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Mexico's drug policy not a 'war,' security spokesman says

By Rafael Romo, Senior Latin American Affairs Editor
  • Fight aims to dismantle drug cartels, strengthen institutions, official says
  • Alejandro Poire says in blog the goal is to strengthen the rule of law and reduce crime
  • Mexico estimates 35,000 people have died in drug-related violence since December 2006

(CNN) -- A top Mexican official says Mexico's drug policy is not a "war" against drug cartels, but a comprehensive strategy of the federal government to dismantle criminal organizations while at the same time strengthening institutions.

In a blog published by the Office of Mexican President Felipe Calderon, National Security Spokesman Alejandro Poire says the main objectives of the Mexican national security strategy are to strengthen the rule of law and reduce crime.

"This is not 'the government's war against drugs,' but the fight of all Mexicans to build an authentic security, based on the rule of law and justice," Poire said.

President Felipe Calderon's drug policy has come under scrutiny as violence increases. The Mexican government's estimate indicates more than 35,000 people have died in drug-related violence since Calderon took office in December 2006 for a six-year term.

Critics in Mexico and abroad have repeatedly said it is time for the Mexican government to reassess its hard-line drug strategy, because it has become counterproductive. Poire, who recently spoke on the issue of drug violence in Mexico at Harvard University in Boston, addressed the criticism on his blog.

"A policy of omission, simulation, or even worse, of negotiation (with the cartels]) would have been negligent and criminal," Poire said. "It would have postponed the effort to seek solutions much longer and left the population at the mercy of organized crime."

His comments were published six days after the U.S. Department of State broadened its travel warning for Mexico, advising American citizens to avoid certain areas and steer clear of driving at night. The advisory singles out 11 Mexican states, including border states like Sonora, Chihuahua and Tamaulipas.

The warning issued Friday strongly urges Americans to "travel only during daylight hours throughout Mexico, to avoid isolated roads and to use toll roads whenever possible." It also notes, "There's no evidence that U.S. tourists have been targeted by criminal elements due to their citizenship."

According to the U.S. State Department, 150,000 Americans cross the border into Mexico every day for study, tourism or business and at least 1 million U.S. citizens live in Mexico.

In a recent interview with CNN, a top Mexican tourism official said that in spite of the violence, tourism in Mexico last year was "very robust."

Rodolfo Lopez Negrete, chief operating officer of the Mexico Tourism Bureau, said, "Major tourism destinations that we have in Mexico, whether you refer to sun-and-beach resorts or inland destinations, those are perfectly safe."

Lopez Negrete said violence mostly occurs in "border towns with the United States, in the northeastern section of our country." However, violence in the beach resort of Acapulco has dramatically increased in the last three years. According to the Acapulco morgue, there were 1,010 violent deaths in the Pacific coastal city in 2010.