President Obama and Mexico's President Felipe Calderon traded barbs after a three-party meeting that included Canada.
The explosion of drug-fueled violence along Mexico's border with the United States could harm relations between the two nations, President Barack Obama said Monday; Mexico's leader retorted that much of the problem of drugs and guns begins on the U.S. side of the line.
In the thick of political contests in both the United States and Mexico, Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon traded unusually direct claims about the cause and effect of the drug violence that has consumed a swath of northeastern Mexico. They were cordial and complimentary to one another, but did not hide the degree of worry on both sides about a six-year spasm of violence that has killed more than 47,000 people.
"It can have a deteriorating effect overall on the nature of our relationship," Obama said. "And that's something that we have to pay attention to."
Calderon made a government crackdown on warring drug cartels the hallmark of his six-year term, which expires later this year. His center-right party has seen its election chances fall in the face of a wide perception in Mexico that the crackdown has not worked.
The Mexican presidential election that formally began last week will culminate with elections July 1.
Beyond the terrible human cost, the battling drug gangs in Mexico and in Central America cause economic problems and political and security concerns for the United States, Obama said.
"If they're undermining institutions in these countries, that will impact our capacity to do business in these countries," Obama said following meetings with Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.