From NBC's Libby Leist
En route to Mexico City today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was forceful in sending the message to the Mexican government and people that the U.S. takes a "shared responsibility" for the drug violence and drug trafficking plaguing Mexico, and that past U.S. efforts have not worked.
Clinton said she was asked yesterday in an interview with a Mexican reporter to respond to criticism in Mexico that the U.S. is responsible for much of the Mexican crisis. She said she responded to the reporter, "I agree -- we are!"
Clinton added today, "How could anybody conclude differently? Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade! Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers, civilians. So, yes, I feel very strongly we have a co-responsibility. And part of what we're trying to do is not only acknowledge that but working with the Mexicans to create the very best possible responses."
Clinton was very critical of past U.S. efforts, saying the drug demand has not decreased and drugs are still coming in. "We have been pursuing these strategies for 30 years... It's been very difficult," she said.
"I think we've got to take a hard look at what we can do to cut off the supply and stop the bad guys. Because the amount of violence that's going on because of these drug wars in Mexico is horrific," she added.
On guns and weapons, Clinton promised more U.S. help to stop the flow across the border. And she expressed dismay that the "bad guys" have military-style equipment, much of it coming from the U.S. "These criminals are out gunning the law enforcement officials," she said.
Clinton also emphasized that the Mexican drug issue is only a part of a broader relationship with Mexico that includes the economy, environmental issues, energy, health, immigration, and trade.
She described Mexico as "very important" and "very special" to the U.S. because of its border location and close cultural ties. She even noted that she and her husband, the former president, spent their honeymoon in Mexico.
Clinton also dismissed suggestions that the U.S.-Mexico relationship was in a crisis moment, given the drug issues and recent trade flap. "I think that our relationship, you know, is very strong and it faces challenges from time to time and that's why we have to work together to meet them," she said.
She expressed confidence that the Obama administration and Congress would work through a trucking dispute, and she said the U.S. was pressing very hard for the funding and delivery of equipment to help Mexico fight the drug cartels. (Her aides hint there may be news later today on delivery of U.S. helicopters to help the fight.)
In her meetings today with Mexican officials, her aides said, she will focus in part on judicial and police reforms in the Mexican government, and encourage the leadership to keep up the fight.
Clinton had great praise for President Calderon's efforts over the past years calling it a "courageous fight"
On a lighter note... At the start of our briefing, Clinton kept being interrupted by a phone ringing in the plane cabin. Finally, a reporter picked it up and Clinton joked, "It's the 3:00 am call!"
As it turns out, the phone call was for one of Clinton's press aides.