AC: "If you can have this Mexican blood on your hands, then you're a better -- or a worse -- person than I."
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Erica Hill talks to Michael and former DEA agent Robert Strang about the action on Wednesday that resulted in the death of the leader of one of the Mexican drug cartels.
ERICA HILL: The drug war next door could escalate. That is the fear following the death of a major cartel leader.
HILL: The ruthless drug lord gunned down in this shootout between police and cartel members. His name: Arturo Beltran Leyva. Mexican President Felipe Calderon said killing him was a heavy blow against one of the most dangerous criminal organizations in Mexico.
But it could also unleash a power struggle between rival cartels, one that could, in fact, lead to more bloodshed?
Michael Ware just returned from the front lines in Mexico. He joins us, along with Robert Strang, who's a security expert and former special agent for the DEA.
Good to have both of you with us. We should point out that it's not just President Calderon who's saying this is a huge blow. The acting administrator for the DEA also said...
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's correct.
HILL: ... this is a heavy blow. So, is it a heavy blow, Michael, to the cartel there, or is this going to incite more violence?
WARE: Well, we'll have to wait and see. This is certainly a body blow to the general dynamics of the cartels, to lose one of the leadership, and someone so senior, obviously has a disrupting effect. But what are the ripples going to be? Will there be a smooth transition of power within the cartel? Will others come and try to feed off the carcass? Will there be internal disputes within the cartel? We just don't know which way it will go yet.
HILL: So, do you see this then as sort of being the first major one to fall in what could be in fact a line of the heads of these cartels being brought down?
ROBERT STRANG, FORMER DEA AGENT: I do. President Calderon said three years ago when he came into office, "I'm going to work with the United States. I'm going to do the best I can to stop this $20 billion industry." And 14,000 deaths in the last three years, he says, "What am I going to do to stop it?"
This is the first major victory he's had. He's on his way to do what Colombia did to those cartels, he's going to do the major cartels in Mexico.
HILL: You said repeatedly, Michael, that it's Mexican blood paying for this insatiable American appetite for illegal drugs.
WARE: That's right. Well, there is the, you know, the moral compass. I mean, all of this death is stemming from a struggle for the right to supply America's illicit demand for drugs. So if you can have this Mexican blood on your hands, then you're a better -- or a worse -- person than I.
But also, let's not forget the penetration of American soil. If you want to be purely self-interested about this, there are hundreds upon hundreds of active cartel members in America, in literally hundreds of American cities. And they don't muck around. I mean, we're not talking LA. street gangs here. We're talking L.A. street gangs on steroids, and...
STRANG: Right. Well, look. Last year, there were hundreds of arrests made by the Justice Department and DEA in the United States. We're having a lot of crossfire, kidnappings, crime in cities like Phoenix and Atlanta and San Diego that are directly affected by what's happening in Mexico.
These cartels, the billion-dollar salesmen down there, there are CEOs running it, need the people up here to get the job done. It's one big organization.
So, look, we've got to get to the drugs before they get to our kids in our country. There is bloodshed. Let us protect our own kids in our own country. Let us work with Mexico. This is a country that's right across our border. We cannot allow this to continue.
WARE: My final point would be, after we took down the Medellin and the Cali cartels, power shifts to the Mexicans, we now target the Mexicans -- well, there's $20 billion up for grabs every year. That profit incentive is going to see this industry evolve and evolve and evolve.
WARE: Ultimately, every time we try to find a way to stop it, it's like an insurgency. It's adaptive.
STRANG: Well, do we give up and just let the drugs come to our kids?
WARE: We have to address the demand.
STRANG: We do. It's a three-legged stool. You have to hit the treatment, enforcement, and also the education of the kids.
HILL: And you hit them all with the exact same intensity?
STRANG: Right. You do.
HILL: You do?
STRANG: You do. And that's -- everybody agrees, after year after year, keep hitting these cartels in Mexico, keep education our kids through programs like DARE in the United States, keep putting funding into treatment centers so people that have a problem can get better. This is how we're defeating the problem. This is how we're trying to make it better for the kids in our country.
WARE: But 'just say no' is not going to work ultimately, is it? I mean, is this a case like prohibition? I mean, shall we eventually face facts?
STRANG: Yes. Well, the facts are that we can't have methamphetamine legal in our country. The facts are that heroin and cocaine are killing too many people. The facts are, that we cannot allow this to continue, and we have to put up the good fight, which we're doing.
WARE: But where do we find the few good men left to train, you know what I mean?
STRANG: Well, they're there. And not everybody is corrupt.
STRANG: We've got a good president in Mexico. He's working with us. We're working with him. We're on the right track here.
HILL: On the right track but still a very long road ahead.
WARE: Oh-ho. Never-ending.
HILL: Michael Ware, Robert Strang, good to have both of you with us. Thanks.