PUNTA DEL ESTE - US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta cautioned Western Hemisphere countries on Monday against relying on the military to perform police duties, telling a meeting of the region's defense ministers that civilian authorities should be strengthened to deal with law enforcement on their own.

Addressing an issue faced by many Latin American countries as they grapple with insurgencies or drug trafficking, Panetta told the officials, "The use of the military to perform civil law enforcement cannot be a long-term solution."

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