Photo Illustration by Elena Scotti/Fusion

Former President Bill Clinton wants Mexicans to know he's sorry about the mess that the U.S. drug war has caused south of its border.

In a recent speech to a roomful of Mexican students, entrepreneurs and other prominent Mexican opinion makers, Clinton apologized that the drug war has funneled cartel activity through Mexican territory.

"I wish you had no narco-trafficking, but it's not really your fault," Clinton said on Friday. "Basically we did too good of a job of taking the transportation out of the air and water, and so we ran it over land. I apologize for that."

Clinton added, "I wish you didn’t have any problems. Everybody's got problems."

Mexican media interpreted Clinton's words, which were delivered last Friday at the Youth and Productivity Summit, a conference on the future of education in Mexico, as an apology. The Clinton Foundation confirmed the former president's words.


“Clinton apologizes for anti-narco war applied in Mexico” reads the headline in Proceso magazine. “Clinton apologizes to Mexico for drug trafficking,” Mexican anchor Joaquín López-Dóriga posted on his website.

Mexicans on social media also seemed to view this as a clear apology.

"Bill Clinton apologizes for measures that concentrated drug trafficking in Mexico."


"Clinton offers an apology to Mexico for drug trafficking, he assures his nation shares part of the blame."


Ethan Nadelmann, director of the Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group for U.S. drug law reform, said Clinton "has been doing a lot of apologizing in recent years." But he thinks that's a good thing.

“Of course one wishes he’d done the right thing when he was president and had the power to do so,  but it’s always better for an ex-president to apologize for his sins than to pretend he never sinned at all," Nadelmann told Fusion.


More importantly, Nadelmann said, the former president's words could signal a shift in thinking among other members of the Clinton household — one of whom is still eyeing the presidency.

"Let’s just hope that Hillary Clinton will be far more supportive of major drug policy reform than she’s been in the past,” Nadelmann said.


Correction (posted Feb. 10, 2:30 pm). We originally reported that the conference was on the future of Mexico's economy. It was, in fact, on the future of education in Mexico, although the economy and energy sector were discussed.