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. Tamal10

    How about providing clinics where the addicts can get good government certified quality drugs for free and treatment if they want to. If we remove the financial incentive from the drug trade the war on drugs will end.

    March 26, 2009 at 5:31 pm |
  2. Hortencia Banuelos

    I leave in PA, but my family resides in Juarez and I moved in 92 to USA and I can tell you that since last summer going to Juarez feels like going to a war zone. I went last summer and businesses had their doors closed, you need to ring the bell to get into, driving around the city was the most scariest thing to do at night and I am afraid for my family specially my Mom and younger nieces. I am going in July to celebrate my daughter's 15th birthday and I am so scared but I already pay a lot of money and I dont want to ruin her celebration. Juarez needs help so it can go back to what it was before. The biggest danger is with the criminals that are on the street kidnapping people and asking the businesses and dr's for money to protect them. We need help over there.

    March 26, 2009 at 5:27 pm |
  3. mark leininger

    anderson – did you volunter for this assignment? my dad, the military and 31 years in law enforcement taught me never volunter for anything. god bless you – be safe, wear a vest and watch what you eat......

    March 26, 2009 at 5:26 pm |
  4. Charlie

    Tim Howard, It was the Bush Administration who rubber stamped the bail-outs, not Obama.

    March 26, 2009 at 5:25 pm |
  5. GF, Los Angeles

    The posts to legalize drugs astound me. I can't even fully respond to it because the costs to this nation are so great and no we don't know if that will solve the violence so why create even more problems?

    March 26, 2009 at 5:23 pm |
  6. earle,florida

    Please take no offense,but I'm sure glad I never bought that condo,...south of the border.

    March 26, 2009 at 5:22 pm |
  7. BettyAnn, Nacogdoches,TX

    Hi Anderson,
    We need to control those guns. I have never known anyone who was killed in self defense. This is one Texan who believes in gun control.
    You know, we need to do our part too. People who are poor, and desperate will do anything. We need to address this issue.
    Thanks for the blog. It is nice to see you blogging again.
    Stay safe!

    March 26, 2009 at 5:21 pm |
  8. Isabel (Brazil)

    There isn't a policy of containment of the escalating violence by the
    government front the armed confrontation, corruption, and the
    submission of the drug trafficking.
    Sad fact: heavily armed soldiers, in a fight such irrational.

    For you who have been in many wars, but in the battlefield, must be
    more frightening still witnessing a war modern, urban, in the cities.

    Congratulations! Excellent work!

    March 26, 2009 at 5:19 pm |
  9. David Caven

    "The ignorance about firearms on display here is astonishing. The drug cartels in Mexico and Colombia have millions of dollars available for buying weapons. They obtain fully automatic AK rifles, grenades, RPG-7’s and anti-tank rockets from the international arms market, weapons often built in the former Warsaw Pact nations. Look at pictrues of Colombian paramilitaries carrying brand new Bulgarian AK rifles. It’s insane to think that with those resources the cartels are wasting their time with straw purchases in Texas and New Mexico gun stores or gun shows. Gun control advocates are simply using the Mexico violence as an excuse for their favorite hobby: disarming the American people."

    Finally someone talks some sense! More people need to use their heads instead of just gulping down what they are being fed by the media. I thought I was the only one who realized that the grenades, rocket lauchers and full auto weapons are not coming from the US. If they can get these kinds of weapons, why would they waste time buying expensive, semi-auto rifles here. Thanks for the comment.


    March 26, 2009 at 5:19 pm |
  10. C.T.

    As long as the U.S. Government turns a blind, hypocritical eye towards the Tobacco, Liquor, and Pharmeceutical industries then we might as well welcome this violence with open arms. Just because these industries have cunning lobbyists does not mean that they're any better than the "illegal" drugs that are fueling this violence. We as Americans want -but can't have it both ways. One can't say " away with drugs" then pour themselves a cocktail. One can't say "lock up the Marijuana smugglers" and then light up a cigarette......all the while hiding behind the false sense of righteousness ( "it's legal"). The bottom line is..Congress is no better than the cartels. Can anyone explain why a product that kills millions is legal – yet a product w/ no directly associated fatalities is illegal? I can. It's because our government shares one common characterisitic w/ these cartels........GREED.

    March 26, 2009 at 5:18 pm |
  11. Gilbert Martinez

    My nation is awash with bad ideas, such as the crazy ones I also read on this blog. Instead of getting drug criminals off the streets, we follow the European gossip pages to see if France or Germany is pleased with our newest social experiment. We are in dire straits and I am not sure if the nation, its people, can be saved from this vicious cycle.

    March 26, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  12. Pati Mc Camp Hill, PA

    Hello Anderson.

    Please take a lesson from those soldiers and gear up. Your report last evening was very well done and I look forward to watching again this evening.

    After watching last nite and reading your blog post, I was having a hard time falling asleep. That these things are occuring right on the border and into the US is beyond unacceptable. Unfortunately until people deal with their addiction and stop purchasing illegal drugs, this war will wage on.

    We need to take the root of this issue more seriously; it is not a thing to be taken lightly as far as I am concerned. These people need help and that is the only way that the issue will eventually find a resolution.

    You do an amazing job, you and the 360 gang. Be well, and keep your heads down. We worry. 🙂

    March 26, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  13. Gilbert Martinez

    Some crazy talk on this blog. Legalize the poison that is devastating a whole country.

    Mexico already legalized drugs for personal use since 2006. It has banned weapon ownership from just about anyone not in the corrupt government. It has no death penalty and a prison system bursting at the seams. All this radical thinking should have had a better effect on the drug situation that seems to be at the verge of bringing down Mexico’s whole government.

    March 26, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  14. Edward Hilton Tennessee

    prohibition that is the problem on both sides of the border. If it was Beer we would have the same problem but we fixed that. Time to rethink this whole problem......

    March 26, 2009 at 5:15 pm |
  15. tim howard

    Maybe President Obama will give the cartels a bailout too..after all it's americas fault that they are fighting.

    March 26, 2009 at 5:13 pm |
  16. N/A LoL

    as for the legalizing of drugs, i disagree because it will obstruct the progress af most people. imagine people in the workplace high on drugs, not that productive.

    as for the war, it is a tough one because on the streets, the military cannot really tell who is a civilian or who is not. that makes military engagement hard. same goes for Iraq and afghanistan. the enemies on these ones dont have standard uniforms and are blended with the civilians. see how hard that will be?

    as for more strict policies, ...cmon..

    the main supplier of those illegal arms are gunshows here in US.

    March 26, 2009 at 5:10 pm |
  17. Juarez Citizen

    Too many US citizens thinking that this is a Mexico only proble, this is too sad, too dissapointing, I guess the only thing we can ask you to do is do not come to Juarez looking for drugs, just don't or you will be treated as the trash people that sells it, only trash people do drugs.

    March 26, 2009 at 5:10 pm |
  18. Pete

    Not one single comment mentioning the daily violence in large U.S. cities like Detroit, Miami, L.A. or even D.C. where daily shootings are part of life. I am more scared to become a victim in an assualt on a grovery store in the U.S. than getting killed on the streets of Juarez.
    If the inspections at the U.S. border are so sophisticated and thorough, how come thousands of tons of drugs can still cross into the U.S. ?
    When the own economy is on decline, it's easy to point at the 'weak' Mexican neighbour.

    March 26, 2009 at 5:03 pm |
  19. Ricardo Hernandez

    I hope the USA government starts working on the drug problem as president Calderon is. Calderon has sent the Mexican army to combat this problem and is putting his life and the safety of his family in line to do what is right. Obama needs to stop illegal trafficking of arms of the USA to Mexico and use his powerful military to stop or kill drug dealers in the USA just as Calderon is doing in Mexico. In addition, the USA government should cut the demand of drugs by their citizens by putting in place higher penalties for the use and distribution of narcotics.

    March 26, 2009 at 5:01 pm |
  20. Clark

    The other day, I was astonished to watch a news clip of a BBC reporter drive from the US into Juarez. Other than paying the $2.25 toll ont he US side to use the bridge, there was NO immigration or customs AT ALL. At the other end of the bridge, he was simply immediately on the streets of Juarez. No wonder it is so easy to get weapons into Mexico for the drug cartels! You would think there would be some sort of interdiction at the border on the Mexican side to make some attempt at stopping some of this.

    March 26, 2009 at 5:00 pm |
  21. jake

    I dont understand how US officials think that American weapons are what drug cartels are using? It takes years of waiting and clearance to get an automatic weapon or suppressor. You'd think the same cartels that smuggle tons of coccaine, would also include automatic weapons. Its not rocket science, go to gunbroker.com, automatic AR-15s are like 20k, North Korean or Chinese AKs are like 150......do the math.......

    Why buy a weapon that takes years to get, is extremely overpriced, and have to smuggle through the US border(no easy task) – when you can buy them from other foriegn governments?????

    March 26, 2009 at 4:57 pm |
  22. bigkahuna

    I say just legalize the damn drugs....there will always be a certain percentage of the population that will use drugs no matter what you tell them.

    I'd rather just tax it and regulated. Prices will drop like rock and no one will be killing themselves over drugs....

    Look what happened to prohibition wars in the 1930s...once alcohol was legalized it got rid of a ton of problems.

    March 26, 2009 at 4:56 pm |
  23. Cameron Meyer

    Obviously the "war on drugs" hasn't worked. It has been 'raging' for nearly thirty years, and what do we have to show for it? Very powerful cartels, from all around the world, making profits and spreading violently.

    The only answer is to legalize and then regulate trade/dispersion of drugs. If the black market becomes the legal market, then the cartels will have no way to profit, and therefore will have no reason to stay in the 'drug game'.

    March 26, 2009 at 4:56 pm |
  24. P

    The war on drugs is a problem that will not go away any time soon. As long as there is a demand in our country for drugs manufactured and cultivated in other countries (Afghanistan, Columbia, Mexico, etc) corruption, violence, terrorism, and smuggling will continue. The people of the United States need to completely re-think the way we are handling the drug problem. We need to legalize various drugs, (tax them for education and other programs), to take away the profits the cartels are making on illegal drugs. In order to do this we need to switch the way we house our prisoners. Instead of having them rot away in a prison we need to set up rehab centers and teach them job skills. This way they can become tax paying members of society. People in this country also need to understand that our actions have consequences. By doing drugs we not only harm ourselves but we cause people in other countries to suffer. We as a people need to look at the bigger picture and be more responsible. If we don't something the cycle will continue.

    March 26, 2009 at 4:55 pm |
  25. Louie

    I was born and raised in El Paso and spent many wonderful evenings in Juarez shopping, restaurants, etc. Growing up on the border you can't distance yourself from what is happening in Juarez and El Pasoans have been painfully aware of how dangerous it has been for several years. Now the US media has awoken to find a situation as dangerous as Baghdad right next door! The fact is America's addiction to drugs has turned this into a warzone because of how lucrative the drug trade is. Just as our Border Patrol is overwhelmed the same is true on the Mexican side in trying to keep out the assault rifles. Time for both sides to work together.

    March 26, 2009 at 4:55 pm |
  26. Elco

    Well I'm glad that someone is finally here trying to report on whats happening in Juarez. However, this thing about how bad things are here on the U.S. side of the border is somewhat skewed. For the past several years which city has always been in the top five safest cities with populations under one million. Any guess? El Paso TX. Look it up. The problem will stay in Juarez. The cartels are businesses. If something were to happen in El Paso, the first thing that would happen is the all the International Bridges would shut down. This would kill the supply line, and the money. The cartels are too smart to do something in El Paso. Thats why they do it in Phoenix, far from the border. As for the "Gun Show Loophole" , criminals will always find a way to get a gun. From the news paper, the guy on the street. The only thing the "Loophole" will solve is gun show sales.

    March 26, 2009 at 4:53 pm |
  27. Tim

    stay alert, stay alive. we need to end the War on Drugs now. $40 billion a year is a steep price tag for even for success, how much more so for failure?

    March 26, 2009 at 4:53 pm |
  28. john

    The war on drugs is very much a giant decoy. The Mexican drug cartels would never have this much power without our gov.'s consent and our supply of weaponry. Cracking down on drug use will never work because its the only escape from the suppression and slavery that the poor and rich alike experience here in our own country. All the belittled and bewildered poor on our own streets just want to smoke, drink and snort away the injustices they experience. There's never an end for the poor man in our country because if he wants to get a car he has to pay for gas that is heavily taxed and get insurance that is required and pay for health insurance and home owners insurance and dental and food taxes. So why not buy drugs that are tax-free that will bring you away from this sickening reality.

    March 26, 2009 at 4:51 pm |
  29. Robert

    Some of these comments are rediculous!! Just how will a ban on assault weapons fix this? Do you people who oppose guns think that banning these weapons will take them away from the criminals? They are criminals anyway!! This logic is idiotic! Think about it!! Guns do not kill people anymore than pencils misspell words. If guns kill people then cars should be banned as well when used in homicide. If i run over someone intentionally then should my car be banned as well?!?! The problem here is we are too diplomatic with these criminals and should make an example out of anyone caught traffiking, purchasing, selling, or producing these drugs. The article talks about the Mexican military being outgunned but let's face it, our justice system is more outgunned because the cartels and smugglers have better legal teams and more money to spend on getting these guys out of jail time. And our lazy legal system is understaffed and underbudgeted to spend the time required on putting these guys away. Don't even get me started on the penal system and its innability to house these inmates. We are in a tail spin folks. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Until America realizes this, we are doomed to fail and lose yet another "war". Our diplomacy has become our weakness, the insurgents have realized this in Iraq and the Cartels realise it now.

    March 26, 2009 at 4:49 pm |
  30. j.escalante

    outlaw guns and only outlaws will have guns! and that is what has happened in mexico. we were able to take off the british yoke because we could bear arms.

    March 26, 2009 at 4:45 pm |
  31. John G

    I think the borders should be sealed until things get under control. To the person who thinks that the ban on assault rifles that was let to expire by the Bush administration, druggies and drug runners don't get their weapons from legal sources! These criminals will continue to have automatic weapons even if there is a law banning them. Yes there are weapons going to Mexico from the US, but there are AK-47s and many other weapons coming from other sources too.
    We need to take care of our druggies and the cartels won't be so eager to get their product into this country. As long as the demand is here, then the drugs will continue to pour into the country. Walls and wires and burms don't keep the drugs out. They have gone underground!

    March 26, 2009 at 4:43 pm |
  32. Armando Ruiz

    It's like what I've always said. Mexico would not have a drug war if not for the demand and consumption of it's Northern neighbor. US Gun Dealers and Gun shows are also to blame for the war in Mexico and on the US streets as well. Sure there is a lot of corruption in Mexico and Calderon has his hand full, but finally Mexico has a President that won't be bullied by the Drug Cartels. I think the mexican police are doing the best they can with what they have to work with and how little they get paid. So many of them have died and left famlies behind for our vice here in America.

    March 26, 2009 at 4:43 pm |
  33. Kathy

    Having worked in Juarez for 25 years, during the huge move by American companies ( and international) after NAFTA, I wonder if the sudden departure by those same companies for China left a void that was filled by the drug trade. When the PRI party was voted out for the first time in 2000 by PAN, I remember how the growing middle class in Juarez was so excited by the move towards an open democracy. I wonder how the Mexican people feel about their government now, and if they wonder if their problems would still be as severe if PRI was still dominant.

    March 26, 2009 at 4:38 pm |
  34. Rita

    Mr. Cooper, you are just an AMAZING being! Keep up the great work with the information. My parents live in El Paso so I know that my mom has not been able to visit her brother in Juarez because she is just too scared to go! I hope Bush watches the news and sees what he's left for our new President to clean up!

    March 26, 2009 at 4:37 pm |
  35. Tom Schwartz

    Anybody who thinks it's possible to dry up the demand for drugs by arresting users is a typically blind American. Our war on drugs has INCREASED the profitability of drugs and has led to the current situation in Juarez. The U.S. currently has the highest rate of incarceration per capita in the free world, and most of that is for non-violent drug offenses. The profitability of the prisons has grown dramatically and the private companies who run them are seeing record profits.
    WAKE UP AMERICA! We're becoming a prison state!

    March 26, 2009 at 4:37 pm |
  36. Bosox

    To Juarez Citizen....

    Yes some U.S. Citizens go down to Mexico and do stupid and illegal things but they also go to other places (Montreal, Europe, etc) and drink like fish and possibly some illegal things too but yet we don't see the armies of those countries patrolling the streets. IMHO most of the problem (but not all) lies with a corrupt local government in your fair city and to some extent in Mexico's federal government too.

    I'm also pretty sure that most U.S. Citizens come to your country and are well behaved and do not engage in illegal activities. Now let's talk about all the people coming over the border from Mexico illegally into the U.S.....

    March 26, 2009 at 4:35 pm |
  37. Chris

    It seems that a LOT of the posters live in a VERY unrealistic world. You are NOT going to stop the demand by any significant amount, and the genius who suggested stricter penalties should have to put up his own money to pay for all of the new jails that we will need.

    The only way that makes any sense is to legalize the drugs, tax them heavily, anad use that revenue on treatment and awareness programs that may free some people from the grip of addiction.

    Other countries have leagalized drugs and they found that it did NOT make a higher percentage of their people do drugs and in fact the percentage stayed the same with signficantly LESS drug crime.

    March 26, 2009 at 4:35 pm |
  38. Matt

    Closing the boarder is not a reality. Mexico is one of our largest trading partners. This would cause economic chaos if it were closed for even a week. And stopping illegal drug use is unrealistic without a massive invasion of personal rights. People here want to use drugs and profits will be made. Who makes those profits is about all we can control. It's time we the taxpayer make the profit.

    March 26, 2009 at 4:34 pm |
  39. notalibtard

    I can not believe you sheeple that believe US guns are the problem. The BATFE has even said Mexico will not give us the serial numbers to trace the guns. You know why? Because most of them are coming strait from the corrupt Mexican military and police! The guns that are leaving the US are likely stolen by the illegals that have invaded our country and probably make up only a fraction of the guns down there. Funny how we've been asking them to crack down on border jumpers for years, but now that they have a problem, they want us to fix it.

    March 26, 2009 at 4:33 pm |
  40. Marilyn from MO

    Dear CNN Executives:

    I don't know if you take the time to read your blogs, but AC360 was exceptional last night. This is how you should be using Anderson. Just give him a cameraman and a microphone and let him interview real people about real problems. Why do you think we started following him after Katrina. He's a great correspondent, and you should use him this way more often. No other network last night had anything like this and it was a relief to get away from panels and Washington, D.C. for awhile. We need to see more of this style on stories we should know about. Wish you had just let him go like this last week in New Orleans and Detroit. Thanks for letting Anderson be Anderson!

    March 26, 2009 at 4:33 pm |
  41. Dulcie - Denver

    Hey Anderson, hope you and the crew stays safe.

    I see lots of comments here that recommend legalizing or at least de-criminalizing most drugs. I'm pretty sure that's not going to happen. Theoretically, it could work, but I don't see it happening anytime soon.

    I'm honestly not sure what the answer is. I think any solutions have to fight the problem on multiple fronts. Quick, simple answers aren't going to work here.

    March 26, 2009 at 4:33 pm |
  42. Sal

    Hi Anderson Cooper:

    Saw you this morning at the Hotel in El Passo... was not sure it was you. We are working everyday here in Juarez checking a major factory here.

    A friend of mine from Canada, refuses to go to Juarez... he had a stray bullet come their car.

    Keep safe ... when they say duck ... listen!!!



    March 26, 2009 at 4:28 pm |
  43. Rukia

    I myself live in the suncity, (EP) and i think its great that this ongoing drug war is finally being publically noticed. Alot of people don't realize how long this has been going on. I am hoping that the US can help Mexico. It's a shame that we no longer feel safe to go over there, nor feel as safe on our own border.

    March 26, 2009 at 4:27 pm |
  44. Mac

    Forgot to tell you guys to stay safe Anderson. Love the show.

    March 26, 2009 at 4:27 pm |
  45. NoFool

    I didn't get to see the show, but I think the first answer is to seal the border. No unauthorized traffic in or out. Therefore no guns, no drugs, no illegal entry.

    Taking away citizens rights to bear arms is not the answer.

    March 26, 2009 at 3:59 pm |
  46. Raul Masiosare

    As long as the demand for drugs in the United States keep increasing, there will be supply of them at any cost. Mexico is just the trampoline; the United States is the swimming pool.

    March 26, 2009 at 3:58 pm |
  47. tom

    juarez has all of the best drugs too... i guess i'll have to go somewhere else now.

    March 26, 2009 at 3:56 pm |
  48. Jemanat

    Anderson, My wife and I met in Juarez when I was a soldier at Fort Bliss in January of 1991. We met at the nightclubs on Juarez Avenue that you spoke about the other day. We've been married for 16 years and have two children. Upon completing my time in the Military we moved to my home in Chattanooga Tennessee. She wants to go spend two weeks with her family in Juarez in June. I'm scared for her to be there, especially with the children (my kids don't look Hispanic – they won't 'fit in' and are obvious kidnapping candidates). Her parents have recently moved to El Paso (legally), but all of her brothers & sisters and their families remain in Juarez. She doesn't get to see her family very often – we alternate Christmases; one there, one here. Not sure what to do. It’ not the same Juarez she once knew. Would you feel safe letting your family spend two weeks in Juarez?

    March 26, 2009 at 3:49 pm |
  49. Andrea

    There are no easy answers on this, but it's obvious we need to stop the demand for drugs (or at least severely cripple the demand) here in this country.

    However, I think just jailing everyone who uses drugs is not the answer. I'm a recovering alcoholic, and when you're an addict, being put in jail doesn't really deter you. I think we need to put the users in rehab facilities (NOT 30 day vacations at some spa place!). I was in a facility where I worked and volunteered and did a variety of things, and they helped me look for a job afterwards, etc. while continuing my stay in "sober living". I finally "got it" and have been sober for 10 years! There is still no guarantee this will help everyone, but it might make a dent in the number of users. Jailing would be good for those who commit crimes while on drugs, and definitely for those who are dealing. Hopefully, if there is less demand, there will be a decrease in business on both sides of the border.

    Many police agencies also recommend "real rehab" for users, but jail for the dealers.

    March 26, 2009 at 3:48 pm |
  50. Sharon S

    i guess I don't understand how this whole situation has gotten so out of control? I would have thought the officials in Mexico could see where this corruption was headed?
    Why didn't anyone step up and try to control this before it got this far and I don' t just mean in Mexico in America since America seems to be Pot of Gold the drug dealers are coming for?

    I don't believe for one minute our Government did not know this situation was going on, I would like to know why they did nothing to get it under control?
    Now they want to do something and it could well be too late!

    I live in VA but still the thought that this awful situation can and probably will come over into Americ is very scary!

    March 26, 2009 at 3:46 pm |
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