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Mexican Drug Cartel Member Reveals Secrets; U.S. Marshal Found Dead in Mexico

Aired March 26, 2009 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, breaking news here on the border: a U.S. marshal dumped in Juarez, Mexico.

And something you have probably never seen before: An active member of a drug cartel takes us inside, telling us how they get drugs into the United States, how and why they torture, and how shockingly little it costs to take a human life on either side of this border.

First, the breaking news, the body of Deputy Marshal Vincent Bustamante discovered yesterday, confirmed today, shot and killed, execution-style. That's authorities discovering his body right there, described as multiple head wounds, multiple gunshot wounds to the head.

Then, late today, we also learned that Deputy Bustamante was a wanted man, being sought on federal charges of stealing U.S. government property. We're talking about handguns, a shotgun, binoculars.

A spokesman for the Marshals Service only saying tonight they are saddened by his death. He was a 17-year veteran of the Marshals Service. He was also an El Paso police officer before that. An investigation is under way on both sides of the border, as you might imagine, the latest casualty in what is a very dirty war.

Right now -- and only on 360 -- you're about to hear why from a direct participant. This man claims to be a mid-level cartel member. And based on their longtime work in this war, two trusted sources bear out his claim.

We agreed to conceal his name and identity, even when and where we did this interview. We covered a lot of ground, starting with weapons.


COOPER: The weapons the drug cartels are using, are -- are most of them coming from America?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: They're from America, yes, they are.

COOPER: How do they buy them here?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: They have people, different people, youngsters, people with no criminal background, no -- no criminal background, buying the guns at the pawnshops at the stores, and taking them over to Mexico.

COOPER: So, they're bought legally here and then shipped illegally.


COOPER: Smuggled back down.


COOPER: What kind of weapons are we talking about?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: AK-47s mainly, and assault rifles, handguns, .9-millimeters, .45s.

COOPER: The mayor of Juarez told us today the violence is down in Juarez? Why -- why is the violence down? Is it just because the military is there?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: Because of the military that is there. And the cartel has been concentrating too much now on the war right now, and not the business. And that's the one -- that's one of the reason why I think right now the violence is little bit down.

COOPER: But the cartels aren't defeated; they're just laying low?


COOPER: Until, what, the military goes away?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: Well, we heard six months. That's what we heard, that six months is what they're -- the military is going to be in Juarez then. So, that's what we know.

COOPER: So, you think the military will be there for about six months, and then, after they leave, you think the cartels will come (INAUDIBLE)


COOPER: So, no matter what the Mexican government does, sending in the military, it doesn't matter, because the -- the flow of drugs won't stop?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: It won't stop. It won't. I think the money is too good for the -- for the cartels to stop sending drugs.

COOPER: And do you think anything will ever stop the demand?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: The demand? That all depends on -- on you guys. It depends on the -- depends on the United States. If they stop demanding, maybe it will stop a little bit, but I don't think so. I don't think it will. The demand is too much.

COOPER: What kind of drugs are the easiest to ship across?


COOPER: Why are those easier?


COOPER: There's always been violence associated with -- with the trafficking of drugs, but it seems like the violence has changed. You're seeing beheadings now, public executions. Why has the nature of the violence changed?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: The nature of the violence has changed because the message they want to send out to the -- to the other cartel, it's a message to the opposite cartel, telling them, hey, this is what's going to happen if we get you.

COOPER: So, by cutting off people's heads, they're sending a message?


COOPER: But are beheadings the signature of a particular cartel, or does everybody do it?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: It's a signature of a particular cartel, yes, it is. It's a -- it's a -- it's a sign.

COOPER: And do all the cartels kill in different ways? Do they have different signatures?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: Yes, they do. They have got their ways of showing people who's killing who, where's it coming from. They have got ways of torturing people and killing people them the way they do, so that all the cartels will know who it's -- who it's coming from.

COOPER: Torture is common?


COOPER: Why? Just to get information?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: To -- not to get information. Just the pleasure of doing it. They make it pleasurable, pleasurable (INAUDIBLE) doing it.

COOPER: So, it doesn't -- it doesn't yield useful information; it's just doing it because they enjoy it?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: Yes. Information, they have information from the government, so they have all the information they can get. Most of the -- most of the -- most of the torture is for pleasure.

COOPER: Does it also send a message? Does it also strike fear into the hearts of...

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: Into the public, into other people, into other customers, you know, people in the business.

COOPER: Are there any rules of people who can't be killed? I mean, are -- or is anybody safe, women and children?



COOPER: Doesn't matter?



COOPER: A lot of you may be wondering why this guy would agree to do this interview with us.

Well, he asked us not to reveal that in order to protect people close to him. He's got a lot more to say.

More now on the Mexican military that he credits for making a small dent in the violence. We will have more of that interview coming up throughout this hour.

But, today, we went out on patrol with a unit of troops, Mexican -- Mexican soldiers on the streets of Juarez, on the streets of Juarez just over my shoulder. Here's a look at what they're up against.


COOPER (voice-over): Early in the morning, Mexican soldiers prepare for yet another day on the front lines of the drug war. This unit of 600 soldiers arrived in Juarez one month ago. There are 7,000 Mexican soldiers already deployed here, 45,000 throughout the country.

(on camera): Mexico's president, Felipe Calderon, two years ago realized he wasn't able to battle these cartels with local police forces, even with the federal police. Corruption is just too widespread among the police. So, that's why he's called in the military, which is widely respected in Mexico.

(voice-over): Widely respected and heavily armed. But they're still outgunned by the drug cartels.

(on camera): The vast majority of the weapons which the drug cartels are using come from the United States. Mexican authorities say as much as 95 percent of the weapons they seize that the drug cartels are using are actually originally bought in the United States, and then smuggled back here into Mexico.

(voice-over): The U.S. has promised to do more to stop the flow of guns and cash into Mexico, but that's little consolation for these Mexican soldiers who are putting their lives on the line. (on camera): Every day, Mexican military units are on patrol on the streets of Juarez. They drive around in the back of pickup trucks. The military has essentially taken over the -- the -- the city of Juarez. And they have been able to -- to stop some of the violence. The death toll is down dramatically. The question is, how long can these military units remain deployed here?

(voice-over): At the height of the violence this past February, as many as 10 people a day were getting killed in Juarez.

Now Jose Reyes, the mayor, says only about three or four people are murdered here each week.

(on camera): How concerned are you about your own security? I mean, you have bodyguards all around us right now.

JOSE REYES FERRIZ, MAYOR OF JUAREZ, MEXICO: Well, I have been threatened, and I am concerned, and I do take those threats seriously.

COOPER: Your -- your chief of police resigned, under threats?

REYES FERRIZ: Yes, yes. And that week, when I was threatened, seven police officers were killed. So, the threats are real.

COOPER (voice-over): Mayor Reyes has already fired half his police force because of suspicions they were corrupt.

(on camera): Do you trust your police force now?

REYES FERRIZ: Well, not absolutely. There are still some bad elements there. We need to weed them out. It's -- the corruption took place during the last 15 years in Juarez. And -- and it has grown, and we have to take measures to...

COOPER: How tough is that, trying to figure out what -- who's a corrupt police officer and who's not?

REYES FERRIZ: It's incredibly difficult.

COOPER (voice-over): Until corruption is curtailed, and Mexico rebuilds its local and federal police, it will be impossible to eliminate the power of the drug cartels and impossible to remove the military from the front lines of this fight.


COOPER: This has turned into a very hot topic on the A.C. 360 blog. Let us know what you think. Weigh in on the live shot on

Just ahead: more of our exclusive interview, a firsthand account from inside a Mexican drug cartel and all that comes with, including -- we have got to warn you -- things that may make your blood run cold.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: How are people tortured?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: We have got different ways. You will burn them. You will burn his testicles. You will (INAUDIBLE) his feet.


COOPER: Later, what the fight looks like through the eyes of U.S. Border Patrol officers trying to keep the war next door on the other side of the line and the drugs from flowing north.

And back home, Red River rising in Fargo, North Dakota -- the question tonight, when will it stop rising? We have got a new forecast, that and more -- tonight on 360.


COOPER: We're on the border of breaking news, just across the Rio Grande from the place where a U.S. marshal's bullet-ridden body turned up, many, many questions tonight surrounding Deputy Marshal Vincent Bustamante, more questions than answers, frankly.

We know he was a veteran law enforcer -- law officer. He was also a wanted man here in the United States on felony theft charges. Chances are he will not be the last to fall, not in this war or maybe even this week -- 6,500 killed last year in Mexico, 800 more in the last three months alone.

Let's dig deeper now with filmmaker Rusty Fleming, creator of the acclaimed documentary "Drug Wars: Silver or Lead." Also with us tonight here on the border, Arvin West, sheriff of Hudspeth County, Texas, which includes 98 miles of border.

Rusty, first of all, what do you make of this killing of this deputy marshal?

RUSTY FLEMING, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: Well, it doesn't surprise me at all.

I mean, you know, corruption exists on both sides of the border. These guys have the ability to reach anybody. And, you know, a U.S. marshal, DEA, FBI, as much as we want to think that it isn't possible, it definitely is.

COOPER: Sheriff, when you hear that -- a man who is a member of a Mexican cartel talking to us, giving us this interview, and talking about how the -- the flow of drugs won't end the until the demand ends in the United States ends, do you think that's true?

SHERIFF ARVIN WEST, CHAIRMAN, TEXAS BORDER SHERIFF'S COALITION: To a certain extent. If you're alluding to legalizing marijuana...

COOPER: No, just that, as long as people want drugs, they're going to -- cartels are going to find a way to ship them across. WEST: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. They're going to try to find every gap, every non-stopped hole that we have got, they're going to try to get across, get...


COOPER: Do you think the Mexican military has had an impact on the ground in Mexico, in terms of cutting down the violence?

WEST: Oh, absolutely. From what we were experiencing a couple of years back to today, I mean, it's a world of difference. The violence is still there, by all means, but the fact that they are now actively policing the areas has been a great benefit to us.

COOPER: What do you make of what that -- the member of the cartel told -- told us?

FLEMING: Well, you know, first of all, Anderson, you have to know, this has been going on a long time. These guys have had a lot of time to get good at what they're doing.

And they will use any means possible to get the drugs over here, the legitimate ports of entry, the gaps out in the desert. It doesn't matter. Whatever it takes to get it across, that's what they're doing.

COOPER: How bad is the problem of corruption in Mexico on the local law enforcement level?

WEST: It's, on a scale of one to 10, I'm going to say probably a high nine.

FLEMING: And you have to know why, though, Anderson. I mean, those cops live there. Their families live there. So do the narcos. So do the same narco-terrorists that are corrupting them.

You know, when you bring in units from the military and the federal police, and their families are stationed elsewhere in Mexico, it makes it a lot harder to get to them. But when the -- the whole family lives right there, they're easy to touch.

COOPER: So, Sheriff, is there a solution to all this?

WEST: Well, some of these guys are given two choices. You have got understand, they're given two choices. They either play the game with the narcos, or they get killed. You know, that's -- that's the bottom line...


COOPER: And it's not just them getting killed. It's their families...

WEST: Family members.

COOPER: ... their wives, their kids. WEST: Absolutely.

COOPER: I mean, it seems like no one is safe.

WEST: Absolutely.

FLEMING: Yes. They have no compunction about taking a guy, putting him in his living room, and marching his entire family in front of him and killing them all in front of him.

You know, all of the rules of engagement that used to guide these groups are gone now. This is a whole new era of narco-terrorism.

WEST: You know, and one of the things, not too long ago, they were burying one that they had killed over there, one of the officers that they had killed over there, and just so that they could make their statement well-known, they come by there and shot up the family members that were -- were at the burial site.

COOPER: How many drug trafficking groups right now are there? And what are the biggest ones? What -- who's fighting this war?

FLEMING: There's four primary groups right now, particularly fighting right over here.

You have got the Juarez cartel. You have got the Beltran Leyva organization, the Sinaloa, and the Gulf cartel. And then you have got several smaller groups, smaller factions that are also bidding for this territory over here.

They don't have the firepower or the resources that those four major ones do, but they're still in it to try to get a part of this turf.

COOPER: Sheriff, you work this area, you work this border every single day. What do you need and what do law enforcement need on this side?

WEST: Well, what -- the practicality is, we need boots on the ground. We need officers on the ground. We need a backbone that supports these officers when they do engage. We need a government...


COOPER: But when -- when you're talking about boots, you're not talking about necessarily military boots?

WEST: I'm talking about officers on the ground, trained police officers, whether it be Border Patrol, whether it be sheriff's deputies, whether it be city police officers. Those officers need to be on the ground. We need the resources. We need to have the resources to be able to do the job.

But we also need to understand -- or the government needs to understand -- that, when we push that button because we're taking in fire or we're being overpowered, then that's when we need to make that call to our military to come back us up.

COOPER: We appreciate you joining us tonight, Sheriff, for coming up tonight.

WEST: My pleasure.

COOPER: And, Rusty, as well, thank you very much.

FLEMING: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: A lot more ahead from the border -- just ahead, another visit to the front lines. Gary Tuchman takes us up close with U.S. border agents fighting a daily battle against the smugglers. You will see what they -- they found while Gary was out with them.

Also, more from inside the cartels, a member's firsthand account of almost unspeakable violence and the stunning amounts of money cartel members make, even if they don't always live long enough to spend it.

Also, later, how the story of Natasha Richardson's untimely death actually saved a girl's life -- that and more on 360, from the border.


COOPER: And welcome back.

You're looking at a scene from the border, where we are right now. We're on the El Paso side. That's the Rio Grande, and Juarez, Mexico, where a deputy marshal was found dead yesterday, identified just today.

It's a line separating a pair of countries, the border is, but also dividing up a deadly economic ecosystem, on one side of the line, the makers, the growers, the shippers, the bribers, and killers. That's right over there on that side of the line.

On this side, the weapons suppliers, money-launderers, teen enforcers, and, crucially, the consumers.

Take a look at this. According to the DEA, 3.2 million pounds of pot were seized crossing this border going north in 2007, 40,000 tons. That's only the stuff they stopped, nearly 60 fully loaded semitrucks worth of American demand.

You heard Secretary of State Clinton talk about it. You heard the man in the ski mask talk about.

Tom Foreman has a fuller look at American's drug habit -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, about 20 million Americans use illegal drugs each month, enough to be considered addicted in some way. That estimate is based on routine surveys by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The most commonly used drug is marijuana, with more than -- more than 14 million people using that, or about one in six Americans over the age of 12 saying that he or she has used it in the past month.

Psychotherapeutics is the next category, kind of a broad one, because it includes prescription drugs used illegally, like stimulants and painkillers. Methamphetamines are also in here. And about seven million people use these in a given month.

Cocaine, more than two million people are using that drug routinely, whether powdered or in rock form as crack. And hallucinogens, inhalants, and heroin are done by almost two million more Americans -- Anderson.

COOPER: Hmm. Interesting. Tom, thanks, big numbers, a huge demand. As Tom shows us just ahead, the fix begins at a very early age. That's coming up.

Right now, more than 16,000 U.S. border agents are trying to keep the drugs and violence on that side of the border. Now, on a given day, these heroes seize thousands of pounds in narcotics, but the illicit shipments keep pouring in, by foot, by truck, by any way they can.

Gary Tuchman went to the Arizona desert to show you the constant battle between the agents and the traffickers. Take a look.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Handcuffed to a bench in the U.S. Border Patrol station in Nogales, Arizona, this Mexican man is under arrest.

He was driving a huge semitruck through a checkpoint 30 miles north of the border. I ask him, what was in the vehicle? He says tomatoes. And he's right. His truck impounded by the Border Patrol is full of tomatoes, but this dog smells more than produce. He smells dope, and lots of it, bale after bale of marijuana, 40 bales, 908 pounds, at $800 a pound, a street value of over $720,000.

It is believed this man is doing transport work for a Mexican drug cartel, just another night for Border Patrol.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this point there's not much that surprises us anymore.

TUCHMAN: About 2.8 million pounds of narcotics were seized on the border in 2008, almost half of that just in this part of Arizona.

We follow Sarah (ph), the drug-sniffing dog, through hilly brush near the border wall. Two men were seen jumping over the wall in backpacks. The men are gone now, but Sarah's on to something. She's trained to sit if she finds the target. She sits and then jumps.

(on camera): You wouldn't know it, as a human being, but she smelled it. It looks like a Christmas tree or bushes. You turn it around, and inside there is the marijuana.

(voice-over): Agent Ray Rivera has been with Sarah for two years.

(on camera): How many pounds of marijuana has she found with you?

RAY RIVERA, U.S. BORDER PATROL AGENT: Almost 9,000 -- 6,800.

TUCHMAN: So, it didn't surprise you when she found this just now?

RIVERA: No. No. She's got a great nose. She's a great dog.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Agents also have great technology. This is an X-ray truck. It drives up to vehicles, taking images that can reveal hidden drugs.

Cameras and sensors watch along the border fence, agents monitoring the video in a control room. Hundreds of people are arrested every day in this region, mostly for immigration violations, but also with drugs and weapons. An unknown, but large number of people and drugs make it through.

John Fitzgerald (ph) is division chief here.

(on camera): This job is more dangerous than it ever has been, isn't it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. We had our agents assaulted over 260 times last year alone.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): These narcotics were nabbed just over the last couple of days -- 7,400 pounds of pot will be removed soon by the DEA.

(on camera): These drug traffickers are incredibly motivated and, in most cases, pretty strong. This right here is 64 pounds of marijuana. It's worth about $50,000 on the street. The typical scenario is, this person is carrying this across the border on their back like this. And they're walking.

Typically, when they see U.S. law enforcement officials, they drop it and run away. There's no way they can run with that.

(voice-over): But how do they get over the border with all the agents, the dogs, the wall?

(on camera): Right now, I'm standing in Mexico behind the border fence. I don't want to say exactly where I am because of the loophole you're about to see.

Let's say this gigantic rock is a bundle of marijuana. Well, at this point of the border fence, all I need to do is take it, walk around the fence where it's discontinued, and now I'm in the United States.

(voice-over): But just minutes later, four Border Patrol agents showed up, one pointing his rifle at my crew and me, concerned we were criminals. We were spotted on one of those video cameras. They let us go after we explained who we were, but it was a tense few moments.

On the border these days, nothing is left to chance.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Nogales, Arizona.


COOPER: Yes, nothing left to chance, for good reason.

Just ahead, more of my exclusive member with an active member of a Mexican cartel. We agreed to keep his identity secret. In return, he answered all our questions, including this one.


COOPER: How much does it cost to get somebody killed?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: Right now, across the border, it's $100.

COOPER: One hundred dollars?


COOPER: In Mexico -- if you wanted to have somebody killed in Mexico, it would cost about $100?



COOPER: Also ahead, with demand for illegal drugs so strong in the U.S., many people wonder, would legalizing drugs stop the killing, maybe even end the war next door? Coming up: the best arguments for and against making drugs legal. You can decide for yourself.

And the latest in North Dakota's battle to hold back the floodwaters -- new predictions tonight about how high the rivers may rise and how fast.

We will be right back.


COOPER: We want to update -- update you now on our breaking news here from the border.

The body of a U.S. marshal was found just across the Rio Grande from me over there in the city of Juarez. It's literally only a few hundred yards from our location here in El Paso.

Officials say that Deputy Marshal Vincent Bustamante was shot in the back of the head. Bustamante was a 17-year veteran of the Marshals Service. He was also accused of stealing several U.S. Marshals guns, all of which were recovered. A warrant was issued for his arrest last week. So, at this point, there are, frankly, more questions than answers about this killing -- the latest casualty, though, he is in the war against the drug cartels.

Every year, Mexican cartels smuggle nearly $40 billion worth of illegal drugs into the United States. Illegal drugs' users can be young or old, black or white, rich or poor, but some people are certainly more likely to become addicts.

Tom Foreman is back with a look at that -- Tom.

FOREMAN: You're right about that, Anderson.

The Department of Health and Human services finds, by gender, men are more than twice as likely as women to use marijuana, but the sexes are pretty close to even on everything else. By age -- well, I will tell you this. It starts young. Look at this.

This is a chart of age use. You can see, around 17, it really goes up, stays there until around 25, 26. But look at this. Over 30, all drug use drops off pretty dramatically at that point.

Education -- the equation over here is simple -- if you go to college, there's a better chance you will try drugs. If you don't go, you're more likely to become a regular user.

By employment, if you have a job, you are less likely to have used drugs in the past month, unemployed, more likely.

By race, look at this. This study is very interesting, because what this shows is that, in fact, this is the breakout. The most likely group found by the government to have a problem with drug dependence is Native Americans or Alaska natives and mixed race people, then blacks, whites, Latinos, and Asians over here.

And the final one we wanted to look at is simple geography. The truth is, if you live in a city, you are much more likely, more than twice as likely to use drugs as if you live out in the country -- Anderson.

COOPER: Interesting. Tom, thanks.

That demand keeps money flowing south, though, giving rival cartels plenty to fight and kill over. Killing is not the worst of it, though. Here again, our cartel member. He claims to be a midlevel member, and two trusted sources say that he is. They've worked in this region for a long.

First, though, we should warn you, what you're going to hear right now from him is very graphic.


COOPER: How are people tortured?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we've got different ways. Burn them. You burn his testicles. Ice picks in their feet.

COOPER: Ice picks in people's feet?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We'll pull off his nails one by one with pliers. Whatever they can think of.

COOPER: You say they burn people. With what?


COOPER: Like a blow torch?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like the ones you use at a body shop.

COOPER: Is everybody corruptible?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe one out of ten -- I mean, nine out of ten, it is, in Mexico, it is.

COOPER: You think nine out of ten people in Mexico, whether they're military or police or officials or just regular people, nine out of ten are corruptible?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say so. I think so.

COOPER: And is -- it's just the need for money, the desire for money?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not only that, but their families, their lives depends on it. They want to cooperate, and they either cooperate or get killed. You have no choice.

COOPER: But there is corruption in law enforcement, there is corruption in border enforcement here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, there is. I knew an agent in U.S. Customs, they offered him $50,000 for a vehicle to cross over, and he took it. So I think there is.

COOPER: Simple as that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Simple as that. You don't have to ask what in it, just say it's American and will cross. He doesn't know what's in the trunk or anything, but there's a body in the truck.

COOPER: So anything could be brought across the border if the money's good?


COOPER: What's it like working inside a cartel? Are you nervous, are you scared?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The money, the life, the fast life, the cars, the women, everything in it. After a little while, it gets out of hand, and once you realize that it's a little bit out of hand, it's too late. It's a little bit too late for you to back out. There's only one way, and that's being killed.

COOPER: There are drug cartels operating in every state in America?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have certain states, but throughout America, yes, there is. But there are certain states that they operate the most.

COOPER: What states are those?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, North Carolina, South Carolina, East Coast, West Coast.

COOPER: How much does it cost to get somebody killed?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now? Across the border, it's $100.

COOPER: A hundred dollars?


COOPER: In Mexico, if you wanted to have somebody killed in Mexico, it's $100?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It costs a hundred dollars.

COOPER: What about the United States?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe $500 to $1,000.


COOPER: Five hundred to a thousand dollars.

More of my exclusive interview ahead, talking money, drugs, and why Americans should feel responsible. Listen.


COOPER: Anyone who's consuming drugs in the United States, anyone who's buying cocaine recreationally, buying pot, are they contributing to the war in Mexico?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they are. All that money goes to the cartel.

COOPER: They have blood on their hands?



COOPER: Chilling details from inside a cartel, next.

And later, the drug debate. President Obama talked today about the push to legalize marijuana. Would he support it? Hear what he said about it, and we'll have the issue debated tonight.

And later, an incredible story. How the tragic story of Natasha Richardson saved the life of young girl. Be right back.


COOPER: And welcome back. We're live along the U.S./Mexico border. Just a couple hundred yards in that direction is the city of Juarez.

Now, if people want to try to cross over the border illegally, run across here, there's a number of border agents around here 24 hours a day, just waiting for that in their vehicles, ready to chase them down.

f they get this far, this is basically the final stop. This is the wall that was recently put up in this sector, 18 feet high. It goes up very high. There's concrete blocks here at the bottom. So even if you get up past these concrete blocks, 18 feet, and if you look closely here, this is double mesh steel. You can't -- you can't use a hacksaw to try to get through it.

And it's also so small, you can't really get your fingers more than just a little bit into it. It's hard to actually hold on to, very difficult to climb. Usually, if someone has a ladder or something, they might be able to get up there. A couple people, maybe one of them maybe be able to get it if a whole group tries to cross.

But border agents say, look, this is essentially trying to buy border agents' time. Yes, if someone's really determined and has the equipment, they're going to be able to get over this fence. But it may take them a minute, a minute and a half. And that will, it can be enough time for border agents to swarm the area.

The problem, of course, this fence doesn't go all the way down. It stops just over there. And that's obviously a point where a lot of people are aiming for, to try to get across where there isn't such a big fence.

As we've been showing you all throughout this hour, we had the opportunity to interview a man who claims to be a midlevel member of a Mexican drug cartel with knowledge of operations on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border. He -- his claim has been verified by two trusted sources of ours, who have been working in this region for a long period of time. We agreed not to reveal his identity, not to give you his name or where the interview took place or even when it took place.

He's talked a lot about the operations of Mexican drug cartels. Now he talks about why he says that Americans who consume illegal drugs have blood on their hands. Listen.


COOPER: Do you trust the people you work with?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I don't. COOPER: I would think it would be hard to trust anybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't trust anybody in that business. You can't. You're not allowed to trust anybody.

COOPER: That can get you killed if you trust somebody?


COOPER: Do you worry about talking? Are you concerned about...


COOPER: What concerns you the most?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First of all, my family, you know, can get hurt, my family can get killed. That's my most concern. My family.

COOPER: You're afraid somebody will be able to identify you or hear that you've done this?


COOPER: Should Americans be fearful of what's happening here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they like the drugs and they like the fast life and consume drugs, yes.

COOPER: Anyone who's consuming drugs in the United States, anyone who's buying cocaine recreationally, buying pot, are they contributing to the war in Mexico?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they are. All that money goes to -- all that money goes to the cartel.

COOPER: They have blood on their hands?


COOPER: You said that you regret some of the things you've seen, some of the things you've had to do. What in particular? Is there something that stands out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, seeing people die in front of me, I think that's one of them. Watching them die and beg for their lives for money, kill them for money because they owe a certain amount of money. And we're going to kill them and watching them getting killed, that's one of them.

COOPER: You've seen people getting killed?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've seen them die.

COOPER: Is that something you could have stopped?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tried to, but it's impossible. You can't, unless you want to get killed yourself, too.

COOPER: So the war goes on?



COOPER: The war goes on and on. With all the violence, money and murder that comes with the drug trade, some people say, just legalize drugs, take the profit out of it. You may be surprised to hear how most Americans feel. We'll also tell you what President Obama said today about legalizing marijuana.

Later, flood predictions for Fargo, North Dakota, and how high the rivers may rise. The city now bracing for 43 feet of water. We'll tell you what's being done to get people to safety. A lot of heroic people there helping neighbors.

I'll be right back from the border.


COOPER: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says America's need for drugs fuels the war next door. Her admission is adding to the growing debate over legalizing marijuana. Today the raw politics, President Obama weighing in. Listen to what he said.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATS: We took votes about which questions were going to be asked. And I think 3 million people voted or 3.5 million people voted.

I have to say, there was one question that was voted on that ranked fairly high. And that was whether legalizing marijuana would improve the economy and job creation. And I don't know what this says about the online audience, but I just want -- I don't want people to think -- this was a fairly popular question, we want to make sure that it was answered. The answer is, no, I don't think that is a good strategy to grow our economy. So...


COOPER: Well, the president poses the idea and in a new poll, most Americans agree, but millions of others do not, insisting that legalizing drugs will put gangs and cartels out of business and reducing demand at home.

We were flooded with comments about this on the blog. One e- mailer said, quote, "Drugs should be taxed like cigarettes and liquor, and a portion of the proceeds should be allocated toward drug addiction treatment centers where addicts can be rehabilitated."

So what do you think? Should all drugs be legalized?

Robert Almonte doesn't think so. He spent 25 years with the El Paso police. He's now the executive director of the Texas Narcotics Officers Association. He joins us by satellite.

And Terry Nelson is for it. He worked for decades with the U.S. Border Patrol, Customs Service, and homeland security. He's currently on the board of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

Appreciate you both being with us.

Terry, let's start with you. Looking at you, you're the last guy in the world I would think would want to legalize all drugs, but why do you think it's a good idea?

TERRY NELSON, LAW ENFORCEMENT AGAINST PROHIBITION: We don't want people using drugs, but under the current policy, we have people using drugs. So we believe in a system of regulation and control. To regulate and control something, it has to be legal.

So we want to regulate who can sell the drugs, control who can buy them, something similar to cigarettes and alcohol. You have to show an I.D. to buy it. Because currently we have about 900,000 teenagers selling drugs.

COOPER: You don't think if it's legalized, though, it's going to explode the number of teenagers who are using drugs?

NELSON: Well, if it's legalized, teenagers won't be selling to teenagers like they are today. We believe that a system of education, coupled with, you know, treatment for those that become addicted, is a better approach, because for 40 years, we tried prohibition and it's not working. You know, I'm talking about working (ph) -- they may be smoking some of this stuff that's prohibited, but...

COOPER: Robert, let me ask you, how about that? A, do you think it is working, and wouldn't -- wouldn't the U.S. be putting some of these cartels out of business by making drugs legal and regulate it?

ROBERT ALMONTE, TEXAS NARCOTICS OFFICERS ASSOCIATION: Let me just -- let me just say this. Mr. Nelson said his group doesn't want people using drugs. Well, I can tell you, if drugs are legalized, you are going to see more people using drugs. And if he thinks that's not true, then I wonder what they're doing.

This will not put the cartels out of business. You're talking about taxing something and maybe having a group, maybe the government selling it. I guarantee you, I can guarantee you, the Mexican cartels are going to sell it cheaper than anybody in the U.S. can sell it for. They will be undercutting any kind of prices set here in the United States.

COOPER: What about -- what about to his point about the Mexican cartels would still find a way to kind of sell cheaper?

NELSON: Obviously, he wants to keep doing what he's done for 40 years, because it serves his interests, I guess. I don't believe if you take the profit out of it, how could they undercut it? That just doesn't make sense. Supply and demand, if it's easy to get, then the cost is not going to be high. COOPER: Do you think it would increase, also, you know, drug- impaired people driving in cars, road accidents?

NELSON: It might. I don't know. And that's an answer we don't have yet. But we do have laws against that already called driving while impaired. So we have laws on the book to deal with that situation.

But to continue doing something that's not working at a cost to families in this country. You know, 1.9 million kids go to bed every night with one or more of their parents or a sibling in jail, and 40- some-odd percent of all people in prison -- going to prison have someone in prison ahead of them.

Plus 25 percent of the prisoners come from foster homes or institutions. That is destroying our families, and we just don't need that anymore.

COOPER: Well, what about that, Robert?

ALMONTE: Drugs are destroying our families. Drugs are destroying our families. There's no doubt, you're going to see more people using drugs. Drugs destroy lives; they destroy families.

It's easy to sit here and have a conversation about legalizing drugs and wiping our hands, saying, "Well, it's not our problem any more. Drugs are legal, and let's things happen that are going to happen."

That's not the easy way. That's not the answer. The answer is not giving up, throwing in the towel. The answer is preventing our kids from using drugs. That's the answer. And then treatment of...

COOPER: Do you say anything wrong, Robert, with the current policy? Robert, do you see anything wrong with the current policy?

ALMONTE: Well, let's talk about that. He's saying that we've been doing something wrong for the last 40 years. That is not true. Is it perfect? No. Can we make improvements? Absolutely.

But we have -- we have a lot of success stories. There's one- third fewer people using drugs today than there were 20 years ago.

Another thing, he's talking about these kids. A recent study completed by the University of Michigan called Monitoring the Future showed that in 2008, there were approximately 900,000 fewer eighth graders, tenth graders, and 12th graders using drugs in 2008 compared to 2001.

There are some success stories out there, but nobody wants to talk about it. All they want to do is legalize drugs, legalize drugs.

COOPER: Terry -- I want to give Terry just the final thought, just to respond to what Robert said, and the kids -- fewer kids are using drugs. NELSON: The Samson (ph) studies show that kids today find it easier to buy narcotics than it is cigarettes or tobacco. And there's 900,000 teenagers selling drugs to other teenagers.

The only way we can ever win it is to stop the new drug use amongst kids. We can't have that if we have kids selling to kids.

We need to somehow stop that and use a system of education so we stop the new users from ever starting using drugs. Because what we're doing is not working.

COOPER: I appreciate both of your perspectives. I appreciate you arguing so -- so politely, not a lot of yelling. We always like that. Thanks so much for coming in.

NELSON: Thanks you for having us on this important issue.

COOPER: Robert, thank you very much, as well.

There's an interesting parallel in all this. Franklin Delano Roosevelt repealed Prohibition during the first 100 days of his presidency, a move that gave the government a new stream of income, because it could then tax alcohol.

Next, parts of North Dakota could soon be under water. Residents are bracing for unprecedented floods. We've got the latest forecast, coming up.

And more of our exclusive interview with the Mexican cartel member. He reveals how -- exactly how U.S. guns get in the hands of drug lords and why he thinks the cartels are virtually impossible to defeat.

Plus, how the tragic story of Natasha Richardson saved the life of a young girl.

A lot to talk about. Be right back.


COOPER: Looking at some people on the Mexican side of the border right now, just kind of hanging out there. Not sure if they're planning to cross over later. This is a very active crossover point. There are border agents all around here, as they are all night long, all day long, just waiting for people to cross over.

Coming up, a rare look inside "The War Next Door" through an insider's eyes. An active member of a Mexican drug cartel. We've been showing you a lot of our interview with him throughout this evening. He'll be talking about how they torture their victims and how easy it is to bribe police to look the other way.

First, Tom Foreman joins us again with a "360 Bulletin" -- Tom.

FOREMAN: Cities across North Dakota are preparing for the worst as rivers swell. Thousands of volunteers are filling sandbags in anticipation of the worst floods in more than 100 years. Parts of Bismarck are under water already.

Forecasters now say the Red River could crest as high as 43 feet in Fargo this weekend, nearly three feet higher than the record set in 1897.

An Ohio couple says news of Natasha Richardson's death saved their daughter's life. Seven-year-old Morgan McCracken was hit in the head by a baseball and seemed OK until she developed a headache two days later.

Her parents had watched the CNN report on Richardson's fatal head injury. They rushed their daughter to a hospital where a C.T. scan showed she had the same injury as Richardson, an epidural hematoma. After emergency surgery and five days in the hospital, Morgan is doing fine.

On Wall Street, another broad-based advance for stocks. The Dow surged 175 points. The NASDAQ added 58. The S&P gained 19.

And thousands of Americans are falling for their pets, literally. The government's first-ever study of pet-related tumbles found that cats and dogs are a factor in more than 86,000 serious falls each year. Seniors are more likely to trip over their furry friends, and dogs cause more falls than cats.

Sorry to say, Anderson, but that sounds like cat propaganda to me -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Tom. I've got to tell you, I thought I was the only one who tripped over my dog.

FOREMAN: Oh, no.

COOPER: But I do it just about two or three times a day. I'm glad I'm not the only one.

Tom, thanks very much for that.

Coming up in the next hour, back to serious stuff on the war next door. More with our exclusive interview with an active member of a drug cartel, speaking out only on 360. We'll be right back.