World Bulletin / News Desk
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson insisted Friday the US and Mexico are bolstering cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking, brushing aside concerns about the impact of his boss Donald Trump's anti-Mexican barbs.
Critics say he is jeopardizing the US relationship with an ally and neighbor whose cooperation Washington needs on a range of issues, including security.
But as Tillerson kicked off his first major tour of Latin America, he and his Mexican counterpart sought to play down any tensions, focusing instead on fighting what the former oilman turned secretary of state called the "devastating impact" of the international narcotics trade.
"We've created... a different approach as to how we cooperate to attack the entire supply chain of this devastating impact of drugs -- cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, opioids," Tillerson said after meeting with Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray and Canada's Chrystia Freeland in Mexico City.
"This is having a horrible effect on American citizens, Mexican citizens, Canadian citizens."
In October, Trump declared the US opioid crisis a national public health emergency, after overdoses of drugs such as heroin and fentanyl killed more than 40,000 people in 2016.
Videgaray said all three countries had agreed to place "special emphasis" on fighting both the supply and demand side of the problem: the Mexican drug cartels fueling a wave of bloodshed in his country, and the US and Canadian consumption making it a multi-billion-dollar business.
"The paradigm has to be one of cooperation, not blaming each other," he said.
The government of the economically-ravaged country has for many years heavily subsidized petrol and Maduro says this has now led to a voracious black market in oil smuggled to neighbouring countries.
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