The bloodshed began in earnest in December 2006, and has, to date, claimed more than 40,000 lives in Mexico, according to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), which published an online Google map of the killings, reports Daniel Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.
Secretary Napolitano on Monday called the drug policies of both the U.S. and Mexico "a continuing effort to keep our peoples from becoming addicted to dangerous drugs" at a press conference in Mexico City, reports Rafael Romo at CNN. She made the remarks after meeting with Mexican Interior Minister Alejandro Poire.
Among the things discussed in the meeting with Poire was how to have a more "regional approach" to "a number of security issues" threatening the U.S., Mexico and Canada, Napolitano said.
Asked why, despite the best efforts of the U.S. and Mexico, why the leader of Mexico's most powerful criminal organization is still at large, Napolitano implied it's only a matter of time until Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is caught.
Guzman broke out of a Mexican prison back in 2001, and both Mexican and U.S. law enforcement authorities are now offering multi-million dollar rewards for information leading to his capture.
"It took us 10 years to find Osama bin Laden and we found him," Napolitano bragged. "And you know what happened there. I'm not suggesting the same thing would happen with Guzman but I am suggesting that we are persistent when it comes to wrongdoers and those who do harm in both of our countries."
Asked by Mexican reporters whether she still considers Mexico a safe destination, Napolitano suggested she didn't believe there is a "generalized security problem," despite Saturday's incident in which 22 Carnival Cruise Lines passengers were robbed of valuables and their passports. The tourists were traveling by bus in the middle of a shore excursion near the beach resort of Puerto Vallarta.
"I think Americans come and go freely to Mexico all the time and I expect that to continue," Napolitano said. "It's a wonderful country. There are many, many places to go and see. And obviously we also do a tremendous amount of commerce.
Napolitano was specifically asked whether the U.S. government is as concerned about the power of drug cartels in Latin America as it is about "terrorism." She called both terrorism and drug trafficking a "global scourge," but pointed out differences between the two.
"(Drug trafficking) has to be handled in a somewhat different way," Napolitano said. "It's a different type of crime and it's a different type of plague, but that's also why it is so important that we act not only bi-nationally, but in a regional way, to go after the supply of illegal narcotics."