Felipe Calderón, the Mexican president, has hinted that the United States may have to consider legalising drugs in order to In a speech in New York, Mr Calderón said the high demand for illegal drugs in the US was a "key issue" and was "the most important source of power of the criminals."
By Robin Yapp in Sao Paulo and Nick Allen in Los Angeles at 6:13PM BST on 20 Sept 2011 for The Telegraph
In a speech in New York, Mr Calderón said the high demand for illegal drugs in the US was a "key issue" and was "the most important source of power of the criminals."
"We are living in the same building. And our neighbour is the largest consumer of drugs in the world. And everybody wants to sell him drugs through our doors and our windows," he said.
"We must do everything to reduce demand for drugs. But if the consumption of drugs cannot be limited, then decision-makers must seek more solutions – including market alternatives – in order to reduce the astronomical earnings of criminal organisations."
Mr Calderon's comments, in a speech to the Americas Society and Council of the Americas, appeared to be a call for high-level debate in the US about whether state regulation of the drugs market could prove more effective than the current 'war on drugs' in combating cartels.
According to the State Department, around 90 per cent of cocaine which enters the US is trafficked through Mexico.
Mr Calderón launched an aggressive crackdown on drug-related violence involving thousands of federal troops on taking office in December 2006.
The US government viewed Mr Calderon's efforts favourably and in 2007 the two countries agreed a three-year, $1.5bn plan to combat drug trafficking.
But the death toll from drug-related violence in Mexico has continued to rise and now stands at more than 42,000, damaging support for Mr Calderon's conservative National Action Party ahead of a July 2012 presidential election.
Last month saw one of the worst drugs-related atrocities when 52 people died in an arson attack by suspected cartel members in a casino in the northern city of Monterrey.
Mr Calderón turned on Washington after the attack, accusing the US government of not doing enough to tackle drug consumption.
In his latest speech, he again emphasised this point: "The incredible flow of money coming into the hands of criminals is an important part of the problem.
Demand for marijuana, as well as cocaine, is a serious part of the problem.
Sixteen US states and the District of Columbia have allowed the use of marijuana for medical reasons but the federal government does not recognise their authority to do so and considers outlets dispensing the drug illegal.
Meanwhile, Mexican police said they had captured Jose Carlos Moreno Flores, a drug lord known as "The Fever," in Mexico City. Flores was said to be a lieutenant of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán, head of the Sinaloa drug cartel and Mexico's most wanted man.