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. Ric Martin

    The U.S. should take as much responsibility as Mexico when It comes to the violence and drugs taking place on the border and across America. The bigest drug addicts are Americans! Where ever there is demand for there will always be suppliers. America hasn't protected its borders while money and weapons are being shipped back to cartels.

    March 26, 2009 at 7:47 pm |
  2. GF, Los Angeles

    I can't believe some of these posters – pot is not the only drug smuggled over here so legalizing it won't solve a thing. Cocaine and heroin are smuggled into this country at an alarming rate by these cartel through the use of illegals – should we legalize that too and welcome illegals with open arms?

    March 26, 2009 at 7:44 pm |
  3. Willy

    Mr. Cooper please do a investigation about the guns that illegally cross the border from US to Mexico, that can help in this war.

    March 26, 2009 at 7:41 pm |
  4. N

    whos kidding who, the eyes of the blind – look around you america, your living and working with the greatest society of addicts. so so many of us/you out there depend on pain killers to get through the day, and where do you get them from your pusher 'friends, neighbors and doctors" the only thing that seperates the "legal" pain killer addict from the street addict is the phramacutical companies and 3-10 years. rather than trying to fix mexico – lets pay attention to our real issues it starts at home – look at yourself, your spouse, your parent, your kids, your neighbor, your cowork, etc............ you want to talk saving money and increaing productivity, not to mention reducing the increase of deaths from respirtory problems caused by these rx's.....
    knowledge and truth are power.

    March 26, 2009 at 7:41 pm |
  5. Mario Soberanes

    My comment goes directly to Mr. Tomas Flores,the Mexican gentleman who thinks that just because he was born in the USA,his roots were automatically erraised.Shame on you sir,your as Mexican as your Dad and Grandparents,who probably were illegals too.
    I can only hope that some day in the future,Mexican and American Officials can come up with a solution to this problem and work together on it.Keep up the good work Mr. Cooper!!
    Greetings from Guadalajara,Mexico
    a safe place for American Tourists.

    March 26, 2009 at 7:38 pm |
  6. Betty- San Diego, Ca.

    I grew up on both sides of the Tijuana/San Diego borders, and have lived in both cities. I have an older brother who has not moved to San Diego because he cant afford the costs of living for him and his family, although he works in San Diego and is a US citizen. We are living in constant fear for him and his family.
    The Kidnappings and murders are not being use only by the drug cartels, but also by ordinary citizens of Mexico who are recurring to such methods to make easy money because the economy is also bad down the border.
    I made a day trip to spend Christmas Day with my brothers family, and I cant explain the feeling of seing the military patroling the streets in which we grew up and the constant fear due to the daily violence. Every day we see in the spanish news the death counts rising due to these killings, the people being reported as missing, whom by the way never appear alive, and it is sad that these news or no longer news at all. It is becoming a life style down in Tijuana. This situation is ver sad, but it is Urgent that something be done.

    March 26, 2009 at 7:37 pm |
  7. Annie Kate

    Hi Anderson

    Your description of the Mexican troops coming into Juarez sounded a lot like the surge in Iraq – I hope they can be as effective. Legalizing marijuana I don't think is the answer since the drug cartels are probably pushing harder drugs like heroin or cocaine, etc. No easy answers for this – just a lot of hard work by the police and military to break the backs of the cartels – a good fence on the border would probably help too in reducing the amount of drugs that can get across.

    Show was great last night – looking forward to tonight.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    March 26, 2009 at 7:34 pm |
  8. chaveñero

    hey, Andres what about the abuse the soulders are doing to the population, i hear it through the grape vine, the government does not pay enough money for them to live well, they steal money from the people they are protecting, what gives?
    have u ask around? thats another spin is it not?

    March 26, 2009 at 7:29 pm |
  9. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    Legalize marijuana? You sound like a bunch of addicts justifying your use. Cannabis has its own addiction diagnostic criteria. It leads to greater drug use. Does the term gateway drug mean anything to anyone? And guess what? If marijuana is legal, something bigger and badder won't be. It will become the new problem. Lives will still be lost. Nothing will have been solved. Criminals are going to make money whichever way they can. Let's be honest. The mob was big into alcohol during prohibition. Alcohol was legalized again. They simply changed operations. Ditto on these cartels and the corner drug dealer if the drugs are legalized. You don't kill a weed by cutting off its leaves. You kill it by destroying the entire plant system. Destroy the system. Stop the criminal.

    March 26, 2009 at 7:26 pm |
  10. Judy Stage/Brooklyn MI

    Hi Anderson, Breaking News on CNN.com says that the body of a US Marshall was found in Juarez, Mexico. Got any new information on that?
    Take care Anderson. You are in dangerous territory.
    See you tonight.

    March 26, 2009 at 7:19 pm |
  11. BettyAnn, Nacogdoches,TX

    I'm with the bloggers~ Legalize marijuana. It could save lives in more ways than one~

    March 26, 2009 at 7:08 pm |
  12. Karen

    My City Of Ruins
    - Bruce Springsteen

    March 26, 2009 at 7:00 pm |
  13. Calvin

    Why is it so hard to change the immigration laws? If we change the law all these problems go away, i dont see why president Obama is avoiding to address the situation which is now a burden to our country.

    March 26, 2009 at 6:56 pm |
  14. Jonathon

    The Federal Reserve in El Paso has always maintained some of the largest amounts of cash reserves for local banks than any other Reserve bank in the United States. Its just the way it has been in this overgrown town. I love El Paso. Ask historian Leon Metz about it, he's got a website. To think, just last year in January I made my last visit to Juarez. I haven't been there since. Miss visiting the Kentucky Club on the strip with their Sirloin Tacos and ice cold Tecates. Just going over there to buy food essentials at very low costs is something that is no longer an option. Juarez has a small oasis of food markets, yet the violence is too scary for me to go visit anymore. Plus, you got the big banks in El Paso making their millions from the dirty "Miami Vice" type "Living the Vida Loca".

    March 26, 2009 at 6:52 pm |
  15. Amanda Walton Fort Erie, Ontario

    Evening Mr. Anderson Cooper and AC360 crew,

    What a shame, innocent people under seige with no where to run and no where to hide. Corruption with police and politicians that may not want to co operate but know if they don't, they will die or threats to their family will be carried through.

    Legalizing marijuana in the U.S. that has been buzzing will not stop this problem, it goes much deeper. People don't kill to this capacity over strickly marijuana, this is the big time drugs that they're fighting to maintain, Meth, cocaine, heroin and such that keeps the addiction addictive.

    The slow economy is sure to recruit more people on the U.S. side to become involved in drug smuggling and dealing, and more are likely to take bribes when needed.

    The president certainly inherited another huge mess and concern that has been building in urgency for the past couple of years when tunnels like the one you did a segment on, I remember that one and how stunned I was at the kinds of tunneling systems they have.

    The problem has been increasing over the years remembering the Canadian tourists who were beheaded in their hotel room along with other murders of Canadian tourists a couple of years back. Where was the last administration on this problem.

    Stay very safe Anderson and crew, looking forward to watching tonight.

    March 26, 2009 at 6:43 pm |
  16. Nic

    The war on drugs goes on and on. Who's to blame? We all are, there is a underlying problem in the US and all western countries. We think its fun and cool to do drugs its that simple. We are truly morally bankrupt. I have had my share and did because I thought it was fun looking back on it its really not that much fun. But how do we end the violence, because we will never end the use it is a lost cause. The only solution is to legalize it and control it tightly. We let people smoke,drink and gamble. These are not healthy to us but yet we are allowed to do them. So legilizing it is the only solution cannabis,cocaine and herion. The meth and exctasy should still be illegal and the main ingredients of these drugs should have ban on the production. Remember that mdma and phseudoephrine are man made and these drugs are the wost of them.

    March 26, 2009 at 6:39 pm |
  17. james

    Pot and alcohol are exactly the same type of drug except one is legal.

    Tell me this? Is it harder for a teen to get pot or alcohol? Time for us to legalize it and get it over with

    March 26, 2009 at 6:38 pm |
  18. james


    A lot of what is being smuggled is pot. You want to put a big dent into what they smuggle? Legalize it.. it drastically reduces the cash cartels make, TAX it, it helps our federal and state deficits.

    Plus, everyone becomes hippys and a big love fest ensues

    March 26, 2009 at 6:36 pm |
  19. Lori from IL

    Anderson -

    Last night's show was fantastic - I love it when you report from the field and bring us these stories first hand. Just be careful.

    The unknown victims being buried in mass graves is so sad. To think they all have families and for some reason were lured into the drug cartels and the lure of the almighty dollar lead to their early death. The violence you described last night is just mind boggeling. While we are used to hearing of gang related killings here, the torture and beheadings are kind of hard to wrap your head around.

    Looking forward to tonight's show and the safe return of the 360 team traveling with you. Godspeed.

    March 26, 2009 at 6:36 pm |
  20. Jarrod

    The funny thing is that there is almost no talk about how to end the violence by SHUTTING DOWN the trade routes into the US, by curbing illegal immigration, legalizing drugs, or building a giant, militarized wall.
    The only reports I see are about guns being sent to mexico, turning this into a 2nd Amendment battle instead of a drug or illegal immigration battle, which is what it really is...

    March 26, 2009 at 6:33 pm |
  21. Val Garcia

    When are we, the United States, going to address the poverty and corruption in Mexico. One of the augments for going into Iraq was that we wanted to spread freedom. From what I see being reported, there isn't much freedom being spread. As a matter of fact, the people of Mexico are living in a true state of terror. "Join us, or die!" Not much of an option for Mexicans.

    Yet, we wonder why there is an illegal immigrant problem...

    We talk about preserving "freedom" and "democracy" around the world. We state we will fight terror at the door front of those who harbor terrorist. Yet, on our door step terror resides in the form of Cartels and the people on both sides of the border are not free from its wake.

    March 26, 2009 at 6:25 pm |
  22. Pamela

    High time we simply legalize pot. Haven't we learned anything from the days of Prohibition? Let's grow in here, tax it and control it just like we do tobacco and alcohol. We could reduce / weaken drug cartels in Mexico while giving people in the U.S. jobs in agriculture. I am not talking about meth and cocaine, unlike pot, meth and cocaine are harmful to your health.
    The Mexican drug wars are our problem, and you are a fool to think it is just Mexico's fault.

    March 26, 2009 at 6:23 pm |
  23. SS

    Hi Anderson,

    Most of your commentors are from the States, but we in British Columbia, Canada have been feeling the effects of the "War Next Door" as well. The greater Vancouver area, about the size of Seattle, has seen the murder rate skyrocket as gangs battle for the trickle of cocaine that is still available to purchase from the US (via Mexico). All three countries need to take responsibility for the drug trade- BC 'bud' which is smuggled into the US for cocaine, and guns which go to Mexico, etc. it is not enough to toughen gun laws here, to put drug kingpins in jail when they are quickly replaced by the next in line, or to make our borders more secure. Mexico seems to be showing us in Canada and the US what life will be like if we continue down the path of the war on drugs- civil war. We need to take out their money sources by decriminalizing marijuana- not cocaine- and by seizing the drug dealers' assets through proceeds of crime legislation.

    March 26, 2009 at 6:17 pm |
  24. Ivan

    Idiotic American drug users that can’t face reality and need to be doped up are to blame for the whole situation in our boarders! This country is plagued with drugs which have weakened the fabric of America while sober illegal aliens are taking over our nation. Those stupid drug users must be proud of themselves, but not for long because once the country is taken over by Mexicans they’ll be pushed off the edge and this country will be called, United Mexico!

    March 26, 2009 at 6:16 pm |
  25. Matti Folks

    Mr Cooper

    Please be safe. If drugs were legalized and taxed like alcohol, then the cartels would be forced to legitimize their business models as well as insuring the quality of their products. None of this would be happening! We do not see armed factions gunning each other down over legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco do we? Legalization and heavy taxation would largely remove the profit motive from the process. Seems like a simple solution to me.

    March 26, 2009 at 6:15 pm |
  26. Aileen

    Great stuff Anderson. So many stories, so little time. STAY SAFE

    March 26, 2009 at 6:13 pm |
  27. Dee Dee

    I wanted to offer one additional thought:

    Years ago, women's groups took to the streets, airwaves, media, etc. to try to bring attention to the number of young women who were (and are) being murdered in Juarez.

    There is a tremendous amount of background information available about these murders: How long they have been going on; how little has been learned about who is committing the crimes, etc.

    What is evident is that in places where crimes against women increase, it is usually just the beginning of epic criminal activities across the spectrum of drugs, illegal guns, murders, etc.

    We saw the same thing happen in places like Afghanistan and Darfur.

    March 26, 2009 at 6:13 pm |
  28. Tarja, Finland

    This problem is a monster that ain`t gonna be tamed any time soon. It`s been allowed to escalate unchecked for years and years.
    And now cartels operate in so many levels that at least I feel a bit hopeless about the outcome of this war against drugs.
    If there ever was a time for miracle and co-operation, it`s now.
    I`m trying to be optimistic.
    Liked yesterdays show...
    As ever, stay safe wherever you roam...

    March 26, 2009 at 6:08 pm |
  29. Tim

    The lapsing of the of the assault weapons ban has absolutely nothing to do with this! If someone on the wrong side of the law wants an assault weapon, he's going to get one, ban or no ban. So quit blaming this on Bush.

    March 26, 2009 at 6:02 pm |
  30. Julia, San Diego, CA.

    My question is this:

    If Mexico is worried about illegal "guns" etc. going over the border into Mexico..................then WHY do they not take some responsibility and post Mexican Border Guards at the points of Entry?

    Here at the San Diego / Tijuana border crossing, for southbound traffic, Mexico does not check anyone’s cars, truck, vans, etc........they usually don't even have anyone posted at the border crossing at all!

    March 26, 2009 at 5:59 pm |
  31. karen-phoenix

    Stop the demand for drug use in the US. Control sale of assault weapons. Might just help a bit!! I DO NOT want any of this coming into America. Problem is, if we don't get our jobs back in this country, national health care and good public education we will become JUST LIKE THEM!

    March 26, 2009 at 5:58 pm |
  32. Alisa

    Hey Anderson, my husband just took the wrong road in Santa Teresa, New Mexico and ended up in Juarez, Mexico–it was that easy. There was no border checkpoint, but two border patrol vehicles escorted my husband safely back over the border. Santa Teresa, NM is a town just north of El Paso, TX. He took the wrong road leaving a work conference in New Mexico and ended up in Mexico! But hey, what if those agents had not been there? How much, many or things are entering the U.S. at this particular point?

    March 26, 2009 at 5:58 pm |
  33. Sean in Albuquerque

    I grew up in El Paso and loved traveling to Juarez for good food and fun as a teen. The drug/corrupt cops problem always existed but never to the extreme that it has been for the past 12 months. I hope that the added military will allow the good people of Juarez to be able to come out and enjoy their lives and allow U.S. citizens to be able to go travel there as well.

    March 26, 2009 at 5:56 pm |
  34. La Mujer

    Well, I'm actually glad it's your last day there on the border. Doesn't sound all that safe to me...

    March 26, 2009 at 5:51 pm |
  35. Margarita

    Thanks, Anderson, for FINALLY documenting what is happening in Juarez-El Paso. I grew up in the border and I have nothing but wonderful memories of my childhood. It is truly sad to hear what is going on over there now. Hopefully, work like yours will inspire our politicians to spend their time and our taxpayer money on issues like this one.

    March 26, 2009 at 5:50 pm |
  36. La Mujer

    I just heard the body of a US marshal was just found in Juarez?

    I'm thinking maybe Anderson should rethink his vacation spots.

    March 26, 2009 at 5:50 pm |
  37. Lauren--NY

    I'm with Yiu-Long Ho, NY misses you when you aren't here.

    Keep your chin up and your wits about you. Your work is heroic. Your viewers are behind you all the way.

    If you're not wearing a Kevlar vest yourself, you should be. Take care of yourself; you're too valuable for us to lose.

    My best wishes to you and your team for a safe return. <3

    March 26, 2009 at 5:49 pm |
  38. lv, el paso texas

    Are all you people nuts? You all talk as if its a war zone down here. Puleese! Realize that this is pure media sensationalism! My mother is 78 years old and continues her weekly trek to Juarez to visit her friends. You are in danger if you are part of the industry, if not then then you're not. Get a grip, its not as bad as what is being reported. Something needs to be done, but a military presence is not the answer.

    March 26, 2009 at 5:48 pm |
  39. Dave in CO

    See marijuana legalization is just a laughing matter and there is no real benefit to it. NOT!!!

    March 26, 2009 at 5:47 pm |
  40. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    As I watched part of the program last night I thought, you guys are missing the point (unless Mexico is the ratings pet project for the month). Drugs come into this country illegally not just through Mexico. We have a border problem period. Mexico's part needs to be stopped. But so does every other drug supplier who brings this garbage into this nation, creates it here and sells it, or otherwise is part of the drug industry. I feel sorry for Mexico. But I really feel sorry for the kid whose parents have a meth lab in house or the kid whose parents deal crack on the front porch or even the kid selling his ADHD meds and mom's painkillers after school. Before we start pointing fingers at Mexico, maybe we need to look at our own demand for these drugs, our own corruption, and our own inability to stop the illegal drug problem in America.

    March 26, 2009 at 5:45 pm |
  41. Marco

    The only way to deal with a Drug Cartel is to treat it like a Cancer....
    cut it out and kill it.......dont talk to it,you will be wasting time......thats what they have done in Colombia......you can travel there safely....not possible now in Mexico.....its not going to be pretty but the US better
    step in to keep it in check

    March 26, 2009 at 5:42 pm |
  42. Dr,Bob in DePere,WI

    Anderson, 26 March 2009
    My thanks to you for your courage and honesty in telling the
    USA about a very old & poisonous subject which has been
    brushed off by most Americans, esp. the media. The heart of this problem has always been the American drug user who is a
    real and present danger to the USA. Legalize drugs? This is the
    response of the weak and ignorant. What has happened in
    those countries which legalized drugs (like the Netherlands)?
    Increased drug use and crime. The answer is increased public
    pressure on the drug user. Publish the names and faces of
    every person convicted of illegal drug use. Yank their citizenship. Start executing drug dealers. This is too severe
    a method of dealing with illegal drugs,you say? Why don't we
    wait until we have regular shoot-outs and assassinations on
    Main Street,USA? Once again, our parents and grandparents
    would be appalled at the weakness of modern Americans.

    March 26, 2009 at 5:40 pm |
  43. austin from el paso

    WOW! It's about time there someone has taken notice! Thank you! It just cracks me up how these fools who do not believe that they are using US guns. Fools I tell you! THANKS ANDERSON!

    March 26, 2009 at 5:40 pm |
  44. Rick

    I'd like to see the "gun show loophole" that allows someone to buy grenades and rocket launchers or fully automatic weapon of ANY kind. Oh that's right, it doesn't exist.
    It's pure BS.
    As another poster stated.. the US is the worst place to try and purchase a fully automatic weapon. Too expensive.
    There are so many cheaper sources of weapons in South America. Hell, I bet Chavez will give them a bulk discount on his imported Chinese AK's.

    March 26, 2009 at 5:39 pm |
  45. Jack M.

    Unfortunately you are only seeing the tip of the iceberg... It will take more than "a special report" to turn the violence and drug problem. The special last night was great on shedding light on the problems of the surface war, but as reported last night; with $40 billion dollar revenue it is going to take much more than a "crack" down on the violence in Mexico and the drug addicted America.

    A word to the rest of Americans and those concerned. The violence will die down, but it won't be because of any policies implaced and enacted by the presidents of the countries involved. It will be the cartel leaders deciding to work together in harmony to keep their profits rolling in; after all, this violence is centered on the traffick routes and crossings into the US. This was seen in the 80's when Colombian cartels and the Mexican traffickers made their deals, and will only continue as the drug traffickers and cartels can adapt quicker than law enforcement can to any situation.

    I guarantee that we will see the violence recede, and on that day, the Mexican and US officials will celebrate their strategies; but know the drug levels will remain the same, just less people dying on your television.

    March 26, 2009 at 5:39 pm |
  46. Rick Jones

    America’s insatiable demand for drugs & its inability to stop the flow of assault weapons into Mexico has turned Juarez into a warzone so America must share responsibity for cleaning up this mess.

    March 26, 2009 at 5:39 pm |
  47. Max

    GF los angeles, one can be fairly certain that legalizing and controlling marijuana use and sale would end the violence. the same method worked during prohibition. the taxes colected by alcohol sale after prohibition was a driving factor in boosting the depressed economy. also a mayo clinic study revealed that marijuana does not cause cancer like cigarettes and does not damage your liver like alcohol.

    March 26, 2009 at 5:38 pm |
  48. Yiu-Lung Ho, NY


    Thanks for a great report last night. I just hope that you are safe and will continue with the awesome reports.

    Come back to NY soon, we really missed you.

    Be safe and take care!

    March 26, 2009 at 5:34 pm |
  49. Big John Dallas

    What is happening now in Juarez and other parts of Mexico is the result of the huge amounts of money made by the drug cartels that has corrupted Mexico national government and the border region. This is only the harbringer of an expanded conflict that our government should have / may have seen coming for years. Our next war will be an expansion of the war on drugs to include American combat troops moving into Mexico. I know this is hard to believe but so was an invasion of Iraq when we stopped with Desert Storm. Our government might have suspected this would develop years ago when one of the largest military airfields in the United States was built at Fort Huachuca, Arizona and the Center for US Army Intelligence was established there. A stones throw from the border and a perfect staging area for ground invasion forces.

    March 26, 2009 at 5:33 pm |
  50. Jo Mothershead

    3 years ago my husband and I did an intership studying globalization and did a border immersion, living with women on the city dump. Watching Rick Sanchez today, I was reminded how shocking it was to discover that they made 50 cents an hour working in the NAFTA factories...$5 for an 8 hour shift. Mexicans were flocking from their villages to find work. So his guest was so right, when he stated the factories have done great harm to the poor of Mexico. We need to do something about those NAFTA contracts.

    March 26, 2009 at 5:32 pm |
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