SAN FRANCISCO – Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reiterated her support Friday for ending Mexico's drug violence, saying it was in the United States' interest to crack down on drug cartels that have begun behaving more like terrorists and insurgent groups.
Clinton told a sold-out meeting of the nonpartisan Commonwealth Club in San Francisco that she was surprised comments she made last month comparing Mexico to Colombia during its past cocaine wars were critically received.
"This is one of the most difficult fights that any country faces today. We saw it over the last couple of decades in Colombia," she said. "We are watching drug traffickers undermine and corrupt governments in Central America, and we are watching the brutality and barbarity of their assaults on governors and mayors, the press, as well as each other, in Mexico."
Similar remarks Clinton made before the Council on Foreign Relations prompted President Barack Obama, among others, to say that Mexico was in much better shape politically and economically than Colombia was during the 1980s. Government officials in Mexico also rejected Clinton's comparison.
"These drug cartels are now taking on a lot of the attributes of these terrorists and insurgent groups we see around the world," Clinton said Friday. "For the first time, they are using car bombings. You see them being much more organized in a kind of paramilitary way."
Clinton described Friday's speaking engagement as only her third domestic public appearance since joining Obama's cabinet last year.
She said she also has been surprised that some political commentators have disagreed with her insistence that the United States shares responsibility for drug-related violence in Mexico.
Americans have demonstrated an "insatiable demand" for illegal drugs, and the U.S. has failed to crack down on the thousands and thousands of weapons trafficked into Mexico, Clinton repeated on Friday.
"I thought it was an obvious thing to say," she said.
In prepared remarks, Clinton also praised Northern California's technology companies as instrumental to the administration's goals for promoting peace and prosperity abroad.
Clinton called Silicon Valley a model for government efforts to promote what she termed the "freedom to connect." She gave the example of young students in Syria using cell phones and Facebook to alert the world about beatings inflicted by their teachers.