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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. Margarita Macdonald

    I love el paso and Juarez!
    this is a very complicated situation... when you have very little money you will do anything to make a living. I will state my opinion whether it is excepted or not. Going forward, it is important to create opportunities for the children to get involved in other things so that they are less susceptible to bad influences in both countries. As I understand it, for El Paso and Juarez there are very little things to mentor the kids. the Kids are the future. Yes we tell them not to drugs but we don't give them the opportunities i.e. show them a better way. this is not simple" but one day, one person at a time".

    March 26, 2009 at 11:46 pm |
  2. Roy

    Thank you George Bush Sr., Bill Clinton, and especially George Bush Jr. These problems are a result of your NOT closing the back door. You have known about this problem and did very little about it. You had the chance to STOP or REDUCE this problem. Today on Andersons reporting on the boarder, it was said that everyone who buys drugs has blood on his handS. That is millions of Americans. Imagine how the Presidents in recent years could have stopped this problem by just taking a little action. We need a Great Wall of America and the prisoners need to build it. AMERIJUANIKA!!

    March 26, 2009 at 11:44 pm |
  3. donta

    AC. I thank that the US should get weapons form mexico L.E.O? Trace to buyer and take proper actions?

    March 26, 2009 at 11:43 pm |
  4. Tex

    Unfortunately, Mexican culture often times glorifies drug traffickers and their lifestyles, money, etc., in a lot of the Mexican music, "narco-corridos". Mexican and US recording companies putting out this type of propaganda need to be stopped.
    I believe that this problem is often overlooked, but has a great deal of influence especially on the young and impoverished.

    March 26, 2009 at 11:43 pm |
  5. Melissa, Los Angeles

    Has anybody considered since we've been in a recession that the recreational pot users are no longer buying and now the cartels are fighting for the dropping demand?

    March 26, 2009 at 11:43 pm |
  6. Las Vegas

    I would personally like to thank you Anderson for bringing this story of the border to light. I hope that this makes people realize that Mexico and Juarez in general has been corrupted and neglected for a long time. The drug wars are horrible but maybe this will bring some attention to the other killing that this city has endured. Let us not forget the hundreds of women that have been killed in that city. Let us bring light to that subject and not turn our heads the other way on that. These killing have been going on four years and over 400 women have been killed. I can only pray that media attention will show people what has been hiding in Juarez and maybe this will bring out some justice.

    March 26, 2009 at 11:42 pm |
  7. Mikhail St. Petersburg. Russia

    Mr. Cooper:
    Why do Americans need AR15, M4, or MP6's in their homes?...is America afraid of the government, or is America that unsafe?

    I lived for years under the scrutiny of an oppressive regime, and I can say that the strength of a state if far superior to any citizen's Militia. The last group who "proved" this principle were the Branch Davidians in WACO Texas...they also thought that their constitutional right was paramount.

    I respect American's right to defend their "hearth and home", but to do it with infantry-grade assault weapons seems over kill.

    March 26, 2009 at 11:40 pm |
  8. Steve Kz

    A mistake that is commonly made is you ask Law Enforcement for a solution and you will get the same old Law Enforcement solutions we have been doing and that have not been working. I worked as a police officer and in Law Enforcement in the LA area for seven years. Let me tell you, Law Enforcement is not an area of progressive, forward thinking, scientific, researched based field. Generally speaking they do not like change and they especially do not want change that will change the orientation of their jobs. To focus on Marijuana is the easy pickings. The real harm to families is crack, meth, cocain, heroin, oxyconitin, adderal, etc, etc. Quit wasting time enforcing laws on a relatively benign drug (in comparison to alcohol and the mentioned drugs) and focus your efforts on the harmful drugs. Ask for solutions from medical experts, addictions experts, and those who have a wider forward thinking perspective.

    March 26, 2009 at 11:38 pm |
  9. Pauline in Oregon

    Another perspective regarding Juarez. How are these killings affecting those Mexicans who are legally pursuing entry into the US. The US consulate for entry into the US in located in Juarez . Citizens from all over Mexico must go to the US consulate in Juarez to process their immigration paperwork. Perhaps these killings are frightening away any legitimate immigration.

    March 26, 2009 at 11:37 pm |
  10. Bill

    Yep, all Mexican CEO's and influential people are corrupt as well. Do you suppose that is why all these people travel in armored cars and w/ armed body-guards? Everyone in Mexico is not corrupt, and not all of Mexico is in the third world. There are many, many upstanding Mexicans from all walks of life caught in the midst of this awful situation.
    But, let us not kid ourselves. Drugs,, whether in the guise of wars or heartaches,have permeated all of th US as well. Do you know of any family that has not been torn apart by the ravages of drugs- legal or prescribed?
    I live right on the border. I have wonderful memories of hours and sleepovers w/ friends who attended private school in the US. These friends had about as much in common w/ the third world as those who summer in the Hamptons. They have all left their beutiful homes for the safety of the US. That is, until you see people in your exclusive neighborhood and wonder where all the Mercedes come from. That's when you realize you aren't safe on the US border either!

    March 26, 2009 at 11:34 pm |
  11. Laura

    I am glued to the television! I was born and raised in Juarez but currently living in the DFW metroplex. It is so sad to see my city torn apart by violence. I visited last week and I can say first hand that with the arrival of extra troops and the federal police I felt a lot safer and I also noticed that there where more people out and about in the city. It was such a difference from when I visited in December.
    Thank you for reporting. I find that a lot of people in the U.S. have no idea what is happening just a few feet away from them. There is also a lot of misconceptions about what is truly going on down there. It is so hard to find accurate and complete information, especially in Juarez since the press has been threatened and they keep the reporting to a minimum. These cartels are running the city and holding it hostage. Great show tonight!

    March 26, 2009 at 11:34 pm |
  12. Frank

    I do not believe for a second that 95% of the guns in the hands of the Mexican drug cartels are from the USA. That is just more anti-gun propaganda that CNN and certain US leftist take any opportunity to spread. The AK47 rifle is the most prevalent firearm in all of the third world and its full auto military version is not sold in the USA. I am sure there are some guns that cross the border into Mexico however 95% is ridiculous. Also a drug criminal with an AK47 does not have a trained police officer with an M16 “out gunned”. The USA military has been defeating madmen with AK47s with their pesky little M16 pea-shooter for decades. CNN and Mr. Cooper just sensationalizes such things to sell commercials

    March 26, 2009 at 11:34 pm |
  13. jesse

    Supply and demand'" As long as the us consumes 80% of the drugs the cartels will keep finding ways to cross the border. The solution is right in our back yard!! find ways to get to the consumers before they become consumers!!

    March 26, 2009 at 11:33 pm |
  14. Brian Light

    Time to legalize – Drugs are bad but a deadly army of torturers and murders is growing because they are illegal. This is not to mention the billions spent to fight the sale of drugs. It was the same deal when Al Capone made most of his money running booze.
    Alcohol and tobacco are more dangerous than drugs and they are legal.
    Heavily regulate the sale and use but instead of spending billions fighting drugs make billions taxing them. Some of the taxes should be used to advertise the dangers and for rehab centers. This has to be a better plan.
    You did not present "The best arguments for and against". Instead you gave the job to people with agendas. Why not give voice to talented and articulate researchers who have studied the issue extensively?

    March 26, 2009 at 11:33 pm |
  15. carlos

    keeping drugs illegal stimmulates the economy.a dealer makes lots of money spends it on new cars,homes large tv's ect. makes jobs for cops,investagators,lawyers,juges.... this is one of the real reasons they don't legalize drugs..sign ..carlitos way x dealer in tucson az

    March 26, 2009 at 11:31 pm |
  16. Pauline in Oregon

    Hello Anderson and Team,
    Thank you for the informative reports. I understand there have been many deaths in Juarez because of the drug cartels and that the volitility is escalating. I do not be believe we can characterize all of Mexico by the actions of these criminals. For me that is the equivalent of charcterizing all California Citizen by the actions of those who are protesting today in Oakland, in favor of the killer of 4 police officers. I love Mexico and have found there are hundreds of friendly and loving people there. I have found there ARE many corrupt officers, politicians and persons of authority here is US. Perhaps a comparison to the Governor of Illinois would be appropriate.

    I am curious why there are no reports on the US companies that are invading Mexico such as Walmart and Costco? Or why there are so many wealthy US Citizens with billions of dollars of ocean front property in Los Cabos. These expatriots do not seem to live in any greater fear than they did while they lived in the US. We often hear of how the Mexican immigrant are affecting our economy, how are the US companies affecting the Mexican economy. I am interested in hearing all angles of the story and you are able to deliver that perspective. Perhaps you could do a story in future about these subjects.
    With Gratitude, Pauline

    March 26, 2009 at 11:31 pm |
  17. lisa Miller

    Anderson,
    I was in Juarez in August and interviewed a woman who
    survived a massacre at a drug rehab center. 9 killed in front of
    her–by army guys. People I talked to feared the army. The problem will not stop until drugs are legalized.

    March 26, 2009 at 11:30 pm |
  18. wolfie

    cities in ths us...like atlanta,new york,miami, south la..basically the same thing, but know one cares here either.

    March 26, 2009 at 11:30 pm |
  19. john

    Why do you keep mentioning the death of the US Marshall in Mexico? You make it sound as if he was working down there or was killed in the line of duty. He was a dirty cop and was hiding out down there. He probably got what he deserved. He could have been selling his services to any of the cartels down there.

    March 26, 2009 at 11:30 pm |
  20. ed

    i'm watching your report from the border and I find it hard to believe that you would find a member of a Mexican Cartel willing to talk to the media. I going to have to question the credibility of this individual and take everything he says with a grain a salt. As for what he has been saying, it seems that he's just regurgitating everything you can read about in the the local papers here in El Paso.

    Just to let all you yankees know this type of violence on the border is not anything new, the unsolved murders of hundreds women in juarez has been an issue that the media has failed to cover for years now, but I guess it's not as exciting as a, " wild west shoot out. in old mexico". By the way Anderson don't forget to stop at Rosa's cantina and have a beer with ALL OF THE OTHER TOURISTS while your in town.

    March 26, 2009 at 11:30 pm |
  21. Bill Pico

    Marijuana is not heroin or meth. Legalize marijuana, increase the penalties for the rest. Quit living in a world of denial. Our policy makers have to be the lamest people in the world.

    March 26, 2009 at 11:30 pm |
  22. linnette

    due to my work schudule i amnot able to see the program but i hope more money will be put into seriously securing our borders.if we can slow the exchange of guns and weapons and assist the mexican gov in freezing assets of known drug cartels; we would all be well on our way to solving the problem.mexico need to declare a state of emergency in towns where its citizens are dying at the hands of these killers

    March 26, 2009 at 11:30 pm |
  23. SC, Fort Worth Texas

    Thanks for this Anderson, But I want to let you know that now that the military is on the border a lot of the cartels have moved to the small towns. because I use to go to my family home town in Zac. and they are just out there like if they can't be touch. Also all the person's that have a small business have to pay a tax-feed to the cartel. They also keep up with the news and blogs.

    March 26, 2009 at 11:29 pm |
  24. wolfie

    The drug cartels from mexico/latin america..wont ever ever stop as long as american demand of consuming drugs !STOP! which probably never happen... i know juarez,mex is bad..but look at some

    March 26, 2009 at 11:27 pm |
  25. Sean, Boston, MA

    Those of us from the area or grew up there know what to watch out for. Anderson, please be safe and God speed. Thank you bring this to light as it has become a part of the daily life along the border. It's about time someone brought this to America's attention. Thank you and please be safe out there.

    March 26, 2009 at 11:26 pm |
  26. Marina Tiscareno

    Anderson is not Rio Grand is Rio Grande, and if you want to say it better, is Rio Bravo!!! Please

    March 26, 2009 at 11:26 pm |
  27. Ben Kane

    The drug war is a waste of money ,time , and lives...
    Take the money away from the drug lords and there is no war !
    We give them the power ,and the money by creating the war.
    Make drugs legal , control them tax them and put them out of business.
    Those who want to do drugs will find them and there is not a damn thing the goverment can do about it . Stop trying to protect people from them self and getting thousands killed in the process.
    Use all those resources some where productive. Focus on the people who want to make a good life with education. Let it go..

    March 26, 2009 at 11:26 pm |
  28. daniel ricocari

    if you want to stop heads from being cut off from the rest of the body, legalize the drugs!! we already allow cigarettes to kill 500,000 americans per year...we already allow alcohol to destroy and kill 200,000-500,000 per year, and we allow detroit to kill 50,000 per year and injure 250,000 !!!! so who really cares about weed, crack, heroin...open up rehab centers instead of c-stores selling alcohol and tobacco on every corner...

    this issue is so nuts....and i don't mean those macadamia's from hawaii...

    oops.. i forgot.....divorce adds another 20 million casualties per year...

    you know..that human drug...poute!!!!!

    so let's concentrate on a german shep who can sniff out a marijuana plant, instead of the guy bangin your wife!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 26, 2009 at 11:26 pm |
  29. jm

    We have a U.S.Government Border patrol.

    Can't do their job on this drug problem?

    If Anderson Cooper couldn't do his job for CNN, he'd be fired--right?

    March 26, 2009 at 11:25 pm |
  30. Nattada, Houston TX

    As much as I know that it is not going to stop real soon, I have a strong hope that it will get better. So, then, we will not have to go for drug legalization. It will cause more and more problems and will not get rid of drug cartel anyway.

    Thank you Anderson and the team for your outstanding shows these 2 nights. Have a sweet dreams and safe trip back home.

    March 26, 2009 at 11:24 pm |
  31. Jalica

    it's no secret to all of us that live in el paso that many of the members of the cartel live among us here in the united states

    March 26, 2009 at 11:24 pm |
  32. kyle

    Well I just returned from my weed dealer and he didn’t have any weed. I can’t afford the “crip” that most likely is grown locally so I will wait for the “regs” that most likely come from Mexico. Am I concerned that my purchase may contribute to the violence, yes. Will I stop purchasing a drug that lowers my blood pressure, calms my nerves, and lessens my alcohol use; no. It’s time we take a product away from the cartels and legalize marijuana in America. Until we do, I will be forced to purchase my medicine from the dealers, as I have for 20 years.

    March 26, 2009 at 11:23 pm |
  33. Xavier

    We need to educate everyone and make them understand that using drugs in UNPATRIOTIC

    March 26, 2009 at 11:23 pm |
  34. Marc

    When are our officials gonna get past the PC crap and say in public what I know their smart enough to be saying in private or while they're smoke'n a joint... The only way to beat these thugs is to take away the incentive and legalize, control, and heavily tax drugs, particularly "Pot".

    March 26, 2009 at 11:22 pm |
  35. Xavier

    Great Job Anderson. Americans not living along the border need to know what's going on

    March 26, 2009 at 11:21 pm |
  36. fred

    Hey anderson all boder towns are alike I am from douglas az the police chief always runs or gets shot with his mistress now I live in elpaso nothing new here

    March 26, 2009 at 11:21 pm |
  37. AVB

    This is a complex problem. It will take a complex solution. One can't just make guns illegal and drugs legal. Neither of these things alone will stop the problem. I don't pretend to know what the solution should be. I am from the Southwest and lived in Mexico for a while. Border control is a much more complicated issue than so many people make it out to be. We are so critical of the illegal immigrants but it really is impossible for some of them to better their lives in any other way. Do you think they would take the risk if they could? Many of them have no paperwork. They are invisible to the government. What about them? The first step will be to increase understanding, make it easier to get work visas, and start educating people and families.

    March 26, 2009 at 11:21 pm |
  38. Veronica

    I live on the border. Brownsville,TX. It is scary now. You see the soldiers as soon as you cross and have their guns. We need to fight those cartels get the word out,and bring the focus to our borders. We need protection.Great work AC360!!

    March 26, 2009 at 11:21 pm |
  39. Azeem Qadri

    firstly, why would my name be required?
    secondly, up to 60% of violence could be curtailed withe the federal legalization of marijuana. The only reason that it is illegal is due to the U.S. government not being able to make profit off the sales of this theraputic medication. I am a physician and I have yet to see a chemical produced by the governmentally taxable pharm. companies that has near nil rate of side effects. Used for variety of illnesses and pathologies, marijuana has mainly 2 side effects, hunger and happy...
    thirdly, i believe that the U.S. needs to protect its citizens based on the same aggressiveness as these moralless and soulless cartels (in my language cartel translates as coward). In other words, the minute these fools harm one of ours, nay, rather an innocent person ...the mentality should be that they wage war against ll that we hold good and valuable...I say the U.S. should hire mercinaries or professional assassins to take out these cockaroaches...hel...give me the firepower and a team and I will go covert ops to finish this mess...my only payment – whatever i confescate, i keep (minus the guns, a man only needs his fists for a fight).

    March 26, 2009 at 11:20 pm |
  40. Margarita Macdonald

    I am from El Paso
    It is amazing how things have changed since I was a young girl. My mother crosses the boarder everyday to do business. I pray everyday that my mother gets home alive.
    Mexico is a beautiful country!
    I hate that the country that i grow up in has become some where that I fear!

    March 26, 2009 at 11:20 pm |
  41. Luis

    it's a shame that we insist on governments overseas protect the borders that surround the middle east from smugglers but we can't stop the massive smuggling going on in our own house. I know it's not an easy fight but I am proud of President Calderon for taking this fight to these thugs even at his own peril and I'm happy to see that the people of Mexico will not be alone on this fight. God Bless America and God Bless Mexico! Stay safe Coop

    March 26, 2009 at 11:19 pm |
  42. emma

    Frightening to think that the violence can spread over to our side. It's disturbing to hear about the horrible things drug cartels have done to each from public executions to torture and it doesn't matter who it is, no one is excluded not even children. Extremists so close to out country.

    March 26, 2009 at 11:18 pm |
  43. KS Patten, ATTY at Law

    Anderson,
    Why play shill to the Hillary Clinton Agenda?
    Until anyone is willing to release the serial
    numbeers on these guns it is so much
    anti gun propoganda
    the story plays nice for the anit gun groups
    are you a part of that
    Adolf Hitler , Joseph Stalin, etc.
    on down. first thing on agenda. confistatge guns
    then the civilians can not protect themselves
    against anyone, first of all, againt government
    please answer if you dare,
    KSP

    March 26, 2009 at 11:17 pm |
  44. Shammara

    The war on drugs is a joke and I say this because people will continue to use drugs whether they're legalized or not. It's quite apparent that over the years, the solutions that have been put into place as well as policies do not decrease drug use as much as we'd like to see; many people around the US will continue to use and addiction is a powerful element and I am not sure if anyone understands the logic in what it takes to truly kick the habit; it's hard work and from what I can tell by watching the interviews with officials, these statements mean absolutely nothing. There is no solution; how long has drugs been around and yet they're still finding a means to get into the US and cross the borders. I suggest official and politicians alike review what's really going on and maybe someone should view "why" people use because that's the main basis for why drugs will continue to flow into the US. Those that are addicted will do whatever it takes to get their next fix; it doesn't matter what drug of choice is being used; addiction is powerful!!! Yes, our children are suffering at the hands of drugs but unfortunately many of them will continue to use even as they grow into adulthood, especially if they do not receive any sort of help. We need to look at the full spectrum here aside from putting police officers and other authority figures on the ground to patrol the war on drugs. The war on drugs is no where near a complete end, period!!!

    March 26, 2009 at 11:17 pm |
  45. Jalica

    As long as drugs are illegal in the US the war on the cartels and thier power is futile.I was born and raised in El Paso and it's sad shocking and scary to see this unfold. Something that has not come up is the fact that many wealthy mexican nationals are buying houses in el paso not to say all of them are associated with the cartel but the likelihood is high a migrant farm woker working endlessly to support his family are getting deported why arent these people getting deported or investigated they are potential targets living shopping driving in and around el paso, texas USA !

    March 26, 2009 at 11:16 pm |
  46. janet

    Thank you for the live reporting that makes it so chilling real and awakening seeing it from this end. The root of the problem is deep, penatrating and yet to be controlled. Be safe!

    March 26, 2009 at 8:29 pm |
  47. La Mujer

    Perhaps the 1st step is decriminalizing the drugs – all drugs. Legalization (of even pot) doesn't appear that it will happen anytime soon.

    It will become yet another a culture war between liberals and conservatives.

    March 26, 2009 at 7:58 pm |
  48. Ric Martin

    This will never end! Americans love their drugs and will keep on consuming them. Drug addicts!

    March 26, 2009 at 7:57 pm |
  49. BettyAnn, Nacogdoches,TX

    @ Tammy~I beg to differ that marijuana is a "gateway" drug. I have seen a lot of medicinal, if not healing from marijuana.
    People will always abuse something. Food is highly abused in this country.
    Not to mention, I never knew anyone on pot alone to be violent. It could be the new xanax with less harm to the body.
    I say we legalize it for the good of all.

    March 26, 2009 at 7:56 pm |
  50. La Mujer

    At what age should this marijuana be legalized?

    March 26, 2009 at 7:53 pm |
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