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Tillerson: US must deal with demand to stem drug violence

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks to the media, Thursday, May 18, 2017, at the State Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks to the media, Thursday, May 18, 2017, at the State Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON — Two top Trump administration officials said Thursday that Americans' demand for illicit narcotics is fueling violence in Mexico and must be reduced if cross-border security issues are to be addressed.

Speaking after talks on combatting transnational crime with their Mexican counterparts, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly both said the United States bears significant responsibility for the problem. They said U.S. demand for opioids and other drugs is the prime driver of not only devastating overdose death tolls in the United States, but also of raging gang violence in Mexico.

"We Americans must own this problem," Tillerson told reporters. "It is ours."

He called for a comprehensive campaign against domestic drug addiction combined with stepped-up intelligence and information sharing with Mexico to disrupt drug traffickers by hitting production sites, transportation networks and their cash flows.

"There is no other market, it is all us," Tillerson said. "But for us, Mexico wouldn't have a transnational organized crime problem."

Kelly echoed those comments, saying that until the consumption of illicit drugs in the United States drops "we are fighting a losing battle on the border." He said construction of President Donald Trump's promised border wall would have to be supplemented with drug demand reduction in the U.S. and greater co-ordination with Mexico to make a serious dent in the drug flow.

Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray and Secretary of Government Miguel Osorio agreed and said their government would take steps to improve co-operation as well as do more to prosecute gang members. "Violence is not being addressed on our side," Osorio said.

In accepting even partial American responsibility for the surge in drug violence and crime, Tillerson and Kelly appeared to take a page from the Obama administration, which had been criticized by some Republicans for blaming the United States for Mexico's problems.

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