MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s presumed president-elect Enrique Pena Nieto expressed hope Monday for more US help in tamping a scourge of violence that has killed over 50,000 people in less than five years.
While Washington is focused on cracking down on crime syndicates responsible for smuggling illegal drugs into the United States, Mexico is more keen on halting the flow of weapons into the country from its northern neighbor, saying the arms are fueling the bloody drug war.
“As part of our agenda with the US government, we must focus on a more efficient way of fighting (the drug trade) to reduce the level of violence,” Pena Nieto told a group of foreign reporters.
Pena Nieto said he will maintain President Felipe Calderon’s strategy of using the military to target drug cartels and capture top criminals. But he vowed to focus on quickly bringing down the number of killings and kidnappings.
“Society clearly expects immediate short-term results… like a lower rate of crime and kidnapping,” Pena Nieto said.
Washington must also understand “where our priorities lie, which is in containing the violence” affecting vast regions of Mexico, Pena Nieto said.
Mexicans have long blamed the violence on the illegal flow of guns from across the US border. Calderon has raised the issue repeatedly with Washington, and it featured prominently in Pena Nieto’s campaign speeches.
In April, US President Barack Obama told Calderon that Washington had “dedicated new resources to reducing the southbound flow of money and guns and to reduce the demand for drugs in the United States,” which helps fuel violence in Mexico.
During a call with Pena Nieto to congratulate him after the elections, Obama “reiterated his commitment to working in partnership with Mexico” and promised to advance “common goals,” the White House said in a statement.
Those goals include “promoting democracy, economic prosperity and security in the region and around the globe,” the statement said.
The US and Mexican economies are closely linked: Mexico is the second destination for US exports, its third largest trading partner overall and its third most important source of oil. The United States is Mexico’s most biggest trade partner.
At the State Department, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the Obama administration is seeking to preserve the same kind of close cooperation with Pena Nieto as it has had with Calderon.
“We are committed to working in partnership with Mexico to meet the evolving challenges posed by transnational criminal organizations and we expect that that great cooperation is going to continue with the Pena Nieto administration,” Nuland said.
Pena Nieto declared victory in the presidential election late Sunday, after first official results showed him with 38 percent of the vote, ending more than a decade in the political wilderness for the once-reviled Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.
The center-left party governed Mexico for more than seven decades until 2000.