Calderon: WikiLeaks caused severe damage to U.S.-Mexico relations

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Seeking to repair damaged relations, President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon agreed to deepen cooperation in combating drug violence and declared a breakthrough ending a long-standing dispute over cross-border trucking. (March 3)

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By Mary Beth Sheridan
Friday, March 4, 2011

President Felipe Calderon said Thursday that the release of State Department cables criticizing Mexico's anti-drug fight had caused "serious damage" to its relationship with Washington and suggested that he had lost trust in the American ambassador in his country.

Calderon's comments were his strongest to date on the secret cables distributed by WikiLeaks, which have threatened to harm the countries' increasingly close cooperation against Mexico's powerful drug traffickers.

But hours after the interview, Calderon emerged from a White House meeting sounding reassured. He and President Obama announced a breakthrough in a long-running dispute over whether Mexican trucks could travel into the United States, as they were supposed to be able to do under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

"I am grateful for the clarity with which President Obama has recognized the great sacrifices that Mexican society has had to make" in the fight against drug gangs, Calderon said, calling Obama "a good friend to Mexico."

Calderon's one-day trip came at a moment of growing frustration in both countries over the failure to stem soaring drug violence in Mexico, where more than 35,000 people have been killed in four years. The Mexican president has publicly accused the United States of not doing enough to control the southbound flow of guns and said the revelations in the WikiLeaks cables had irritated his security team.

Adding to the tension, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent was gunned down last month in northern Mexico.

In a meeting with Washington Post writers and editors, the Mexican president was asked whether the WikiLeaks scandal had done permanent damage to his ability to work with the Obama administration and the U.S. ambassador.

"It caused serious damage. That's the truth. Of course, I am able to work with the American administration and with the American president and with the American Congress. Actually, not only I need to do [that], I also want to," he said.

But he lashed out at U.S. diplomats who called the Mexican army "risk-averse" in the cables, noting that hundreds of Mexican soldiers had been killed in the drug war.

The Americans, he said, also "play the game" of bringing "information to one agency and not to the other and try to get them to compete."

That remark appeared to refer to a cable signed by Ambassador Carlos Pascual that described how the Mexican navy captured a major trafficker using information from the United States that the Mexican army had disregarded.

Asked whether he could continue to deal with the U.S. ambassador, the Mexican leader said, "That is a question that maybe I will talk [about] with President Obama."


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