CB: "What I'm saying, it's being paid for in Mexican blood. Are they less than Americans?"
Rick Sanchez fills in for Campbell Brown and talks to Michael And former DEA agent Robert Strang about the shootout yesterday in Mexico that ended in the death of the head of one of the drug cartels.
RICK SANCHEZ: Welcome back. I'm Rick Sanchez.
Tonight, you're going to see one of the most extraordinary shootouts that we've seen in a long time, which results in the death of one of Mexico's most notorious drug bosses. Some say he's the boss of bosses. His name is Arturo Beltran Leyva.
Here's the video, by the way.
SANCHEZ: Are you hearing that? That's a luxury housing complex in Cuernavaca. Let's keep listening.
SANCHEZ: It's outside of Mexico City. I hear the police officers yelling. That means, "Don't move, don't move."
Those are actually members of the Mexican Navy, by the way, along with police who have moved in to take on a cartel leader. Let's keep listening.
SANCHEZ: That's automatic gunfire you're listening to. In total, six members of the cartel are killed here.
So, what I want to do now is take this video and this story apart with two people who know it from the inside out.
Robert Strang is a former special agent for the DEA. And Michael Ware, as you know, just got back from this bloody border town of Juarez across from El Paso.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a charming little place, Rick, yeah.
SANCHEZ: Charming little place indeed, right?
Bob, let me start with you. They call this guy the "jefe of jefes," "the boss of bosses." How big is he?
ROBERT STRANG, FORMER DEA SPECIAL AGENT: Well, he's certainly one of the major cartel leaders in Mexico. And there are other bosses as big as he is. And you know, as you know, Mexico is running the cartels through the country and all through the United States.
The Justice Department says now that these cartels, including this one, are in 250 cities across the United States. So, all the money that's being made here in the U.S., it's crossing the border going back to Mexico, and ultimately ends up with people like him. And there's probably only about eight people at his level across all the cartels. He's a pretty big player.
SANCHEZ: Can he be replaced? Can you replace a guy like this?
WARE: Well, it depends on what happens, doesn't it, Bob. I mean, you can have a power struggle from within. You can have other cartels come and try and feed off the carcass or he can have a smooth transition from one of his lieutenants. We're just going to have to wait and see.
SANCHEZ: Let's look at -- can we look at some of this video again? Can you play some of that video for me, if you would?
I want to just show how big this operation is.
SANCHEZ: And take into consideration, fellows, that this effort has been going on for sometime now. Why has it taken it this long -- taken them so long to actually go in full force and do something like this? Or do they do it and we don't know about it?
WARE: First, you've got to get the actionable intelligence. Why haven't you found Osama bin Laden?
WARE: It's the same thing.
STRANG: Rick, 14,000 people have died in the last 3 1/2 years.
STRANG: Fourteen thousand because of this drug cartel.
SANCHEZ: Because of Leyva. Because of Leyva.
STRANG: Look at this. Look at the innocent people that got injured, the innocent people that got hurt. Look at the kidnappings in our own country because of this cartel. This is a huge, widespread problem. This -- by the way, this just isn't a problem in Mexico. This is a problem for us in the U.S.
WARE: I couldn't agree more.
STRANG: These cartels are running some of the biggest organized crime networks in our cities, in our country, as we speak.
WARE: In the United States. This is an American drug war and it's being paid for with Mexican blood.
SANCHEZ: I don't see that. In fact, what I see is that we are giving them the money because we're buying the drugs from there.
WARE: You're giving them nothing. Exactly. Exactly.
SANCHEZ: That's what I'm saying. Well, that's what I'm saying.
WARE: This is a war being fought to supply America's demand for illicit drugs.
SANCHEZ: But where you're wrong, I believe is, the violence has not poured over the border. We're not seeing Americans...
WARE: Well, so what? What I'm saying, it's being paid for in Mexican blood. Are they less than Americans?
STRANG: The violence is here because of what is going on in Mexico. There's no question.
SANCHEZ: How so? How so?
STRANG: Look at the arrests.
SANCHEZ: But not direct violence from them.
SANCHEZ: We don't have cartel members coming into the United States...
WARE: Yes, you do. You have kidnappings in El Paso. You have murders.
STRANG: Two hundred fifty arrests by the Justice Department and DEA this year alone. There's four other major investigations going on right now. These are arrests of Mexicans in the U.S.
SANCHEZ: But let me tell you how they do it. I read this story recently in "Rolling Stone" that detailed exactly -- and you can disagree with the story, but I'll just tell you what the story says. It says they use low-level operatives here in the United States. Most of these people have no idea what's going on with guys like Leyva. That's who they use to keep themselves buffered from the higher-ups.
WARE: That's what al Qaeda does, too.
SANCHEZ: Is that true?
STRANG: Look, first of all, I don't -- "Rolling Stone," what it says is partially true. But the information that we have and the facts that we have here in the U.S. is that these cartels at high levels are putting people in the cities here that they can afford to have arrested. People who are loyal to them, people who can get the money back to them.
WARE: They're expendable.
STRANG: As soon as they make a big kilo or two kilo sale of heroin, cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, the money goes right back to Mexico. They have total control over what's going on in almost every American city.
SANCHEZ: That's an insane...
WARE: And America is doing virtually nothing.
SANCHEZ: That's an insidious way of dealing with it.
WARE: America is doing virtually nothing.
WARE: Well, the number of DEA agents in Central America, for example, you know...
SANCHEZ: Colombia has more than any, right?
WARE: Well, it begins in Colombia. It begins in Colombia, transships through Central America. It's banked in Panama. The distribution is now through Mexico. We're seeing the power shift.
In Central America, what's the total number of DEA agents? I think there's more DEA agents in Albany, New York than there are in Central America.
STRANG: Well, look...
SANCHEZ: Why is that?
STRANG: Well, because, first of all...
WARE: How much are we spending? They're making billions and we're throwing a couple hundred million at the problem.
SANCHEZ: Bob, he raises a good point. Why isn't there more of an emphasis in places like Mexico to protect us from that border?
STRANG: Mexico is priority for our government. Calderon has been cooperating with the U.S. We've been providing them with assets, with resources, with agents, training.
WARE: Token, token.
STRANG: Let me tell you -- but we've been giving a lot of support.
WARE: And how institutionalized are the cartels in the political life of Mexico?
STRANG: No question. We helped dismantle the cartels in Cali, Colombia, in Medellin, Colombia.
STRANG: Are we working with Mexico now for the first time since Calderon was elected?
WARE: Yes. Can you run for president in Mexico without a cartel backing you?
STRANG: Calderon did. And he's getting them now, isn't he? We're getting there.
WARE: El Chappo seems to be doing OK.
STRANG: We're doing OK.
SANCHEZ: And let me ask you this one final question before we go.
As we look at this video, will we then see more nationalized efforts, the federales as we call them, going in and making these kinds of operations, because usually you'd think somebody in the government, like you say, would pick up the phone and say, "Hey, Leyva, guess what, these guys are coming to get you, you better make a run for it." Nobody called this guy. They got him.
STRANG: They got him. And we're going to hopefully...
SANCHEZ: What does that said?
STRANG: That says that somewhere we got a break. That says somewhere the government in Mexico was able to get through and attack these high-level operatives. This is from wiretap information, it's from informants.
SANCHEZ: Are we helping them? Is your agency...
STRANG: My former agency is working very closely with the Mexican government. We are providing them with the training, with the financing, with the resources. That's how this was done.
WARE: But has the dynamic changed, even with his removal from the landscape? The profit incentive is still there.
SANCHEZ: Well, let's see.
WARE: Will this change the war?
STRANG: Let me say this. You can't let this go on in Mexico. It's a border with the country.
STRANG: There's so much going on there. I worry about people coming in across the border, explosives, drugs. It's too close to home.
WARE: So when are we going to commit to this problem? That's the question.
SANCHEZ: Let's talk about next time, gentlemen. Thanks so much for being with us.
WARE: Good onya, Rick.
STRANG: Thanks, Rick.
SANCHEZ: Michael, Bob, appreciate it as usual. A good lively discussion.