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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

North Dakota's Flooding Fears; President Obama Unveils Afghanistan Plans; Drug Wars in Mexico

Aired March 27, 2009 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, we're in El Paso, Texas, again, continuing our coverage of the war next door in Mexico.

First, though, breaking news out of Fargo, North Dakota, where the worst-case scenario is becoming reality. Record floodwaters are straining the sandbags and backup dikes protecting the city. Look at the pictures. The Red River could crest in a matter of hours. They thought it was going to be Sunday. Now they're saying could be sometimes late tonight, tomorrow.

Reynolds Wolf joins me now from Fargo with the latest.

Reynolds, what's -- what's happening?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That's right, Anderson, expected to possibly crest to 42 feet as we get into the weekend. But some forecasts have it going up to 43 feet possibly by Monday or Tuesday.

At this hour, the National Guard has already been here in the city. Also, the Pentagon has activated additional troops, including 15 helicopters, to come in and help the battle with this river.

At this hour, people continue to put sandbags up, building berms, dikes, doing what they can to hold back this river. And the battle is on. We're going to have more coming up -- Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: All right, Reynolds, we will check in with you in a few minutes.

We're standing on the U.S. side of the border in El Paso, Texas. Across the foot bridge behind me is Juarez , Mexico, just 100 or 200 yards over there. The foot path is heavily trafficked all day and all night with people who are crossing the border illegally. That's the foot path over there.

We came here to report from the front lines of the war that's threatening to turn Mexico into a failed state. If you want to cross over illegally, for people who don't use the foot path, there's the Rio Grande right here. Some people wade across, a small fence over here. There's a lot of border agents working very hard, 24 hours a day, trying to keep people from -- from -- from running across right here, because, as soon as they make it past this area, they hit downtown El Paso, and they can blend into the crowds very quickly.

How bad is the violence over there in Mexico? Well, last year, 6,500 people were killed, as drug cartels battled each other and Mexican authorities. There have been 800 killings in the last three months alone and the violence is spilling over the border into the United States and spreading throughout the United States.

To really understand the carnage, though, you have to try to get inside the cartels. We found a man willing to talk to us. In return, we agreed to conceal his name and his identity. He claims to be a mid-level cartel member. And based on their longtime work in this war, two trusted sources vouch for his claim.

If you were watching last night, you already know some of what he has to say is chilling. Tonight, you're going to hear more from him about the inner workings of cartels in the United States and in Mexico. We warn you, though, details are ugly, disturbing.

One of the things I asked about is the gruesome escalation in violence we're seeing. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: Yes, they are, letting know who it's -- who it's coming from and who is giving out the orders and who it's going to for.

COOPER: Torture is common?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: Yes, it is.

COOPER: Why? Just to get information?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: To -- not to get information. Just the pleasure of doing it.

COOPER: How are people tortured?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: Well, we have got different ways. You will burn them. You will burn his testicles. You will stick ice picks in their feet.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Wow. Ice picks into people's feet? UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: Yes. They will remove his nails one by one with some pliers. You name it. There's whatever they can think of.

COOPER: You say they burn people. With what?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: A torch.

COOPER: Like a blowtorch?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: Like the ones you use for the -- at a body shop.

COOPER: What about kidnapping? What's -- is kidnapping just a money-making venture?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: Kidnappings, you get them for ransom. You get -- you know, you need money, or somebody didn't pay the money that was supposed to be paid. And you kill somebody. That's where you get the kidnappings from, or either they're because going to give (SPEAKING SPANISH) which means kill -- you know, they will kidnap you and to kill you.

It really all -- it all depends on what the reason for the kidnapping is for.

COOPER: Often, it seems, in a number of cases, the police have been involved with the kidnappers in Mexico.

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: True. That way, nobody suspects. You know, if you have an officer or a couple of officers go and kidnap you or arrest you, you think it's an arrest. But, in reality, they're giving you -- giving you to the cartel or somebody else.

COOPER: How easy is it to corrupt a local police officer in Mexico?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: Just offer him $10,000, or even less.

COOPER: And the vast majority of policemen, do you think, local police, would take the money?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: Like I said, they don't have no choice most of the time. They don't get -- they don't accept the money, then they will accept a bullet in their head.

COOPER: They will get killed, their family will get killed? They know the price?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: Yes.

COOPER: What's it like working inside a cartel? Are you nervous? Are you scared? UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: It starts off being nice and good, 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. And it's a little bit too late to -- for you to back out.

COOPER: It's a difficult thing to get out of?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: Yes, it is.

There's only one way, and that's being killed, by death.

COOPER: That's the only way out?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: That's the only way out.

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 DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: Well, seeing people die in front of me, I think that's one of them. Watching them die and beg for their lives for the -- for money -- you know, they're going to kill them for money because they owe a certain much -- a certain amount of money. And they're going to kill them and watching -- you watching, standing there, watching them getting killed, I think that's -- that's one of them.

COOPER: You've seen people getting killed?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: I have seen them die.

COOPER: Is that something you could have stopped?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: Try to, but it's impossible. You can't, unless you want to get killed yourself, too.

COOPER: So, the war goes on?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: It goes on.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: It certainly does. It goes on and on.

A lot of you are probably wondering why this guy would agree to do this interview with us, even with a mask. Well, he has his reasons, but he has asked us not to reveal them in order to protect the people closest to him.

The chilling confession of a man who says he's a member of a drug cartel -- we will have more of our exclusive interview ahead tonight. But, first, the killing fields -- I traveled across to Juarez today, where we found shallow graves, where the victims of some of the violence have been buried by cartels and the unknown are a stark reminder of the toll the drug war is taking in this city. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): In a government building in Juarez, you find the faces of the missing, 500 people, whereabouts unknown. Some may be participants in the drug war here, others, its innocent victims.

Sixty-five hundred people died in Mexico in drug-related violence last year, 1,600 in Juarez alone. But those are only the bodies they found.

Recently, this man confessed to disposing of bodies for a drug cartel. He claims to have dissolved 300 people in acid. Many of the dead they do find are never identified. In Juarez, the morgue is full. New bodies turn up all the time.

(on camera): We're pretty far out from the city of Juarez on the outskirts of town, a very deserted area. A couple of weeks ago, some workers were out here excavating land and they noticed a foot sticking up from the sand. They found a shallow grave. This one right here, this had four people in it, four men. One of them had been shot. The rest had all been beaten pretty badly.

And, just a few feet away, another shallow grave was found. Three men were inside here and two women. They had all been killed by cartels.

(voice-over): The police removed the bodies, but were never able to identify who the victims were.

Hundreds of bodies found in Juarez have never been claimed, according to the city's mayor, Jose Reyes.

JOSE REYES FERRIZ, MAYOR OF JUAREZ, MEXICO: Sixteen hundred people died during last year. About 800 of those, we buried in mass graves, unknown males, mostly from other cities, came in for the war. I'm pretty sure their families don't even know that they're dead.

COOPER (on camera): So, there's about 800 unidentified people who have been buried here.

REYES FERRIZ: Right. Yes.

COOPER: And you still -- no one still knows who they are?

REYES FERRIZ: Nobody has claimed them. Nobody has come in to try and see if their family members are here.

COOPER (voice-over): The unclaimed dead are put in wooden coffins and buried in communal graves in a special section of the city's cemetery.

After the burials, there are few visitors. No one knows who lies beneath.

(on camera): There are no tombstones, no names, just these metal grave markers with serial numbers indicating how many people are buried in each plot. There's four people in this one. And it just goes on, row after row.

(voice-over): Though the murder rate in Juarez has dropped with the deployment of Mexican soldiers in the city, at the cemetery, they are prepared if and when the violence increases. Dozens of new communal graves have already been dug, ready to receive the next anonymous victims of this drug war.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: We will have more from Juarez throughout this hour.

This -- our reporting over the last couple of days is getting a lot of response on the A.C. 360 blog. Let us know what you think. Join the live chat right now happening at AC360.com.

And just ahead: the latest on our breaking story, North Dakota bracing for the worst tonight, record floodwaters still rising, the Red River now expected to crest within a matter of hours. The question is, will those sandbags hold? We will go there live.

Later, only on CNN, more from my interview with a drug cartel insider -- he tells me how far their reach is inside the U.S. Are they operating in your city?

And the most expensive home in the city goes on the market. You're not going to believe this mansion. Guess how much they're selling it for? One hundred and fifty million dollars. The attic alone is 17,000 square feet. So, who owns it and why are they selling? The story ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Let's head back to Fargo now, the breaking news on the threat from record flooding.

Hundreds of National Guard troops and volunteers are racing time and the elements. Already, thousands have been evacuated, as the icy Red River is continuing to rise. The question is, will the city soon be underwater, or will those sandbags hold?

Meteorologist Reynolds Wolf is live in Fargo with the very latest -- Reynolds.

WOLF: Well, Anderson, to get things started, let's talk about some numbers and just give you an idea of what the people here are up against.

The record this morning that was broken was 40.1 feet. That was a record that was set back in 1897. Now, the forecast, as you mentioned earlier, it's expected to top out around 42 feet possibly later tonight, early tomorrow, and through the weekend. Then, as we get into Monday and Tuesday, there is a slight chance, the National Weather Service tells us, that those levels could go up to about 43.

Now, I will tell you that, with that news, this city has taken the news very seriously. They have been putting up sandbags. They have been building dam, dikes, doing everything they can. And everyone is pitching in.

Earlier today, we met one family who was up to the task.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HEIDI FISHER, EVACUEE: Yes, I have your cell phone. I'm going to load the car. We're going to head out.

WOLF (voice-over): It's the first time the Fisher family has evacuated in their house in the 14 years they have called it.

(on camera): So, you were here during the flood of '97?

H. FISHER: Yes.

WOLF: How does that compare with what you're seeing here?

H. FISHER: It was -- it hardly lapped against the bags. And when the dike broke, it just came in front of the street, and we were OK.

WOLF (voice-over): This time, forecasters bring the river even higher, and that prediction is enough to make Heidi get out of town.

H. FISHER: The kids and the cat and I are going to go join another family member about an hour east of here.

WOLF: Her husband, Skip, is staying put, watching the dam out back, and manning the pump.

SKIP FISHER, EVACUEE: Well, I'm -- I'm staying until they cut my power. If they cut my electricity off, then I don't have heat. So...

WOLF: Now, the Fishers' home sits at 42 feet. And, as the waters rise, the sandbags go down. They hope to stack them high enough to hold back the record crest of the river.

S. FISHER: We're -- we're probably at least 43.5 in back there. So, we're feeling a little more at ease with it.

WOLF: And he's also feeling lucky, having friends help with the heavy lifting, some that he's known for years and some for only a few minutes.

S. FISHER: Well, the people who are out here have been so great. I mean, it's just -- you can't say enough.

WOLF: And it's that camaraderie, the can-do Midwest spirit, that keeps them standing tall as the waters rise.

S. FISHER: As the mayor said, go down swinging. Go down trying.

WOLF: A very realistic approach.

S. FISHER: Yes. And, I mean, if -- if it happens, you know, then we deal with it then. We clean it up and move on.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: This has really brought out the best in people, neighbor helping neighbor. It's great to see.

Reynolds, how are the levees themselves holding up?

WOLF: Yes, that's a great question.

And what they're doing is -- is, the National Guard is actually going and checking on each of the levees, the ones that they're deeply concerned with. They're doing that about twice every hour. And they're going to continue to do that as the waters are going to continue to rise.

Another big issue we have, Anderson, is the forecast is calling for much warmer temperatures on we get into Tuesday and Wednesday, which could cause much of the snowpack to melt, causing the river possibly to rise even more -- back to you.

COOPER: Wow.

All right, Reynolds, we will continue to follow it. Thanks.

Just ahead: President Obama unveiling his new strategy for Afghanistan, more troops he's talking about, new marching orders. The question is, will it work, and where does Pakistan fit in? We will take a look at that with Peter Bergen.

Also, and he's an internationally respected expert on preventing kidnappings, but now he himself is missing, kidnapped in Mexico, while trying to teach others to protect themselves. We will have the latest report on his status.

Plus, the Dallas police chief apologizing for this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My mother-in-law is dying right now!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Listen to me. Listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're wasting my time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I can't verify you have insurance, I'm going to tow the car.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: That cop was yelling at NFL running back Ryan Moats, who ran a red light while rushing to see his dying mother-in-law in the hospital. He got to her bedside too late. Now the officer himself is under fire.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: In "Raw Politics" tonight: the commander in chief's sweeping new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Saying the war in Iraq has denied the resources needed to stop al Qaeda and the Taliban, President Obama outlined his plan today, while leaving no doubt about the priority number one. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan and to prevent their return to either country in the future. That's the goal that must be achieved. That is a cause that could not be more just.

And to the terrorists who oppose us, my message is the same. We will defeat you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: President Obama is ordering another 4,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan to train security forces. Now, that's on top of the 17,000 the president announced earlier that would be sent to the region. He's also ordered a dramatic increase in civilian advisers on the ground.

Now, if the new strategy doesn't work, President Obama made it clear changes would be made, saying he not blindly stay the course.

New goals, new marching orders, the question is, will it root out al Qaeda and end the chaos in both Afghanistan and Pakistan?

And we're joined now by national security analysis Peter Bergen.

Peter, what do you make of the president's plan?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I think it's an excellent plan for Afghanistan. The real wild card here, Anderson, is Pakistan, because, obviously, the United States isn't in Pakistan in any great way.

And the Pakistani government doesn't really appear to have a strategy about how to deal with the militants on its country. So, while I think this is an excellent strategy on Afghanistan, I'm a little bit more skeptical about the strategy for Pakistan, because, basically, the Pakistanis don't really have a strategy. So, it's hard for us to have one when they don't have one.

COOPER: And, as you and I have seen, when we have traveled to Pakistan -- to Afghanistan together -- and you have spent a lot of time in Pakistan as well -- Pakistan is key to this, because you can't fight insurgents and terrorists who are crossing over the border if you can't operate in Pakistan, correct?

BERGEN: Indeed.

I mean, you know, there's been a lot of academic study of insurgencies. And if the insurgents have a safe haven, as they do in Pakistan with the Taliban and al Qaeda, they can sustain this insurgency for a very long time.

Afghanistan has its own problems, but -- and I think the Obama plan goes a long way to address those problems. But, still, Pakistani government, the Pakistani military hasn't really either explained to its people or to itself how it plans to really deal with the militants on its own territory.

COOPER: More troops, though, going to into Afghanistan, 4,000 more, in addition to the 17,000 more he had already sent, how does this not become a quagmire?

BERGEN: Well, you know, it's very different from Vietnam, which, of course, was a quagmire.

The Afghan people are still pretty in favor of the United States -- 47 percent of them have a favorable view of the United States -- 63 percent of them have a favorable view of U.S. forces in the country. So, that's pretty good numbers to work with.

In any -- any insurgency, the center of gravity is the population. And the Afghan people are still looking for the United States and its allies to get it right in Afghanistan. And they still -- there's a large reservoir of goodwill.

COOPER: You -- I mean, we don't hear much talk, though, about democracy in Afghanistan or about -- it now seems it's basically focused on preventing the return of the Taliban and stopping al Qaeda.

BERGEN: Yes, I think that's -- I mean, I think that's right.

I mean, I think -- I mean, to do that, it's not just going after bad guys, of course. It's also doing other things that this plan attempts to do. But I think that the president has, as you pointed out, ratcheted down the rhetorical framework a little bit.

And, also, the American people, at the end of the day, that's what they care about, is denying al Qaeda a sanctuary in either Afghanistan or Pakistan.

COOPER: Peter Bergen, appreciate your expertise. Peter, thanks.

Next: more of our exclusive interview with a cartel member. Hear why he says kidnappings in the U.S. could rise and what he is most afraid of.

We will also break down where cartels are operating in the United States and which ones are the most powerful.

And, later, America's most expensive house on the market -- have you seen this? Aaron Spelling's old mansion can be yours for $150 million. We will take you inside -- that's our "Shot" -- when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

COOPER: We got this off YouTube. It's one of the most popular narcocorridos, a kind of song in Mexico that is very popular. It's singing about the exploits of -- of drug traffickers, of drug lords. They're popular. It's a popular form or music there.

We should point out 12 musicians who sing narcocorridos have been killed, execution-style, in the last two years over -- over these songs. It can be a deadly business, singing about the drug lords as well.

I want to show you just a little bit of where we are. We're right on the border. We're in El Paso. Juarez, Mexico, is just over there, through this fence. As you -- if you remember, if you joined us over the last two nights, we were in a different location, where the fence was a new fence constructed 18 feet high, double wire mesh, double metal mesh. You couldn't fit your fingers through it, very hard to climb over.

This fence obviously very different, a lot older, a lot easier to climb over. Sure, you have to make it across the Rio Grande. But, if you make it to this fence, you try to climb over, it's all a race against time, because there are an awful lot of border agents here. There's also a lot of cameras and sensors. And they will move in very quickly.

What, a lot of times, people will try to do crossing over -- and a lot of these are organized gangs -- the drug cartels have a hand in human smuggling as well. They will send one or two people over here, over in, say, in this area, try to cross. The border agents will rush over here, and then they will have 10 people -- they will send 10 people further down trying to cross over while the border agents are distracted.

We should also point out -- look at this -- this has already been opened up, cut into. These cartels, the people who control this human smuggling have people full-time who come to cut the fence. The Border Patrol also has people full-time whose jobs simply is to reweld the fence together.

But it is a constant battle, a constant game of cat and mouse. And it happens all along the border here. We will have a lot more from the border. We wanted to take a look, though, at the drug routes, how drugs are getting in, and who's in control of these drug routes, who's in control of these cartels.

Tom Foreman takes a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, this is Mexico, as it has been sliced up by the drug cartels, according to the Congressional Research Service.

You see the turf controlled by these various groups out here. But two hold the most power, first, the Gulf cartel, right here, just below Texas. The Drug Enforcement Administration, which hit this group very hard in a series of busts late last year -- more than 500 arrests in a dozen U.S. states -- says this cartel calls itself the company, and it's known for extreme violence, for kidnappings, for beheadings, for torture, much of it carried out by their enforcers, Los Zetas, a group of deserters from the Mexican military.

The second big cartel that you have to keep in mind is right over in here. It's the Sinaloa cartel. They, like the other one, have made alliances with other groups down in here to expand their influence. So, in truth, they're bigger than what they might appear at first glance.

They are all, however, benefiting from law enforcement strikes against the Colombian cartels way down south back around 2000, which set the Colombians back and opened the door for the Mexican drug runners -- Anderson.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Tom, thanks very much.

That's the big picture to keep in mind as we go back inside the ruthless world of Mexico's drug cartels.

Their reach doesn't just stretch across Mexico. It extends far beyond the U.S. border. The U.S. Justice Department says the cartels are now a bigger threat to Americans than the mafia or any other organized crime.

And that's where my interview with a cartel member picks up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: A lot of Americans were surprised to hear that the -- the U.S. Justice Department recently said that Mexican cartels are the largest organized crime threat in the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: I -- well (INAUDIBLE) I think so. In a way, it is.

COOPER: They -- there are drug cartels operating in every state in America?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: Well, they have certain states, but, throughout America, yes, there is. But there are certain states where 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: A lot of people in the United States are concerned about violence increasingly spilling over from Mexico into the United States. Do you think -- do you see it increasing? There have been an increasing number of home invasions in Tucson, Arizona, for instance. The kidnappings -- the majority of kidnappings in the United States are now drug related. Do you see the violence increasing here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will, within time it will. Once -- once they have a little bit of a chance, it will increase. You got a lot of the people that got away, that was going to -- were supposed to get killed, they got away and they're here in the states. There are those that do certain things from the cartel, that eventually they send somebody to kill them.

COOPER: What do you want people to know about the cartels? What do you want people to know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's -- it's a life I wouldn't recommend for anybody. But if you're in it, then, well, just don't do stupid things.

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 this business. You can't. You're not allowed to trust anybody.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

COOPER: Do you worry about talking? Are you concerned about talking to us?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I am.

COOPER: What concerns do you have?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First of all, my family can get hurt. Someone could get killed. That's maybe my most concern.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: You just heard directly from a man who knows cartels as well as anyone. Next we'll tell you how they're operating right here in the United States.

Plus the unlikeliest of kidnapping victims. An American who went down there to help the missing has disappeared himself. A strange twist to his case, ahead.

And a confrontation with a police officer keeps an NFL player from saying good-bye to his dying mother-in-law. And a police chief is taking action.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And welcome back in El Paso where a drug war rages just across the border in Mexico. A few minutes ago we showed you some of the cartels that control the drug empires in Mexico.

But what happened once the illegal drugs end up here on this side of the fence, on their way to American drug users who ultimately fuel the violence? Again, here's Tom Foreman.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: Anderson, this map shows location across the U.S. where law enforcement says that Mexican cartels have active cells, actual members of their groups. Places like Nashville over here, Chicago, out here in Denver, and on and on it goes.

But you will not find cartel members on the corner selling drugs here. The DEA points out that cartels are largely wholesalers and they rely on gangs for the retail street sales. That's how it's done.

That said now, here's an interesting fact about all of this. You may notice if you follow reports, that methamphetamines are very big out west and they're quite big in the south. But not so much in the northeast. Why is that?

Well, because the Mexican cartels pretty much run the show out here and down here. The Colombians still dominate this area. And they want to push the products they can best supply: cocaine and heroin -- Anderson.

COOPER: Tom, thanks very much, fascinating.

U.S. authorities have their work cut out for them. Let's dig deeper with David Cuthbertson, an FBI special agent here in El Paso, and also Fred Burton, a counter terrorism analyst and an expert on security joining us by satellite. Thank you both for being with us.

Let's just talk -- what is the violence? What is -- why is there so much violence in Mexico? Who's batting for control?

DAVID CUTHBERTSON, FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Well, particularly in Juarez, what was at stake here was control of the plaza, control of the corridor for moving cocaine from Mexico into the United States.

COOPER: That's what it's all about, the drug routes, the supply routes?

CUTHBERTSON: Exactly. That's what all the violence here was about. Multi-billion-dollar piece of infrastructure for the criminal enterprises that still is up in the air.

COOPER: And who is -- how many groups are fighting?

CUTHBERTSON: Essentially two groups: the Sinta Coria Puentes (ph) cartel and the Chapo Guzman cartel.

COOPER: And Fred, you're a former police officer. Are you surprised -- have you been surprised by the nature of the violence, the degree of the violence?

FRED BURTON, STRATFOR: Not surprised at all, Anderson. We've been forecasting this for about 18 months now, and seeing the steady progression into the cartels. And we've also seen just the sheer brutality and the insurgent kind of activities that are taking place in Mexico.

COOPER: Why, David, is it so brutal? I mean -- I mean, there's one thing to kill somebody. It's another thing to behead them, to execute them publicly, to make it a spectacle.

CUTHBERTSON: I think what changed here is that the cartels were making points to each other. And as we saw from January 2008, really up until about February of 2009 the brutality and the inhumanity just kept escalating up to the point where at one point they put a Santa hat on the head of one of the bodies. And that's what really struck me, is this really has changed from what we've been used to before.

COOPER: And David, you say the military, the involvement of the Mexican military in areas like Juarez and some of these border states have had a big impact?

CUTHBERTSON: The most recent increase of several thousand more military troops here in Juarez and a couple thousand more federal policemen has made a tremendous difference in the safety of Juarez. And this has just been within the last month.

COOPER: Fred, how long, though, can the military stay deployed in Mexico?

BURTON: The problem becomes one of logistics, meaning the Calderon government only has a fixed number of assets, and it's like a shell game. They'll deploy the assets to the next flare-up. In the past year or so, we've had the Mexican military in Nuevo Laredo all the way on the other side of the country, and now they're back in Juarez. The problem becomes this: they can't keep them there forever because they will be corrupted.

COOPER: David, why has cartel violence left a place like El Paso pretty safe? I mean, it's one of the safest cities for this city in the United States, whereas in Tucson they've seen a number of home invasions.

CUTHBERTSON: Exactly. I think the violence follows the drugs. The drugs pass from Juarez into El Paso and very quickly to places like Phoenix, Chicago, Atlanta, to where the drugs land, where those cartel cells are, where someone might run off with drugs, or run off with money. That's where you're going to see the violence, not in a place like El Paso.

COOPER: You work here; you live here. There's a lot of talk about, you know, sending troops to the border, National Guard troops. Do you have a take on that?

CUTHBERTSON: I certainly don't have an opinion on national policy issues, but El Paso, as you said, extremely safe city. A lot of law enforcement here in El Paso. We've only had two murders this year, none of which were cartel or drug related.

COOPER: Fred, do you think that's the solution, militarizing the border?

BURTON: I think we need more assets, more federal assets on the border, and I certainly think that the National Guard would help, meaning look at the geography, Anderson. And this is all about geography. And we simply don't have enough police officers, state police officers or federal assets.

And we certainly need the robust capabilities that the National Guard brings, with boots on the ground, as well as some of their surveillance platforms and just the logistics to secure the geography.

COOPER: We're going to have to leave it there. Fascinating discussion, though. Fred Burton, appreciate it.

David Cuthbertson, thank you for your work.

CUTHBERTSON: Thank you.

COOPER: Next on the program, searching for a kidnapped American abducted in Mexico City. He was there to save others from being taken. He was an expert on kidnapping. We'll have the latest on his condition.

Also tonight, denied a final good-bye. An NFL player on his way to visit a dying loved one and kept waiting by a police officer. It was all caught on tape. What the police chief has to say about the traffic stop, coming up.

And later, on a much lighter note, a bizarre note: the big house. The wife of the late Aaron Spelling putting her home on the market. She's asking more than you can imagine for it. It is our "Shot" tonight. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, the flyers for the missing I saw in Juarez today are just the tip of the iceberg. Hundreds of men, women, and children are being kidnapped in Mexico. Many have been killed.

Now the threat is crossing the border. Published reports say that Phoenix is now the kidnapping capital of America. Police suspect many of the cases are linked to narcotics and drug smuggling from Mexico.

One American went to Mexico City to help find the missing, only to disappear himself. John Zarrella has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The anguish is etched on Felix Batista's wife's face.

LOURDES BATISTA, WIFE: Every hour on the hour, I think of Felix and his wellbeing, where he is.

ZARRELLA: Felix Batista is gone, vanished without a trace. After taking a phone call, Batista walked out of a restaurant in the city of Salcudo (ph), Mexico, on December 10.

According to Mexican authorities, security cameras show him voluntarily getting in a vehicle. His sister doubts that and says he must have been under tremendous pressure.

JACKIE BATISTA, SISTER: I believe that he was putting the safety of others first, and he did what he needed to do.

ZARRELLA: Yet of all people, Felix Batista is the last person you'd ever expect to be kidnapped.

L. BATISTA: There is danger in his job, but I couldn't stop him from doing something that he so loved.

ZARRELLA: Batista is an internationally-respected U.S. anti- kidnapping consultant. When he disappeared, he was in Mexico, attending a seminar on how not to get kidnapped.

He was fully versed in the violence taking place there. Last summer, in an interview with TV Azteca, Batista himself gave a grim assessment of how kidnappings go in Mexico.

FELIX BATISTA, KIDNAPPING EXPERT (through translation): In Mexico there are more problems: problems with negotiations, bad things happen to victims. they're killed, raped or mutilated.

ZARRELLA: For his family, the not knowing, the silence is brutalizing. They live the same nightmare as so many Mexican families. L. BATISTA: The Mexican people also suffer this, and many of them don't have a voice.

ZARRELLA: The Batistas hope President Obama will be that voice. Lourdes Batista and two of her daughters, Amari (ph) and Diana, are lettering T-shirts to wear in a petition drive. T-shirts that read: "I do not want money, I want my dad." The girls wear their lettered T-shirts when they the people to sign a petition going to the president, asking that Felix be part of every discussion U.S. officials have in Mexico.

(on camera) What are the answers you're looking for that you're not getting?

J. BATISTA: The first answer is what is being done to look for Felix Batista? What is being done on a local level in Mexico to get some information, some evidence of where he is, who took him, and what has happened to him?

ZARRELLA (voice-over): In another room of the house, Batista's daughter, Adriel (ph), goes through photos for a Web site.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my dad, playing his guitar.

ZARRELLA: The Batistas are not naive; it has been three months of silence. But for now, hope still overshadows fear.

John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: It's unbelievable.

A couple of months ago I interviewed a mother whose son was kidnapped in Mexico. The police weren't interested in helping. She had to do the investigation for herself. Her whole family did it over the course of a month. They actually ultimately found the kidnappers. Sadly her son had been killed. Let's hope they find Felix Batista soon and that he is OK.

Still to come tonight, new signs of hope for our economy. The new numbers that have some at least hoping the worst may be over. We'll see about that.

And a big house with a huge price tag: a Hollywood personality is putting up her home on the market. You will not believe what it looks like and how much money she is asking. It's our "Shot" when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Just about everybody is downsizing these days, but some are doing it on a much grander scale. Take Candy Spelling, famous for being famous. She's the mom of actress Tori, wife of the late Aaron Spelling. Candy is selling her home. And it can be yours for just $150 million. It is the most expensive house in the United States. So what do you get for that amount? Way too much. Here's Randi Kaye with tonight's "SHOT."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The widow of legendary TV producer Aaron Spelling is downsizing. Imagine downsizing from this. Known simply as the manor, Candy Spelling has put her 56,000-square-foot monster of a mansion on the market in California.

There's a pool and tennis court and space to park 100 cars. It's the most expensive home on the market in the U.S., and it can be yours for $150 million. Makes you wonder, what housing bust?

Aaron Spelling died in 2006. His widow and mother of reality TV star Tori Spelling is selling the French chateau-style mansion because she's moving into a smaller two-story condo which she reportedly bought last year for $47 million. That's downsizing?

The mansion sits just down the street from the "Playboy" mansion. Some inside ceilings are 30 feet high. There's a bowling alley, a wine tasting room, a 17,000-square-foot attic which includes a barber shop and beauty salon. Even a humidity-controlled silver storage room. And of course a screening room.

The legendary TV producer was best known for hits like "Charlie's Angels," "Beverly Hills 90210" and "Dynasty."

(on camera) Now about that price tag. Let's put this in perspective. Spelling's home is on the market for $150 million. We checked and the average home price in California is just over $283,000. The average home price in the U.S. is even less: about 232,000. Do the math and the difference is about 149,767,731 bucks.

(voice-over) Like all homeowners these days, Candy Spelling may need to be patient. A realtor told CNN another house in the same neighborhood has been on the market for the last two years, and that one's a bargain: $25 million less than Spelling's, just $125 million.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: A hundred and million? I don't even like it that much.

Well, you can see all the most recent "Shots" on our Web site: AC360.com.

Coming up, we'll have more from the border. Also, a wild day on Wall Street, but a glimmer of hope that the economy may be finally rebounding. At least some people are hoping that. The numbers and the new reality ahead.

And a 360 follow, an NFL player stopped by police while rushing to the bedside of a dying family member. What the police chief is saying coming up. And we'll show you the video.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Let's take a look at some of the train tracks between Juarez -- that's Juarez on the far end -- and El Paso here, the side we're on right now.

Let's check some of the other stories we're following tonight. Randi Kaye joins us with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Randi.

KAYE: Hi there, Anderson.

A devastating suicide blast in Pakistan. The bomber struck a mosque, killing over 50 people and wounding over 100 more. The slaughter is believed to have been carried out by a radical Muslim group.

A 360 follow now on the outrageous video we showed you last week. The Dallas police chief has apologized for the conduct of officer Robert Powell, who stopped a speeding car in a hospital parking lot, drew a gun, and detained two men rushing to the bedside of a dying family member.

One of the men was NFL player Ryan Moats. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OFFICER ROBERT POWELL, DALLAS POLICE CHIEF: I need your insurance.

RYAN MOATS, NFL PLAYER: I don't have insurance.

POWELL: You don't have insurance? Listen, if I can't verify you have...

MOATS: My mother-in-law is dying right now.

POWELL: Listen.

MOATS: You're wasting my time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: Ryan Moats' mother-in-law passed away during that confrontation.

On Wall Street, the Dow sank 148 points today. The NASDAQ fell 42, and the S&P lost 17 points. But all three were up for the week and have rallied for most of the month, actually.

And Americans may be shopping their way out of the recession. The Commerce Department says spending rose for the second month in a row, climbing 0.2 percent in February, following January's 1 percent increase.

Anderson, back to you. COOPER: All right. Randi, thanks very much.

At the top of the hour, Ali Velshi puts the week's financial news in perspective in our "360 Money Summit." A lot for him to cover, certainly, including a surge in stocks and some other glimmers of hope.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After giving up about 28 percent since the beginning of the year, we're up about 20 percent since then. Now, we can't call any of this a trend, but at least there's hope in the housing and the stock markets. And those are two of the three things that make you feel wealthier.

The third -- and the third is probably the most important, so this is worrisome -- hasn't shown any improvement at all and that is jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Stocks, housing, jobs, it is your money, your future next on 360.

I just want to point out it's Ashley Corum's (ph) last day with us on 360. We want to wish her well. She's been great to have with us. And I'm sure she's going to have big things in her future. Ashley, thank you so much for all you've done for us.

That's it for us here in El Paso. We hope our reporting on "The War Next Door gave you a better sense of the danger already on our doorstep.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)