exports to a country in which those arms are prohibited."
Espinosa rejected a recent claim from U.S. Director of Intelligence Dennis Blair that corruption is preventing the Mexican government from controlling parts of the country.
And she denied that Mexico could ever become a failed state, something that analysts on both sides of the border have warned of.
"Well, I have to say very clearly that we have rejected these comments," she said. "We don't think this is something that has any real basis. Mexico is a democratic country, with solid institutions, a country that is undertaking a very strong fight against criminal organizations in spite of the risks that it entails.
"But there is absolutely no way that you could say that in a country where all of its inhabitants can lead a normal daily life, it could be considered the state is not controlling the territory."
Some analysts and demographics experts argue that there could now be as many as 11 million Mexicans living and working within the United States. Remittances, or money sent to Mexico by its citizens living in the U.S., is the second largest income resource in the fragile Mexican economy.
Not surprisingly, a central and longstanding plank of Mexican foreign policy has been to try to convince the United States, via the U.S. Congress, of the need for comprehensive immigration reform, including a formal guest worker program.
"We certainly hope there is a chance to bring this agenda forward," Espinosa said. "We recognize the current situation may bring other issues which are a priority, but we will continue working in our task of making sensitive to obvious issues, and how much we all have to gain if we can move this immigration agenda forward."
Espinosa said it is important for Mexicans to have the opportunity to an seek honest jobs in the United States and to have a decent life.
"Our lives are very much bound together, and in this world there is not one country that can stay alone and be absolutely self sufficient. So this would be a recognition of this reality and would actually be a win-win situation," Espinosa said.