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In September 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Mexican drug cartels "are showing more and more indices of insurgencies." She said traffickers were "in some cases, morphing into or making common cause with what we would consider an insurgency in Mexico and in Central America."
Then she stopped making remarks comparing drug cartels to insurgent groups. On Wednesday at the Institute of the Americas in San Diego, State Department official Matthew Rooney explained why. He said the cartels are not trying to overthrow the government, a key part of a definition of insurgency. "I can't tell you why the secretary used that word, but I can tell you why she stopped using that word, and that is because in general we have agreed with the Mexican government that that doesn't faithfully describe what is happening in Mexico," said Rooney, the deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.
His complete quote on the matter:
"An insurgency to our way of thinking is a politically motivated military force, it's an irregular force perhaps, but it's a military force, it's structured like the military and it has a political motivation. Its objective is to overthrow the government of whatever country in which it operates and to replace that government with some other form of government. So it's ideological, it's politically motivated and it's an armed military force. And so in our view the Mexican cartels don't fit those criteria. They don't have a political agenda as far as we can tell, they don't appear to want to overthrow the Mexican government, they certainly don't have an ideology that they would replace the Mexican Constitution with, and although they're certainly armed and they're certainly irregular, I don't know that they're an armed force in the sense of the military instrument. So we in general have tried to avoid using the term insurgency to refer to what is happening in Mexico and the Mexican government has felt very strongly about not using that word. So I can't tell you why the secretary used that word, but I can tell you why she stopped using that word, and that is because in general we have agreed with the Mexican government that that doesn't faithfully describe what is happening in Mexico
Rooney's appearance was entitled "Mexico, Canada, the Americas: Trade Outlook 2012." He said the North American Free Trade Agreement worked, and created jobs in all three NAFTA countries (Mexico, Canada and the U.S.) but said that U.S. reaction to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks "inadvertently ... undid some of the integration of our economies that we had created under NAFTA. We increased the cost of moving goods across borders."
He said the Obama administration has set out to restore the promise of NAFTA by trying "to find ways to make borders work better and to find ways to bring all three our economies into a closer integration." He said part of the work for greater U.S.-Mexican integration is being done by a binational executive steering committee for 21st century border.