For the first time in years, Mexico is making headlines in the United States for something other than immigration. The raging drug wars have captured the attention of the Obama administration and the American public. And it only took beheadings, thousands of killings, hundreds of kidnappings in Phoenix and fears that America's southern neighbor might become a "failed state."
CNN's Anderson Cooper will report live from the US-Mexico border this Wednesday and Thursday for a special report called "The War Next Door," airing at 10pm EST on CNN. The Huffington Post spoke to Cooper about the report, which will focus on the drug war in Mexico and how it has claimed the lives of about 8,000 people, terrorized the nation and appears to be advancing into the United States.
"This is topic number one for people in Mexico," Cooper said, adding that the violence cuts across all economic levels and increasingly affects more and more of the country. "There is a lot of fear, a lot of concern, and a lot of frustration with the government."
The special report will address the causes of the conflict and what both the United States and Mexican governments are doing to combat it, Cooper said. The Mexican government has declared war on drug traffickers, and the Obama administration has vowed to send more agents and equipment to the border. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton travels to Mexico today, and President Obama will visit in April.
The crisis in Mexico is receiving significant attention in the United States because the level of violence has dramatically increased, the attacks have become more gruesome, the violence has spilled over into the United States and the United States is no longer focused on a gripping presidential election, Cooper said.
"There was so much focus on the election and domestic politics," he said. Now that the election is over and the violence has reached unprecedented levels, "we can't help but pay attention to Mexico."
The issue is also getting attention because with a change of administration comes a review of policy, Cooper said. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano declared from the beginning that she would make this a priority. On Tuesday, she unveiled the White House plan for combating the drug cartels, which includes increasing the number of immigration and customs agents, drug agents and anti-gun trafficking agents working along the border, according to the AP.
Some say that the violence has increased because the Mexican government has cracked down on drug cartels, Cooper said. As the larger carters are broken apart, he explained, smaller gangs pop up and begin to fight one another over territory. The smaller gangs are younger, more violent and borrow tactics from Iraq such as beheading victims and making public statements, he said.
In an effort to further break apart the larger cartels, the Mexican government Monday offered $2 million for information that would lead to the arrest of top drug lords.
"The Mexican authorities want to take out the larger cartels and then only have to deal with the smaller, less sophisticated gangs," Cooper said. They want to arrest the drug lords and extradite them to the United States in order to keep them out of Mexican prisons where they can continue their trafficking efforts. With the top drug lords arrested and in the United States, Cooper said, the Mexican authorities would only have to deal with the smaller groups.
"It then becomes a more localized policing issue," rather than a war on drug lords as it is now.
Cooper will also interview a Mexican journalist, Lydia Cacho, during his report, and address the threats the drug war has posed on members of the media.
"They are on the front lines, in the cross hairs," Cooper said of the journalists who face great personal risk for covering the drug cartels. "These people are heroic."