Bill Clinton addresses the Leaureate Summit in Mexico City. (Getty)
Bill Clinton addresses the Leaureate Summit in Mexico City. (Getty)

Former US president Bill Clinton has publicly apologised for the role the US' 'war on drugs' played in the creation of Mexican drugs cartels, and in fomenting the spiralling violence of the Mexican drugs wars.

Addressing an audience of students and business leaders at the recent Laureate Summit on Youth and Productivity in Mexico City, Clinton said: "I wish you had no narco-trafficking, but it's not really your fault.

"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 apologise for that," Clinton said, reports the Huffington Post.

Under Clinton's predecessors Ronald Reagan and George Bush, law enforcement agencies focused their efforts on cutting off routes across the Caribbean Sea used by traffickers to transport cocaine into the US from Central and South America.

This forced traffickers to move their operations westward, using overland routes to smuggle drugs over the US border, and spawning the cartels that now rank as some of the wealthiest and most brutal criminal organisations in the world.

Clinton's open border policy with Mexico, and focus on countering Colombian drugs gangs is believed to have fostered overland trafficking and empowered the cartels.

A 1999 White House report estimated that after the Clinton's bill reducing restrictions on the free transportation of goods over the Mexican border was passed in 1994, there was a 25 per cent leap in the amount of cocaine being transported into the country. In 1993 100 tons of drugs were smuggled into the country, according to the report.

More than 100,000 people have been killed in Mexico's drugs wars since 2006, as rival cartels battle for ascendancy, with the US spending in excess of $50 billion on counter narcotics operations worldwide annually.