US spy drones used in Mexico's war on drugs

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The Independent US

The Mexican government said yesterday that it has allowed American drones to fly over its territory to gather intelligence on drug traffickers, but insisted the operations were under its control.

The country's National Security Council said the unmanned aircraft have flown over Mexico, mainly along the border with the United States, to gather information at the Mexican government's request.

The flights expand the US role in the drugs war. The Americans have already been training Mexican soldiers and police as well as co-operating on other intelligence.

The drones "have been particularly useful in achieving various objectives of combating crime and have significantly increased Mexican authorities' capabilities and technological superiority in their fight against crime," the council said.

Mexican politicians have often criticised the involvement of US agencies on Mexican soil. Last week, the Mexican Senate voted to summon Mexico's ambassador to the US, Arturo Sarukhan, to talk about allegations that US agents allowed guns to be smuggled into Mexico.

Mexican Senator Luis Alberto Villareal said direct US involvement "violates trust and undermines national sovereignty". More than 35,000 people have died since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against cartels in 2006.