Mexican president tells Canada he will fight deadly drug wars

OTTAWA – Battling Mexico’s violent drug lords will take time, money and human lives but it’s a battle that must be fought and won, Mexican President Felipe Calderòn says.

Calderòn used an address to a joint session of Parliament Thursday morning to deliver a tough pledge that his administration will stem the drug wars that have killed thousands, corrupted police and justice officials and scared away tourists.

“We have deployed the full force of the state to meet the threat of organized crime and to guarantee a new security of the entire population,” Calderòn told a packed House of Commons.

He said his government is recruiting “honest” new police officers who are better trained and better paid and overhauling its justice system in its fight against the drug czars who have threatened to destabilize the state.

“The struggle for public security is a battle that will take time, that will take money and unfortunately it will also require human lives,” he said.

“But it is a battle that must be undertaken and . . . we the people of Mexico together are going to win,” he said

He thanked Canada for the assistance provided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in what he called a “struggle” for the security of Mexico and the region.

Calderòn and Prime Minister Stephen Harper will hold a working lunch to talk about relations between the two countries, a discussion that is expected to touch on trade, the worldwide economic woes and the tricky issue of visa requirements for Mexican tourists.

Calderòn touched on the visa issue during his speech, conceding that some Mexicans had been “abusing the generosity of the Canadian people.”

Still, he conveyed Mexico’s “regret” at the visa requirement and said he looked forward to when the “temporary measure can be put behind us.”

Since Ottawa slapped the visa requirement on Mexicans in July, asylum claims have fallen from an average of 1,000 cases a month to fewer than 200, hitting a new low of 158 in December.

He used his speech to speak warmly about the close ties between Canada and Mexico, noting how trade between the two nations has gone up dramatically, thanks in large part to the North American Free Trade agreement.

But he Canada and Mexico must seek a “higher level of integration.”

Calderòn placed a wreath honouring Second World War veterans at the National War Memorial before arriving on Parliament Hill. He is to visit Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean later in the day.

Calderòn will focus on trade and investment when he visits Toronto and Montreal where he will tour a Bombardier manufacturing plant.

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