The AC360 broadcast from the El Paso, Texas/ Juarez, Mexico border on Wednesday began with Anderson Cooper ticking off the chilling facts.
• Every year Mexican cartels smuggle 40 million dollars worth of drugs into America.
• 6,500 people were slaughtered last year in the cartel wars.
• 90% of the cocaine consumed in America comes through Mexico.
• 95% of the weapons the drug cartels use come from the United States.
Drew Griffin took a look at the Mexican drug trade and its violent aftermath. There was talk of the scrutiny police now provide at gun shows in the Southwest and the death of a commander in Juarez and then his boss, the police director, both gunned down by the Mexican drug cartel.The follow up discussion was with author Rusty Fleming, who shared a clip on how cartels smuggle large quantities of drugs across the border from his documentary 'Drug Wars...Silver or Lead'. And Arvin West, Hudspeth County sheriff, who has made quite a name for himself appearing on Hannity & Combs, Laura Ingraham and giving testimony before the appropriations committee for Homeland Security last year, as well as being profiled in Fleming's movie.
Randi Kaye reported on a kidnapping story of the Hall family, from San Diego, who were traveling in Mexico. The family were headed back to the border hauling a type of motor home that was covered in racing car stickers. Just the sort of conspicuous lure that would label them as affluent by highway bandits. After they were stripped of their money, ID's, personal belongings... basically everything they had, they were left in a ditch thinking that they were going to be killed. Their lives were spared but what a horrible memory to have to live with. And to be still living in the same house that was on the ID's that the bandits stole just sent chills down my spine.
This story struck a cord with me because when we lived in SE Asia, we used to travel into the countryside which was poor and unpoliced, much like Mexico. The US Embassy discouraged these trips because Americans were presumed to be affluent (like they are in Mexico) and prime targets. We were told if we were to travel to always do it during the day and in caravans. We didn't tow large, expensive trailers but thinking back our string of 5 or 6 company owned Mercedes sedans probably wasn't any less conspicuous.Tom Foreman backtracked the drugs that enter the US to their origin in his report on Wednesday night. A typical scenario would be an order goes out to Columbia for a ton of cocaine. It is hidden inside a container semi along with coffee. The shipment is driven through Central America and also can possibly diverted to a boat that bypasses any problem areas. Eventually it makes it's way to a Mexican port where it is offloaded and then continues it's journey toward the border by highway. When it reaches the border it is stopped until an optimum time is determined for attempting to cross without detection.
Once across the border the semi will begin a process of deliveries in various cities across the county. The locals cut the cocaine they have purchased with talcum powder and turn one ton into five tons. Within 48 hours the cocaine is selling on the street supplying hundreds of dealers in dozens of American towns.
Tom Foreman filed a second report on how the money earned from the drug sales gets back into Mexico. He said some is simply smuggled in, but the cartels also have been known to buy consumer goods, for example large appliances, ship them back to Mexico and sell them, thus laundering the drug money.Next up was an interview with Frank Burton, counter terrorism analyst, on how dangerous travel into Mexico is, with a focus on the resort areas. In a nutshell he said it is safe if you use common sense, don't leave the resort after hours, stay out of taxis and keep a cool head. He also said much of the violence is specifically along the border. There has been violence in Mexico City but mostly on a high profile level. AC mentioned that he had been in Baja a few weeks ago and felt perfectly safe.Jill Dougherty reported on her interview with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today in Mexico City. The SS said we're not doing a very good job of stemming the tide of drugs nor of convincing Americans that drugs are not a wise choice. She said we need more treatment programs to help break this vicious cycle of supply and demand.If you are a recent AC fan you probably are not familiar with the newsman's fascination with holes in the ground. I swear they bring out the little boy in him. It all began back in 2006 when he climbed into that tunnel outside of San Diego. Then there was the one in Nogales that caught his attention and the most famous one of all in Afghanistan, which housed Saddam Hussein. When he started talking tonight about the drainage tunnels that can take you from the border into the center of El Paso I said 'don't do it Anderson', and he didn't. But tomorrow is another day!
Tom Foreman brought us the 360 Bulletin with reports on the President's meetings with Dems on the budget, Wall Street's good day, the record floods in North Dakota and John Hope Franklin's passing at the age of 94.
I think most of you will agree with me that Wednesday's AC360 was about as good as it gets. They finally got out of the political/economic/faux breaking news rut that they've been mired in for months for an in depth look at a serious, getting worse by the minute situation on our southern border. Bravo and *fingers crossed* that Thursday night will be just as good, if not better.
The amazing Julie found a few pictures on Flickr that are new to me. They were taken in Akrotiri, Cyprus on July 20, 2006. I looked back into the ATA archives and found a post that mentions that night's program airing from Cyprus. It looks to me, from browsing the archives, that it was part of an extended stay in the Middle East for AC360. Can you imagine a few weeks on location these days? Seems like they struggle to stay put for more than 2 nights.
We've got one more night of AC360 from the border to look forward to. If it's anything like Wednesday I'll be glad to give up McDreamy for field Anderson. Until tomorrow. ~Phebe
All Things Anderson is a blog dedicated to CNN's AC360 and its host Anderson Cooper.