NR: "Anything that makes these drug cartels stronger is not good news for America."
August 16, 2009
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Don Lemon re-airs Michael's report from last Monday about the cartels diversifying into the human trafficking business, and then talks to Michael about the problems -- and the dangers -- as the cartels evolve.
DON LEMON: CNN's Michael Ware joins us now. He is back in New York.
Michael, you know, you have been just about in every dangerous territory on earth. Did you feel unsafe at all, though, covering this story? It seems very dangerous.
MICHAEL WARE: Well, obviously, there's a danger lurking when you're doing anything with the drug cartels. Although the ones who are bearing the price of that, journalistically, are the Mexican journalists. I mean, they are literally being kidnapped and executed by the cartels for their reporting.
Now, for us, the way we have to operate is in and out very, very fast. Now, you'll see people going past you, making quick phone calls on cell phones. You'll see that there are people watching you, a couple of cars will circle around. You always have to be aware of your surroundings when you're doing a story like this.
Were we in direct danger? I don't think so. But it's the sort of story where you really have to keep your wits about you, Don.
LEMON: You know, the Zetas -- you know, I hate to sound insensitive. Is this just -- you know, human smuggling -- for them is this just another revenue stream? Or is this, you know -- is this very profitable for them? How do they view this human smuggling as far as making money?
WARE: Well, you've hit the nail on the head. It is just another revenue stream. In many ways, it's just following a classic business model. Especially in hard economic times, what do you do? You diversify.
Now, the question is, why are they doing this? According to the Drug Enforcement Administration in D.C., it's because the cartels are coming under so much pressure in terms of their drug business that they're branching out into other enterprises.
However, people on the ground say no, no, no, this is the cartels' flexing their muscles. They're moving into human trafficking. Soon, they'll going to be moving into all sorts of illicit businesses, if not taking over. Then -- like, say, mafia in New York neighborhoods -- they'll be taxing illicit activities within their own territories.
LEMON: So then how does this compare to drugs then? I mean, is this just as profitable or does it have the potential to become as profitable as drug trafficking?
WARE: They do say human trafficking is a multimillion, perhaps multibillion dollar a year business. But, no, it's still going to be cocaine. That's their primary business. That is definitely a multibillion dollar business every year. I mean, the DEA estimates anything from $10 billion to $40 billion travels south to Mexico every year in the drug trade.
So it's going to be hard for anything to compete with that. That's going to remain their primary business, but we're going to see them spread out, diversify, consolidate their power and their business and anything that makes these drug cartels stronger is not good news for America, Don.
LEMON: Michael, I know that you're back now. Do you have any plans on going back to the region though and continuing to cover this?
WARE: Well, I certainly won't be advertising because I don't want to give anyone a heads up. But, yes, Don, Mexico, the drug wars, Central America is now very much a part of what I'll be doing.
LEMON: All right. We will be following you, Michael. Great reporting out of there. Thank you so much for joining us.
WARE: Thanks, mate.