Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Live From El Paso, Texas, For Coverage Of The Mexican Drug War

Hi everyone. Now see, THAT was the 360 we all know and love. I knew they were still there somewhere. Just been hiding lately for some reason. Anyway! Let's get to it! Tonight Anderson Cooper is coming at us from El Paso, Texas, right on the Mexican border in order to cover the very scary drug war that is currently spilling from that country into ours. According to Anderson, 6500 people were killed last year by the cartels, a lot of them publicly executed or beheaded.

Anderson gives us a little tour around his set-up on the border with Juarez. He's doing that mile-a-minute talking thing that he does when he's really excited about a story. I missed that. The gist of the info is that drugs are being trafficked from Mexico into the US and weapons are being trafficked from the US into Mexico. Supply, demand, and death all over.

This brings us to a Drew Griffin piece that focuses on the drugs-for-weapons free market hell we currently find ourselves in. Apparently, it's really hard to get a gun in Mexico. The poor police there are protecting themselves with piddly little small caliber rifles, while they're up against AK47's that the cartels got from US. Thanks for letting that ban expire, Dubya! Why does anyone need an AK47? But God forbid you mention that semi-automatic weapons might not be what the founders had in mind, lest you incite the wrath of the Charlton Heston crowd.

Next up, we have some discussion with filmmaker Rusty Fleming, who has spent a lot of time documenting the war, and Arvin West, the sheriff of Hudspeth County, Texas. Arvin is sporting a big old cowboy hat. You know, just in case you weren't clear he's a sheriff from Texas. This was a pretty good discussion. Most of note to me was Rusty's point that much of this situation is about rival cartels battling for control of the ports into and out of the two countries. I didn't initially understand it to be a turf battle, but that's clearly what we have here--much like gangs in the US.

A positive I took away from the talk was that according to Rusty, the Calderone administration seems to mean it in terms of cracking down on this stuff. The problem, of course, is that cornered animals lash out--hence the violence. Also, authorities on both sides of the border are corrupt, though more on the Mexican side. "...that's the rule and this is the exception," says Rusty. In a response to a question about militarization of the border, Arvin tells us that really, he'd just like a button he could press for help when he needs it. He tells us that he's tried to work with the officials in Mexico, but all the uncorrupt ones end up dead. " chief of police that's the counterpart in Mexico, they put his head in an ice chest." Damn.

On now to a truly frightening piece from Randi Kaye that appears in the current issue of Men's Journal. She interviews the Halls, a family of four who were vacationing in Mexico, when one night just before midnight, they were pulled over by a vehicle they thought was the cops, but turned out to be a group of masked gunmen. And so their night of terror began. They had been pulling a camper decorated with race car stickers, leading the men to assume incorrectly that there was a race car to be stolen. The Halls had no race car to give.

They were therefore driven to a deserted road and made to kneel face down in a ditch. We've all heard this story before. This is what happens right before you are executed. I have to say, I'm not sure I would have knelt. Of course, that probably would have been a stupid move in this situation because the Halls were not killed. After they realized the men were gone, they spent the next two hours walking back to civilization. They then got a ride across the border, had to borrow a quarter from a stranger, and used a payphone to collect call a relative. All in all, an experience so horrific, they no longer feel safe even in their own home. They will never go back to Mexico. Good piece.

Transitioning now to Tom Foreman at his wall, giving us a little explainer on the logistics of drug smuggling. A shipment of cocaine is ordered from Colombia, hidden inside a shipment of coffee, driven through Central American, and then smuggled into the US when the border officials are distracted. I love how we get to see the truck "drive." Ha.

On now to discussion with Fred Burton, security expert. This is the part where, after scaring the crap out of us, CNN wants us to know that hey, Mexico really isn't that bad. They need your tourism money, yo! Anderson tells us that he just recently vacationed in Baja and it felt safe. Yes, but're crazy! I have long stopped listening to the Silver Fox when it comes to what's safe and what isn't. Seriously though, it sounds like as long as you're smart and aware of your surroundings, you're going to be okay. Most of the killings seem to be drug related.

Anderson then shows us a map of Mexico that lays out all the drug cartels. Pretty much? They're everywhere. That was not a warm and fuzzy graphic. Then we're back to Tom Foreman and his wall, for completion of the story of how drugs get from the border to a city near you.

From there we're joined by Jill Doherty, who has recently interviewed Secretary of State Clinton regarding this drug war issue. We get a clip in which Clinton goes partly Nancy Reagan on us, talking about how we need to convince people to just say no. Thing is tho? Demand will never be stopped. Ever. I'm as anti-drug as they come, but I'm to the point where I think we may as well legalize. Would things really be worse? It's not like tobacco and alcohol aren't just as harmful as most illegal drugs, so why the double standard?

Tom again. They're putting him to good use tonight. This time he's talking about how the money gets back to Mexico. He tells us it's estimated that $4 million dollars worth of drugs come into the US every hour. Holy crap! Oh yeah, we're going to be able to stop that. Please. Anyway, it's kinda interesting because apparently sometimes they buy a bunch of stuff with the profits, perfectly legally take said stuff back to Mexico, and then resell it there. Ingenious, really.

Anderson is talking to us now about how people illegally get into the US from Mexico and we get a clip of him in the huge-ass tunnel that they found in 2006. Oh man, I remember that! I seem to recall him playing with some sort of rope. Good times. That was before this blog was created. Also? For some reason this reminds me of Bin Ladin's hole. Remember Anderson climbing in that thing? I actually have a picture of that one. Is there anything our anchor wouldn't climb into? After the clip, Anderson is doing the whole show-and-tell thing again regarding his location. Vintage Anderson.

Our final piece of the night is a repeat from Ed Lavandera on American teens who become assassins for the Mexican cartels. Still disturbing, even the second time.

The hour wraps up with some really amazing and disturbing pictures of Juarez from Getty Images.

I feel like I haven't said this in forever, but the show was really great tonight. Good job, 360! Finally, I get to praise you. They didn't even do that annoying thing where they go to a location and then spend half their time talking about stupid stuff that isn't at all relevant to why they're there. I mean, sometimes other news breaks and you have to cover it, but that hasn't always been the case for the annoying reportage. I hope they get rewarded with good ratings. I won't hold my breath though. You can't alternate between mediocre and crappy for months on end and then suddenly do one good show and expect people to still be there. Hopefully I'm wrong. After all, they did promo. Anyway, yay, quality! It'd be great if it sticks around.

Here's a good interview Anderson did with the local news in Texas. Guess we'll be seeing more Field! Anderson in the future.


Blogger Anne said...

Hi Eliza,

Talk about day and night difference on the show last night, as apposed to what we have been viewing for so long. It was like watching a new format, sadly it was instead how this program used to be. Your last paragraph says it so well. On a different topic, you got to go to Daily Kos and read "Now CNN is going WATB" by Jed Lewison. The comments sent in are showing no mercy on Ed Henry or CNN. They are painfully accurate and hilarious. Even at CNN's web site where Ed Henry wrote his piece, most responses sent in did not think highly of him and his attempt to interject himself as a news item. Anne D.

7:02 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

@Anne: Yeah, Ed, IMO, asked an okay question and strongly followed up. But that's his JOB. He should have just shut up about it after the press conference instead of digging in deeper and making himself look like an idiot.

4:44 AM  

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