AAM: "This is literally on America's doorstep."
March 02, 2009
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Michael is back in Mexico and talks with John Roberts about the cartel war. A slightly shortened version of his piece from last week airs again, and he updates the situation with some new details.
JOHN ROBERTS: A drug-fueled battle on America's doorstep so violent and bloody that we pulled our war correspondent to cover it. Michael Ware takes us to a place that's now considered by some to be the most dangerous city on earth, a place where Americans are now getting caught in the crossfire.
There's Michael. He's joining us in just a moment. Stay with us.
ROBERTS: Imagine gun battles just like that one going on on American streets in broad daylight. It could happen. And for that reason, we have been focusing on the drug war on the Mexican border that is getting more and more violent, and spilling over on to American soil.
Our Michael Ware joins us now from Mexico City. And we should warn you that some of the video in his report may be disturbing.
Michael, you spend a lot of time in Ciudad Juarez, which is just south of El Paso, Texas, a place that really for many people is ground zero of the drug war there across the border.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, John. I mean, last year alone, 1,600 people were killed in that city, which essentially is a sister city to El Paso, Texas, so close, it's divided by no more than a fence and a river.
So, this is literally on America's doorstep. And this is all being fought in a drug war fueled by American demand for illicit drugs and battled out with American weapons on both sides of this conflict.
MICHAEL WARE (voice-over): This is how American Jose Molinar knew his wife was dead. He saw these television pictures of her bullet-riddled car broadcast from just across the boarder in Juarez City, Mexico, minutes from his Texas home.
JOSE MOLINAR: As soon as the image came up, I saw her truck, and I knew what had happened right then and there.
WARE: His wife, Marisela, a U.S. resident and mother of two, was gunned down doing a last-minute favor, giving a Juarez government lawyer a ride to go shopping.
MOLINAR: Wrong place, wrong time. That's the only way I can describe that.
WARE: This is the cartel war in Mexico, a conflict raging on America's doorstep, a conflict in which Juarez police officers like this one, under attack from a drug gang, are fighting for their lives, while the drug cartels are battling throughout the city for control of a lucrative drug route into the United States.
Sixteen hundred people killed in this city last year. That's three times more than the most murderous city in America, and 50 of them were police officers. This year, in just two months, 400 more already murdered.
We saw the most recent victims laying in the city's morgue, overflowing with bodies, many unidentified cartel members destined for mass graves. They'd been brutally killed by rivals: beheaded, tortured, strafed with bullets.
But now the cartels are renewing a favorite tactic: intimidating government leaders. This time they're doing it by killing cops one by one.
MAYOR JOSE REYES FERRIZ, CIUDAD JUAREZ, MEXICO: They started killing police officers, and not while they were doing police work but when they were coming out of their homes and getting into their cars to go to the police station.
WARE: We rode on patrol with police officers out on the streets, the entire force on high alert, the cartel war grinding on.
(on camera) And it's going to be a long war with most of the advantages in the cartels' favor. Their gunmen outnumber these police, and they're better armed. And the body count continues to rise.
Meanwhile, over the past year, the Mexican army has moved into Juarez. Over 2,000 soldiers sent as part of a huge operation that has 45,000 troops combating the cartels across Mexico.
And though the U.S. this year is giving Mexico about $400 million to combat the cartels, officials on both sides of the border privately agree. The war as it's fought now cannot be won, which is something Jose Molinar's wife probably knew before she was gunned down.
(on camera) This drug war in Juarez robbed you of your mother. I mean, how do you carry that?
ALBA PRIETO: Day by day, just... I always think she's at work.
WARE (voice-over): And the unwinnable war that killed her mother rages on.
WARE: And it's been another terrible week of bloodshed in Juarez, marked particularly yesterday, by reports of the death of two more police officers, a husband and his pregnant wife, who was also a police officer. And what we hear now is that the Mexican government has sent more than 1,000 extra soldiers from the Mexican army to reinforce those already in this troubled city -- John.
ROBERTS: It's stunning, the level of violence going on in these Mexican border cities, Michael. And government officials in Mexico say a lot of it is to blame on guns flowing from America into Mexico. How much of a problem is that really?
WARE: Well, over the past few years, the American authorities say that they're aware of at least 62,000 weapons that have been trafficked from America to Mexico. And I can tell you, looking at some of the weapons that the police there have seized from the cartels, it's extraordinary. American hand grenades. American assault rifles. And indeed even, American .50 caliber Barrett sniper rifles that can kill a person at about a mile. Now, I've only seen those in the hands of marine and army snipers in Iraq, John.
ROBERTS: Obviously a big problem down there. Michael Ware for us this morning from Mexico City. Thanks very much. As a result of this traffic in weapons between the United States and Mexico, Eric Holder, the attorney general, has been talking about reinstating the assault weapons ban.