Interview with Mexican President Felipe Calderon

Interview with Mexican President Felipe Calderon

By The Situation Room - May 19, 2010

BLITZER: The Mexican president, Felipe Calderon, is set to arrive at the White House just about a half hour or so from now for this evening's state dinner.

But first, more of my exclusive conversation earlier today with Felipe Calderon.


BLITZER: This drug war is -- is getting out of control. I know you've tried, since becoming president, to do something. But in "The Wall Street Journal," they just did a story the other day and -- and CNN has similar information. Nearly 23,000 people have been killed in Mexico since you launched your war on these drug cartels -- these drug gangs.

Is that right?

CALDERON: There are several things that I need to clarify. First, it is not exactly a war on drugs, in the sense that my object is not only and not mainly drugs, or narcotrafficking itself. It's not a war on drugs in the old sense of Mr. Nixon established here in the States.

My focus is to guarantee the safety for Mexican families, which are under threat of the organized crime in Mexico.

BLITZER: Because the murders and -- and the kidnappings, it seems to me, from afar, as if it's almost out of control.

CALDERON: It is not out of control. It is part of the process that we are stopping. Fortunately, we started to take action on time. Before, previous to me, the authority was not enough strong, was not -- was not applying the low in the right sense. That that is the reason why the organized crime started to grow in Mexico. Part link with narcotrafficking in the old sense and part linked with the new markets in order to develop the distribution of drugs in Mexico...

BLITZER: All right...

CALDERON: But after that...

BLITZER: Because I -- I'm wondering, are the drug gangs, the cartels, are they winning this war right now?

When I hear a number like 23,000 people killed since you launched your initiative...

CALDERON: No. They -- they are not winning.

Let me clarify that the other part of my answer. Most of that -- 90 percent of those casualties are of -- are casualties of criminals themselves that are fighting each other. It's very clear for us according -- with our records, that it's possible to understand, for instance, in one particular homicide, what could be the probable reasons for that, and 90 percent of that are criminals linked in one way or another to the gangs. Now, the Mexican gangs are passing through a very unstable process, splitting themselves and fighting each other. That explains most of those casualties. They are not --

BLITZER: These are not innocent civilians among the 23,000?

CALDERON: Some of them.

BLITZER: You're saying that many of them are gang members themselves?

CALDERON: 90 percent.

BLITZER: 90 percent?

CALDERON: 90 percent, yes. 90 percent out of all of the homicides that we are able to understand or explain the causes of that. 2 percent of that, less than 2 percent are innocent civilians, yes, more of less killed by the criminals. That's the worst part of that.

BLITZER: I'd like you to turn around and look at that picture of Diego Fernandez. You know him?

CALDERON: Very well. He's my friend.

BLITZER: He's your friend. He was once a presidential candidate.


BLITZER: What has happened to him?

CALDERON: We don't know, not yet. There's no evidence until now that this kidnap is related with organized crime. That's the truth.

BLITZER: He's been kidnapped? You can confirm that?

CALDERON: It could be, this one (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: Because there's some suggestion he was kidnapped to send you a message.

CALDERON: No, the criminals used to send me a very clear message in another way. I think it's a very sensitive case. It's very tough for me, of course, because Diego is a very good friend of mine, a very good friend, a member of my party. But there is not evidence that this situation is related with organized crime. There's no evidence of it's clearly a kidnap case because -- well, according with the investigation and courts.

BLITZER: Have there been anything demanding anything? Ransom?

CALDERON: Not one. No one.

BLITZER: You've had nothing like that?

CALDERON: Nothing. It's a mystery now. Of course, for me, it's very important to preserve. the confidence on the privacy of this investigation. We will find Diego and, of course, we are working with all the resources we have to find him.

BLITZER: How worried are you about your personal safety?

CALDERON: Well, you know, there are risks, of course, with the job I have. Let me be honest in this. Beyond the risks, beyond the dreadness (ph), to be president is the highest honor that any one Mexican could have. I am really happy with that. I learn from when I was a child that it is an honor to serve your country. I serve my country. I am the highest rank. I don't remember these risks that, of course, there are according to with the job I am doing.

BLITZER: Mr. President thanks so much.


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