March 26th, 2009
10:45 AM ET

The streets of Juarez

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/26/art.charlie.onpatrol.jpg caption="On patrol with 55th battalion out of Mexico City, part of 5,000 new soldiers now patrolling Juarez, Mexico."]

Anderson Cooper
AC360° Anchor

Driving through the streets of Juarez. It was once a bustling city, but now seems largely deserted. Boarded up nightclubs. Empty stores.

The American visitors are mostly gone, scared off by the escalating drug war which has turned Juarez into a battleground. A handful of factions have been fighting for control of lucrative drug routes into the US. There have been gun battles in the streets, bodies left in gutters.

The drug cartels pay off police, kill those they can't corrupt. Now 9,500 Mexican military personnel have flooded into Juarez.

"Our deployment here's open-ended," the captain of the unit says,"no one's told us how long we'll be here or how long this will take."

One of the more shocking aspects of this battle is the number of unknown victims. There are hundreds of people likely working for the cartels – low level runners or informants. Many are often found dead, their identities unknown. There are so many that they take their bodies to mass graves and simply dump them in. There simply isn't enough time to do anything else.

A convoy of soldiers just passed me by. They are in full combat mode, helmets on, kevlar vests, rifles

locked and loaded. They have made a difference. The violence has dropped off dramatically the last couple of days, but the cartels are still here, the war goes on, and the drugs continue to cross.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Anderson Cooper • Mexico
soundoff (393 Responses)
  1. Fred

    If there wasn't a demand for drugs in this country then there wouldn't be a supply. We as Americans can blame ourselves. Clean up our demand and the drug dealers will go out of business. Simple Business 101.

    March 26, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  2. Jackson

    These are sad times for a beautiful country and a great people. Unfortunately part of the blame lies on the side of the boarder, we Amerikans have such a huge appetite for illicit drugs that we create this market. And the Mexican gov't. has to bare alot of the blame as well it is the most corrupt govt' on the planet. Everyone in gov't is corrupt down there...

    I hope Anderson and crew stay safe...

    March 26, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  3. Frank

    I would love to see the stats that say that the guns being used in Mexico are coming from the USA! It is really easy to buy full auto weapons on the blackmarket in mexico and these cannot be bought in the US, nor can the current crop of military style weapons being sold be easily converted. The weapons are coming from sales from other countries that want the currency.

    March 26, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  4. Bill

    Thank you for your great reporting. Yet another black mark on the Bush Administration for letting the ban on assault weapons expire.

    Let’s see the NRA defend this one. I’m sure they will.

    John B: Yeah, that's it John B... the repeal of the "assault weapon ban" caused all this. What color is the sky in your world friend?

    March 26, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  5. BethAnne

    Been to Juarez twice. Had homes of drug lords in both Juarez as well as El Paso pointed out to me. What bothered me about El Paso is that the general consensus was that although the authorities know where these drug lords live, etc., nothing is done about them.

    So, what's being done in El Paso?

    March 26, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  6. Ralston Scott

    I travel to Juarez from Albuquerque all the time for doctors and dentists who don't overvalue their services. While I'm there, I go shopping for other items that are more sensibly priced as well. With the considerable military buildup, it's difficult not to feel safe in Juarez as long as you use common sense and treat people with respect.

    March 26, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  7. Memories maureen

    How sad this is. I remember Juarez as a beautiful and calm place to walk.

    March 26, 2009 at 1:32 pm |
  8. Tomas Flores

    What a disgrace that after 9/11 we can't control our own borders. Human trafficking is more of a problem than drugs. This country is infested with nearly twenty, million, illegal, aliens draining our natural and social resources..

    March 26, 2009 at 1:30 pm |
  9. Ann

    I watched last night while you were on the border Juarez/El Paso. So glad your there, bringing attention to this. I was horrified watching these truckloads of drugs coming through to OUR COUNTRY. Every single auto and truck coming into America should be searched. No matter how long it takes to do it. And why don't they do this. Please take care and be very careful.

    March 26, 2009 at 1:27 pm |
  10. Jeff Haupt


    Keep up the good work.

    March 26, 2009 at 1:26 pm |
  11. Gina


    Don't let these reports scare you. Sure things are bad in the border regions, but the entire country is not a warzone. I just got back from a vacation in Mexico City and I was terrified to go there because of things like this article, and it was an amazing wonderful experience and I'd recommend anyone doing the same. We were totally safe (American tourists) the entire time and I never felt worried. Monterrey is also nice and safe. It's an amazing place to visit and you're going to have a fantastic time.

    March 26, 2009 at 1:21 pm |
  12. mike cabral

    you guys think this is all just starting, in high school we would go to drink in mexico and were approached all the time to take drugs back across, being shook down for money by the police, the problem is that thwe cartals are fighting, when they dont fight you think it means there is no drug trade....no. it means they arent fighting and business is good. you really want an insight into what its like living on the border and dealing with the crap......give me a call

    March 26, 2009 at 1:21 pm |
  13. Dr. Julie Armstrong

    Anderson, stay safe.

    I was in Juarez on a murder investigation in 1999. When I returned to the US, I kissed the tarmac, grateful for my country and citizenship.

    The 3rd world economic status on Mexico keeps that country from ever creating a safe environment for its citizenry. It is also the reason immigration into the US is so thorny, because the Mexican people who make it to the US retain their 3rd world culture and clash with American values.

    The drug industry in Mexico creates a population of people who must sacrifice morals, ethics and healthy values in order to eat and feed their children and have shelter. What a shame.... the Mexican govenment should be ashamed and embarassed...

    March 26, 2009 at 1:21 pm |
  14. Ramon Sanchez

    Viva Mexico!!

    March 26, 2009 at 1:18 pm |
  15. jm, New Mexico

    Why should the US control the things it sends out? Shouldn't it be Mexico's job to control what goes in? That's like saying that Mexico should control the people leaving Mexico for the United States. It's our job to control our borders and it should be their job to control theirs.

    March 26, 2009 at 1:17 pm |
  16. Color me curious

    Just for giggles I went to the local gun shoppe yesterday and told the owner I wanted to buy an assault rifle. He just laughed and laughed and laughed.

    So just where in the USA are these weapons coming from? and more importantly, where can I buy one for myself before the Mexican invasion gets started.

    I don't feel that the 22 caliber rifle and the hand gun that I have are enough protection.

    March 26, 2009 at 1:15 pm |
  17. Susan

    I was in Juarez and El Paso just a couple of weeks ago and it's not as bad as the media makes it sound. Clearly Juarez is not the safest place to be at, but even when my husband and I got lost driving at 10:00 p.m. we were in no danger. There are many many convoys of soldiers out on the street and it can be intimidating. There is the huge problem which is drug traffic into the US, but let's not look the other and pretend like there isn't a weapon trafficking problem from the US into Mexico. That's how the cartels acquire a lot of their weapons.

    March 26, 2009 at 1:14 pm |
  18. Diane Seufert, El Paso TX

    I was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. I am thankful to the media who has shed a significant light on the drug related violence that is occuring just a few miles from where we reside. I am concerned however, that the full extent of the problem is not being fully articulated. I have heard everyone from Newt Gingrich to Pres.Obama make reference to being pro-active before the violence "spills over". What people who do not live here do not undestand is that it has spilled over. Our county hospital has been on full lock-down at least 3 times in the last 18 months because drug-related shooting victims (Mexican Police officers usually) were transported across the border to receive medical care. Fully armed police guards manned the entrances to the hospital around the clock for up to a week each time. Who is paying these poilice officers? Who is paying the medical bills? Who deems the that the violence has in fact spilled over? This problem is impacting our city fiscally in many ways for example fewer Juarez residents are crossing over to purchase items from our downtown merchants. There are many other ways our city has been impacted by this violence, but I think my entry has been long enough. I just wish the full extend of the issue could be highlighted.

    March 26, 2009 at 1:05 pm |
  19. Diane N.

    Anderson please be careful.

    March 26, 2009 at 1:01 pm |
  20. Lilibeth

    At least tourists have a choice of not going to Juarez, but what about the people who live there? I was going to ask you to interview people who live there to see what their lives are like, but it would probably put them in danger. Thanks always for being so brave in your reporting. Last night’s coverage was good even though the content was startling and terrifying. You all be safe now.

    Edmonds, Washington

    March 26, 2009 at 12:57 pm |
  21. Michelle D. Fonthill,Ontario

    Hi Anderson
    Please stay safe in traveling to the inner circle of drug traficing. The violence and killing and names of victims that are not even known it 's a civil outbreak. Please be careful i look foward to the show tonight.

    @ Rikki Fr: Fargo My prayers are with you and please take care.

    Michelle D.

    March 26, 2009 at 12:57 pm |
  22. Cuttyduarte

    TO – GF, Los Angeles- Blame us americans for the high demand.
    Last night I saw a clip of ( hillary clinton ) on last night's 360, she said we need to make it clear to americans that drug's are
    "Bad Choices" is that how she wants to combat this problem or does she have a real solution other than telling ppl- what they already know.

    March 26, 2009 at 12:51 pm |
  23. Minou, New York City

    One troubling aspect of the whole problem is that the drug cartels have more dangerous weapons than the military has. An acquaintance of mine who's in the military told me the cartels have guns that are US made, but are not allowed to be used by US soldiers because these weapons are deemed inhumane. Who in the upper echelons of the industrial-military complex is producing these guns and then leaking them ? Sure, the guns are already in the cartels hands and that cannot be changed, but the US needs to find out who is responsible for the illicit smuggle of weapons in the first place. It can't be that hard to find out!

    This is a problem that needs to be tackled from many different sides at the same time. There is no one solution.

    March 26, 2009 at 12:51 pm |
  24. Rebecca, Louisville, KY

    It's really strange to be reading about this sort of thing happening now. Cuidad Juarez was one of the entry points for rock and roll from the United States to Mexico. And it was the permeability of that border which helped the evolution of that music back and forth.

    More troubling is that this violence is only symptomatic of greater problems in Mexico. The corruption of its officials, high and low, is not limited to the drug war. The greater opening of the media in the nineties revealed all sorts of problems from drug trafficking to assassinations, massacres, and other scandals. In 2005, a journalist was "disappeared" and later found murdered after uncovering a country-wide pedophile ring that involved several high-ranking officials.

    This is just the tip of the iceberg. Or a better metaphor: the boiling over of the pot.

    March 26, 2009 at 12:42 pm |
  25. Marcela

    After seeing your news report last night it I felt overwhelmed. I can't belive that these people have no consideration for peoples lives regardless of the consequences. I do belive both sides of the border have to take responsibility because its been going for years and both sides have ignored it ..........

    March 26, 2009 at 12:41 pm |
  26. Angie

    Legalization of narcotics will bring with it a whole slew of problems. It's not the answer, especially in this community where drugs and drug violence are everyday words. I live in El Paso. I'm one of those Americans that is now scared to death of visiting Juarez, which was once a great place for a fun lunch, shopping spree, etc. Even two years ago, Juarez was not the violent place that it is now. Now, almost everyone in El Paso knows someone who died as a result of the drug violence. We need to stop the sale of guns from the U.S. to Mexico.

    March 26, 2009 at 12:39 pm |
  27. V Ault

    Making tougher laws will not cure this problem. We have been changing laws and throwing money at this issue for over 40 years. The problems with these drugs are not the users; it’s the money they make from selling drugs. Selling illegal drugs is a business. All of the violent crimes with illegal drugs are due to the money that can be made. So what we need to do is put them out of business buy legalizing all drugs. Instead of tying up our courts and locking up our citizens for abuse we should legalize all drugs and use the money to help people free themselves from drug abuse.

    March 26, 2009 at 12:33 pm |
  28. Michelle Johnson, Lomita, CA

    Hi Anderson, good show last night, very informative. Thank you for keeping the violence and death scenes to a minimum. You and the crew looked isolated at the border; now you're in Juarez, praying hard for your safety. I'll be relieved when you come home–please do the show on Friday night so we can see everything's OK.

    March 26, 2009 at 12:32 pm |
  29. Javier P, Michigan

    Supply and demand is the game. Stopping the demand is 50% of the problem.
    Also, think that when the drug crosses the borther here in the States there is a large distribution channel. Sad but truth, everywhere young and adults can find plenty of drugs.

    March 26, 2009 at 12:29 pm |
  30. Jo Ann, North Royalton, Ohio


    If the United States does not take swift and immediate action you might be saying the same things about U.S. border towns in the not too distant future.

    It sounds like the level of violence escalates and diminishes at a moments notice. No matter how much security you have, stay vigilant.

    Great interview with kfoxtv by the way. I hope you will remain on to of this story.

    Jo Ann
    North Royalton, Ohio

    March 26, 2009 at 12:28 pm |
  31. Jennifer - Michigan

    Hi Anderson,
    What a terrible shame. It is life at its worst – like a third world country. The value of human life is degraded beyond comprehension. An everyday reality for those that live it. I'm not sure how we can get the US to be a drug-free country. (keep dreaming right?) It's the illegal drug demand that is driving this way of life for them. It's so sad. Thank you for putting yourself right there in the midst of it all. I'm guessing it could bring a person down a little. Try to keep in mind that there is so much good going on in the world as well, thankfully. Thanks for all you do....

    March 26, 2009 at 12:27 pm |
  32. Carl

    I watch 360 quite a lot and I am generally impressed by the balance and integrity that Mr Cooper manages to achieve. But I was very dissappointed by last night:'s show that featured the problems along the Mexican border. It almost completely missed the central issue. That issue is the DEMAND for drugs in the USA. If the demand were to stop, the problems would solve themselves. Mrs. Clinton raised this issue in a rather weak manner, mentioning something about a shared responsibility. Get real. The demand for drugs is corrupting poor countries like Mexico and even creating huge problems in cities along the northern border.
    In his press conference, President Obama made reference to the problems along the Mexican border but did not even mention the root cause of the problem. Until the US establishment gets it's head out of the sand and stops the stupid "War on Drugs" the problems will continue or even worsen.

    March 26, 2009 at 12:26 pm |
  33. Roberto Lopez Alton,Texas

    I agree with Gabriel Torres. We need to control the flow of guns into Mexico. Mexico needs to ask the US Government to inspect all vehicles entering into Mexico, the way we do it when entering the US. I think this will help minimize the gun flow into Mexico. Its a money issue?

    March 26, 2009 at 12:25 pm |
  34. Crysti

    I think that this War Next Door is going to be one of the most difficult battles that the United States will witness because unlike Iraq, Mexico is literally fighting over us and our patronage to them. Unless the United States stops using drugs, including harmless Marijuana, which I don't forsee ever happening, then this bloodbath will just continue. This is why the Major of Juarez and other government officials have no hope of the war stopping.

    March 26, 2009 at 12:09 pm |
  35. T-n-EP

    Anderson, thank you for the work you are doing to bring more attention to this problem. One of the hardest things for my husband and I, is not to feel confident enough to come to Juarez as often as we used to and spend time with my brother and his family. We miss going out to dinner once in a while for fear of the unknown. We hope one day the Juarez I grew up in returns to normalcy.


    March 26, 2009 at 12:08 pm |
  36. Caroline, Los Angeles

    Hi Anderson,

    I hope that Calderon's plan works and that the armed forces can disarm the cartels. I was thinking of an even more radical solution last night when i saw your show. Why can't Calderon simply bomb the compounds where these drug lords live?

    OK, OK I know that is a radical idea to have a country go at war with its own people. It would be rather like our own civil war wouldn't it? But I've begun to wonder if civil war conditions aren't exactly what Mexico is facing. After all, a large portion of the population has been enslaved by the drug cartels. As you have said, they kill who they can't corrupt. The cartels are farcing people to live the way they want them to live. That's slavery.

    The rest of the country that isn't under complete control of the cartels wants them gone-or at least that's what we're told. So why can't Calderon use satelite technology to burn the pot fields and bomb the homes of the drug lords?

    It's either that solution or Mexico needs to start building some really huge, super-strong prisons. Once they find the cartel members, where are they going to put them?

    March 26, 2009 at 12:04 pm |
  37. cant handle the truth EL Paso TX

    its all lies and half truths that the media reports they are just trying to scare paople so they can push there policies as this has been going on for years with no one reporting on it i was watching last night and was getting more mad about the half truths they report like all the police and goverment officials that have been killed sure some civilans get cought in the cross fire but the police and officials that are killed are tied to drug trafficing . we need real honest reporting not the view of the network like the worst one foxnesw. just legalize and it will go away!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 26, 2009 at 12:03 pm |
  38. GF, Los Angeles

    Because of our porous borders, the drug cartels have gone from assisting coyotes for a fee to becoming one themselves. They are making double the money by smuggling illegals in and using them to carry the drugs into this country. Another problem (as heard on KFI) is that the drug cartels have military weapons obtained from Central America such as rocket launchers and armor piercing weapons. Unfortunately they've also purchased weapons from the U.S. This problem is more than legalizing marijuana and then the problem will go away, it won't. There is far too much money to be made smuggling people and drugs into this country. Our government needed to shore up our borders a long time ago. Instead our media chooses to publicize sob stories of illegals who come here and not address the real problems that come with it – $300 billion burdern on taxpayers in medical aid, social aid and education for their anchor babies. When is this government and media going to address the illegal problem? They are tied together perfectly for the drug cartels to use them as mules.

    March 26, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
  39. Rebekah Robinson

    I am supposed to go to Mexico for University in May...
    I am scared now ....

    Stay safe

    March 26, 2009 at 11:58 am |
  40. Gabriel Torres

    I live in El Paso, was raised in Juarez so I feel really saddened about all that is happening on the other side of the border. The best help that US can provide is controlling the export of guns into Mexico. How is it possible that all those assault rifles are getting sent over there without any control?

    March 26, 2009 at 11:57 am |
  41. Michelle Silverman

    It is scary what is happening in Mexico. Living close to the border in San Diego, we are feeling the effects of the Drug Cartels coming over the border. Visiting Tijuana or Baja is no longer an option for families! It is sad!

    March 26, 2009 at 11:56 am |
  42. Andrew Thorpe

    Let's make sure our pre-teen kids see what is going on and learn to stay away from drugs. It's a health epidemic with consequences involving steep health care costs and low work productivity. Testing in schools is a must. We must reverse the trend that began in the 60s.

    March 26, 2009 at 11:55 am |
  43. Laura Thompson

    I had sent an e-mail sometime back to CNN asking if someone like you, or Lou Dobbs could take the reporting to the streets in this case the Mexican/American border, I'm glad to see this happening. Instead of reporting it at the studio I think we rather see you there in person. Keep reporting Anderson CNN carries alot of clout we are listening! I'm hoping our government is too, this situation has to be top priority the safety of our lives depends on it. Stay safe while you're there take nothing for granted.

    March 26, 2009 at 11:44 am |
  44. Tony

    Rikki good luck up there in ND!! my thoughts and prayers are with you all. Rebecca i agreee!

    March 26, 2009 at 11:43 am |
  45. pamina

    What a scary situation that impacts both sides of the border. How did things get this out of control? Looking forward to your reports tonight. I would be curious to know how our "war on drugs" contributed to the current situation and suggestions for a change in policy. Stay safe.

    March 26, 2009 at 11:43 am |
  46. dave

    I think we need to monitor the gun trade and how we are fueling this war by providing the weapons to keep it on going.

    March 26, 2009 at 11:43 am |
  47. john b

    Hey Anderson,

    Thank you for your great reporting. Yet another black mark on the Bush Administration for letting the ban on assault weapons expire.

    Let's see the NRA defend this one. I'm sure they will.

    March 26, 2009 at 11:37 am |
  48. Rebecca Shirley

    Supply and demand! On the Texas side, where I live, let;s stop the demand by toughening up the laws as it pertains to dealers and users. Make it tough enough for the druggies and the demand will dry up the supply. We have become a instant-gratification society and it shows in the drug use of all ages of our people. I wonder what really is the percentage of folks driving our streets who are strung out on Mexican exported drugs, much less the ones they manufacured. The drug lords are outsmarting us and we are doing precious little to combat it. I wish our sheriffs could lock them up and throw away the key!

    March 26, 2009 at 11:08 am |
  49. Cindy

    Last night's show was just AWESOME!! That's how a special should be! I am hoping that tonight's will be just as great!

    It is a shame that the drug problem has gotten to that level in Juarez and elsewhere. It's scary that the cartels overpower the Mexican army with fire power and men. It makes you wonder what would happen if all of the cartels came together and tried to overthrow the government. If they have that much man power and fire power then anything is possible!

    I just hope that the US and Mexico can come up with some way to combat this problem before it gets to that point or any worse than it is now.

    Stay safe out there Coop! C-Ya tonight!!


    March 26, 2009 at 10:56 am |
  50. Rikki, Fargo, ND

    Hey Anderson, Hope you and your crew are staying safe! Hopefully I'll be able to catch you tonight on 360...it all depends on how the sandbag fight goes up here in ND! Stay safe!

    March 26, 2009 at 10:50 am |
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