Return to Transcripts main page


Inside One of Mexico's Most Dangerous Cities; Update on the World Cup; Tensions Escalate Over Tehran's Nuclear Program; Director Makes Film to Remember Iran's Neda; American Teen Goes Through Extreme Measures to Lose Weigh

Aired June 21, 2010 - 16:00:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Mourning another victim of a brutal drug war -- we're going to take you inside one of Mexico's most dangerous cities. Reynosa's violence is not isolated, but gang cartels there are infecting an entire region.

Tonight, is America's insatiable hunger for a high just feeding the cycle of violence?

On CNN, this is the hour we CONNECT THE WORLD.

I'm Becky Anderson in London.

This week, we are taking you to the front lines of what is nothing short of war played out on the streets of Mexico and now seeping across its borders. Mexico's violent drug war is tearing the country apart and could poison an entire region.

Also tonight, the story of Neda on film. We talk to director Anthony Thomas about Iranian's Green Revolution.

Plus, the extreme measures to fight extreme weight -- tackling childhood obesity in America.

And remember, you can connect with the program online via Twitter. My personnel address is @beckycnn. Do log on and join in the conversation.

We begin in one of the most violent cities in Mexico tonight, just 10 minutes from the U.S. border. Reynosa is at the center of a brutal turf war between the drug cartels. But all too often, it's ordinary people who are the ones paying the price.

Karl Penhaul kicks of our special week long coverage of Mexico in crisis.


KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Maria Jesus Mancha has just buried her son. Twenty-seven-year-old Miguel Angel Vazquez was gunned down as he drove home late one night -- another victim of a ruthless battle between drug gangs in the border city of Reynosa.

MARIA JESUS MANCHA, MOTHER OF MURDERED MAN (through translator): Just think how many other people are being left without their children because of these damned people. They took my son, the thing I most loved in this life.

PENHAUL: Police sources told the local newspaper he was killed in crossfire when a drug gang ambushed police. Vazquez's mother doesn't buy that. She's convinced some of Reynosa's police are siding with one of the cartels.

MANCHA (through translator): I blame the authorities, our bad government and the police. You must realize, these people are disguised as police.

PENHAUL: She knows voicing such opinions could be a death sentence.

MANCHA (through translator): If they want to kill me for saying this, then here I am. They killed me when they killed my son. I'm already dead.

PENHAUL: Few are as bold as Mancha, but her words are record (ph) by Jose Sacramento out on the campaign trail, running for state governor.

JOSE SACRAMENTO, GOVERNOR CANDIDATE (through translator): What we're seeing now is nothing more than the result of complicity between state and municipal police with organized crime.

PENHAUL: Senior police in Reynosa tell me off camera that such accusations are politically motivated. But the Mexican government itself acknowledges security forces nationwide are heavily infiltrated by the cartels. The violence in Reynosa flared when the Gulf cartel and its former hit squad, the Zetas, began fighting each other for control of a stretch of the Mexico-US border on the Gulf Coast.

Gulf cartel fighters, looking more like regular military than gangsters, post YouTube videos exhibiting what they say are captured Zetas.

Reynosa seems a schizophrenic place at times. There is fear, but for some, the cartels have a dangerous charm.

(on camera): This is a neighborhood of Reynosa that's full of social housing projects, where most of the people work in U.S. assembly plants long hours for less than $50 a week. And it's perhaps by no coincidence that here, too, is the birthplace of a new form of the protest music they call narco-hip-hop.


PENHAUL (voice-over): I find rap duo Cano and Blunt in a luxury SUV blasting out one of their latest hits. It's a tribute to Gulf cartel bosses and gunmen the rappers refer to as guerrilla fighters.

CANO NARO, RAPPER (through translator): We just sing about what we see in the streets and people identify with these songs and see for themselves what's going on. And that's the reality.

PENHAUL: And the reality on these streets is harsh. That's because for some young men here, getting hired by the cartel is the promise of easy money and escape from factory assembly lines.

JOSE NARCISO, FACTORY WORKER (through translator): Many people prefer to work with the mafia and earn more money. It's less work and more money.

PENHAUL: Cano tells me they record some songs by special request, but he won't say who requested them.


PENHAUL: The most brazen tribute on their play list is to this man, Metro-Three, a former cop who now heads Gulf cartel operations in Reynosa. It includes the line...


PENHAUL: With his assault rifle, he'll send you straight to hell.

BLUNT NARCO, RAPPER (through translator): You can see how things have become lately. It's dangerous. And when you go out onto the streets, you've got to be careful.

PENHAUL: The people of Reynosa know about being careful. By 9:00 p.m. downtown, the streets are downtown are almost deserted -- shadowy SUVs patrol or park down side streets.

(on camera): After dark, it's quite clear that the streets of Reynosa belong only to the cartel. Ordinary citizens prefer to shut themselves behind closed doors. We're following that advice, too.

(voice-over): As real life ebbs, Reynosa's virtual world awakes. On the Twitter string the Reynosa follow, citizens hiding behind aliases warn of gangsters setting up roadblocks amid the echo of gunfire.

In a surreal conversation, officials at city hall join in. With Tweets that are false (ph), Juan Triana tries to stem the virtual psychosis. More often than not, he's warning upstanding citizens to stay away from the danger zone.

JUAN TRIANA, REYNOSA CITY HALL (through translator): It was chaotic at the end of February and March. It was dangerous both day and night. But just lately, the risky situations seem to be mostly at night.

PENHAUL: Like the night Miguel Angel Vazquez was killed and his mother was left to grieve.


ANDERSON: And Karl joins us live now with more.

He's at CNN Center in Atlanta this evening.

Fascinating stuff, Karl.

What's the -- what's the level of corruption here, if I can ask?

PENHAUL: I think even if you were to say there was endemic corruption, I don't think even that comes close to describing what is going on here, Becky. What strikes me, based on this experience and also talking to both civilians, but also some of the politicians, is that both elected officials and members of the security forces have done a deal with the devil. The cartels have so heavily infiltrated political life and the security forces that, effectively, in some parts of the country, the security forces have become the armed wing of the cartel. This is not just a few cops on the take. This is entire security forces of entire cities.

Reynosa is a city of 500,000 people. They are working for the cartel.

And just to put it in perspective, you can get into Texas twice as quick as you can get to the cemetery in Reynosa. That is how close the drug war is to the United States.

And then, on top of that, the flip side of what does this mean for the civilian population?

It means that the people who are left to speak out, to condemn what is going on in Mexico, are women like Maria Jesus Mancha, people who have just lost loved ones, a housewife.

Why should it be a housewife standing up and trying to condemn this?

She is a lone voice and she knows that what she has just told us there and what we have just aired there could be a virtual death sentence for her -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Fascinating stuff.

Karl Penhaul for you this evening.

Karl, thank you for that.

Well, that is the drug war being fought then in Mexico.

Now, we're going to show you its impact throughout Latin America.

Listen to this. Mexico has seen the most bloodshed -- more than 7,700 people killed in drug-related violence last year. But there were 5,400 murders in neighboring Guatemala in 2008 due, in large part, to the drug cartel's expanding influence. Honduras, part of a key smuggling route for cocaine traffickers, saw 1,600 deaths due to drug violence last year.

And nearly 12 people were killed each day last year in El Salvador. That's roughly five times Mexico's murder rate on a per capita basis.

Well, all of those numbers underscore the urgent need to shut down the drug trafficking pipeline through the Americas. But easier said than done.

Let's bring in Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime.

He joins us from Vienna this evening.

Just listening to Karl's report gives you a sense of the -- not just the extent, but the depth of this problem.

He's talking about the all pervasive nature and the endemic corruption now within the country of Mexico.

How does this play out regionally, sir?

ANTONIO MARIA COSTA, U.N. OFFICE OF DRUGS AND CRIME: It plays out in a dramatic way. But I would like, before addressing specifically the situation in Guatemala and Honduras, to look at the causes behind this major bloodshed in Mexico.

What is happening is that the -- you call it the insatiable hunger for high in the U.S., which is attracting the drugs, and, of course, causing the -- the traffic. But what has actually happening is that the demand for cocaine in the United States is -- was cut by 50 percent in the past 10 years. And it was cut by more than 75 percent in the past 20 years. So what we are seeing is a -- the gangs in Mexico are fighting to retain the turf and the control of the remaining amount of traffic into the United States.

So it's really a tough war -- a turf war between traffickers who are now at the losing end of a flow which is now shifting toward Europe.

The situation in Guatemala and Honduras is, of course, the mirror image of all that. Be -- before getting into the large country that Mexico is, drugs have to get into this narrow cone of the Central American Republics. And, of course, they are much weaker. In administrative structure, they are equally corrupt. The border controls is weak, so, inevitably, the war tends to move and gravitate toward these countries. But it is a war between gangs trying to retain control of a territory.

ANDERSON: All right. You were alluding to what Hillary Clinton said back in March, which was, to a certain extent, an important admission by the States that the insatiable demand for drugs there was effectively pushing the supply.

Let's, perhaps move away from the States, then. And you're talking about a reduction in demand there.

Let's talk about the other connections that we know to be true. I think we've got a map that we can show our viewers. We've talked before about the connection not just to the States, but to West Africa.

Remind me, what's going on?

COSTA: Well, as I mentioned earlier, the consumption of cocaine in the United States was cut by about 50 percent since 1998 into 2008, the latest statistics. Most of it now moved into Europe, which is now consuming almost the same amount of narcotics as the United States, about 150 tons of (INAUDIBLE) of herbs -- excuse me, of cocaine headed to the United States.

But, because Europe started to control the borders better than in the past, in the past four years, three years, some of the trafficking -- about 20 percent started moving into West Africa, across the Atlantic, therefore not through Mexico, not through the Caribbean, directly from Columbia and Venezuela into West Africa, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea; Conakry; Gambia; recently, Ghana. And then, from these countries, repackaged and transshipped to Europe.

Of course -- and this is a very dramatic development for us, in itself, a lot of it -- we estimate it to be about 30 percent, because that is the rate of pay to local drug traffickers in West Africa -- 30 percent of those drugs remains in West Africa...

ANDERSON: All right...

COSTA: -- causing an additional problem.

ANDERSON: Let me just ask you one question. And please answer this briefly.

We met Maria, whose son was killed in Reynosa. She is a lone voice at present. She may be killed for speaking out.

Could she also be an iconic voice going forward?

Is there a chance that women like her can make a difference?

COSTA: Does -- they definitely could make a difference. You see our societies, the consuming nations -- Western Europe, the United States -- have been somehow affected by other icons -- models snorting coke, actresses, actors and so on and so forth. We need to balance the very perverse image which these people are causing by using these icons to the poor people who are suffering. They are the ones who are paying the price of the models snorting cocaine.

ANDERSON: All right.

And we're going to leave it there, sir.

It's always a pleasure to talk to you.

Fascinating stuff.

Antonio Maria Costa talking to you this evening from Vienna.

Sir, we thank you very much, indeed, for that.

And later on "BACK STORY," Karl Penhaul joins us again live to talk about the dangers and challenges of chasing this story in one of Mexico's most violent cities. That is about 45 minutes from now on CNN. Do not miss that.

Moving on for you tonight, reconstructing Iraq -- it won't be easy and it won't be quick. Ahead, we're going to talk to the U.S. ambassador about the challenges ahead. Interesting stuff from that interview.


Back in 60 seconds.


ANDERSON: You're back with CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN.

I'm Becky Anderson in London now.

These are not easy times in Iran, a nation in transition struggling with violence and civil unrest. In Central and Southern Iraq, a third day of angry, sometimes deadly demonstrations over power shortages. The outages have left people sweltering in extreme heat. And some three dozen people died in weekend suicide attacks. Twin bombers in Baghdad targeted a financial building, killing 29 and wounding 65.

Then later, a bomber struck a police patrol in Northern Iraq, killing six officers and a civilian and wounding 14 others.

Well, all this highlights the difficulties Iraq faces as it forges ahead with reconstruction.

Well, here on CONNECT THE WORLD, we've been focusing on the struggle of rebuilding the country, examining it from multiple angles. Last week, we showed you efforts to revive the economy with the help of a crucial port. Umm Qasr is Iraq's only deepwater port. Decades of wars and sanctions have left it operating way below capacity.

Well, the same is true of the oil industry. Iraq has a vast oil supply, but the government bureaucracy and corruption are hampering production of the nation's greatest asset.

And then there's the military transition. U.S. combat forces are due to leave in August.

And we visited Camp Cedar in Southern Iraq, where American forces train their Iraqi counterparts as they work to close down their base.

Well, I talked about the upcoming troop withdrawal a bit earlier with the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Hill and also about the sectarian violence.

And I asked him if the White House shouldn't reconsider their complete withdrawal.

And this is what he told me.


CHRISTOPHER HILL, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: Well, first of all, we have an agreement with the Iraqi government. And it's a legal agreement on the basis of which our troops are in Iraq. That agreement expires at the end of 2011 and we intend to fulfill our responsibilities under that agreement to have our troops out.

Well, why is that important?

That's important not because we want to leave, that's important because we'd like to stay and have a long-term relationship with Iraq.

I mean there are a lot of positive things. I don't deny that there are problems. And certainly you've mentioned a few of them. But, you know, that sectarian violence that you referred to as being an up tick, that's way down -- way down compared to two years ago.

And so some of these problems are -- they're -- they're very real. And, you know, this is no comfort to someone killed in a -- a bombing attack a few days ago. But the -- compared to two years ago, it -- it really should not be compared.

ANDERSON: Let's step back a moment then and talk about some of the issues. On the issue of the power vacuum at present, would-be prime minister, Ayad Allawi, in answering a question to this show just last week about the power vacuum...


AYAD ALLAWI, FORMER IRAQI PRIME MINISTER: This kind of vacuum that had been created can -- can be quite counter-productive for the stabilization of the country. So everybody realizes that it was important to expedite the formation of the government.


ANDERSON: What he's talking about there is the potential for a serious up tick in sectarian violence. He knows it. Everybody knows it. And yet you're telling me that State is still prepared to say that things are going OK and we will pull out, troop wise, by the end of 2011.

HILL: Well, first of all, there is a government there. It's a caretaker government, but they are...

ANDERSON: It doesn't work.

HILL: I wouldn't go that far. I really wouldn't. I mean when you look at some of the security situations that they've had to deal with, the Iraqi security forces are very much dealing with those. Again, I have to emphasize to you, compared to two years ago, this is a far, far better situation.

Now, would we like a new government?

You bet we would. But we don't want a new government for our timetable. We want it for their timetable.

You know, the Iraqi people want to see a new government that will pass, you know, get new laws going to the -- to the parliament. They need some things done.

And so what we would like to do is tell all the political leaders there who are, in many cases, fighting for their own positions, to maybe put their own aspirations aside and see if they can form up with government.

ANDERSON: I want to press you on the issue of the borders and get from you your concerns about Iranian influence in and attacks on Iraq. Again, would-be prime minister, Ayad Allawi, says...


ALLAWI: (INAUDIBLE) was formed because Iraq does not possess an army, it does not possess an armed force, it does not posses even the clarity of foreign policy and how foreign policy should be based.


ANDERSON: This doesn't sound like a place that's ready to run itself, even if it did have a government.

HILL: They do have an army. They're doing more and more to push that army out to the borders to protect the borders. That is the army's main function. They are doing that.

Where they do need help and where they are not yet a bit capable of handling it is in the air -- air space. And so we are continuing to help them, to make sure that we can turn over air space sovereignty to the Iraqis.

There are definitely things to be done. But, you know, the best way to do them is to get on with it. And to suggest that Iraq must become some kind of ward of the international community is not the right approach. What needs to be done, what -- is not to stimulate international attention on Iraq, it's to stimulate the Iraqis to get on with the task of -- of doing these things.

ANDERSON: Can you say sitting here with your hand on your heart that the U.S. is not prepared to reconsider the complete U.S. withdrawal, including non-combat military forces, agreed for the end of 2011?

Given what we know about Iraq today, you'd wait through 2010?

HILL: Our obligations and the security agreement, as negotiated with the Iraqi government, is that all -- that security agreement expires at the end of 2011, at which time all our troops have to be out. And that is, indeed, what we're going to do.

ANDERSON: And if you're asked to reconsider by the Iraqi people?

HILL: What I'm telling you is that security agreement expires at the end of 2011 and we will live up to it 100 percent because we want to remain in Iraq in a long-term relationship. We want to have economic relations, cultural relations, political relations. We want to help Iraq overcome this legacy of isolation that has made it such a destabilizing place in the past.


ANDERSON: The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Hill, speaking to me earlier.

On dash tresh, quacro, shinko shesh (ph) next is ahead -- why a match- up between Portugal and North Korea turned out -- how it turned out to be no contest at all.

Plus, find out how favored Spain fared against Uruguay. We're going to bring you the results live from South Africa, up next.


ANDERSON: All right. It's day 10 of the World Cup and the final whistle has just blown on something of a, well, a David and Goliath match, really. Favorites Spain versus underdogs Honduras. The teams have got something in common, though. They were both defeated in their opening Group H game.

So who got the glory this time?

Let's get over to Johannesburg and World Sports, Pedro Pinto -- Pedro, what happened?

PEDRO PINTO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Great pronunciation, as always, Becky.

Spain are back on track after, surprisingly, being defeated by Switzerland in their opening Group H game. They rebounded from that and beat Honduras. The match just ended a few minutes ago and that was back here in Johannesburg. And I think we can show you the gold already. There was one man who stole the spotlight and that was David Villa. Take a look at his first goal. Amazing. A great run from the new Barcelona signing before beating the keeper at the far post. Villa was at it again in the second half, this time from the edge of the box. The shot is deflected in. Now, Villa could have taken the match ball home by grabbing a hat trick. However, he missed a penalty kick in the 61st minute. Still good enough for Spain to win 2-0 at Ellis Park.

Honduras, meanwhile, have zero points. They're still looking for their first ever World Cup victory in five games.

Great news for Spain, then. The Euro 2008 champions needed to kick start their campaign. And they'll need to beat Chile in their last game today to make sure of advancing and maybe even finishing first in the group -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, it's good to see the Spanish on form. And great to see Via on form. And it's a shame they didn't take back the -- the -- the ball, of course. Quite a -- a ridiculous penalty at the end of the day.

But, no, an amazing result.

Listen, mate, the drama not all on the (INAUDIBLE) of the England locker room invasion. All the buzz about the vuvuzelas.

Now it's the -- what is it, the implosion of the French team?

What's going on there?

PINTO: Yes, there are all kinds of words to describe this. You can say the team is in disarray, there's chaos, team turmoil. Us journalists have been using all kinds of adjectives to describe what's going on.

There is no doubt, though, that this is a very embarrassing situation for the French national team. One day after the players went on strike and refused to train and protest at the French Football Federation's decision to send home Nicolas Anelka after he insulted the manager, France did train once more. They -- they did so away from the eyes of the media. And then Raymond Domenech, the manager, held a press conference in which he condemned the decision of the players to refuse to train. And he also said that this is a situation which he was never expecting. He never expected that the players would take a measure such as this.

He did add, Becky -- and this is quite astounding. He added that some players may refuse to participate in the nation's final game against South Africa. It could happen, that's what he said in a press conference, which really shows how much the camp is divided. They can still qualify. The odds are slim, but they can still qualify, if they beat South Africa and if Mexico, Uruguay win the other game. However, the way it's looking right now, we're just wondering how many players really want to get out there and represent this manager.


ANDERSON: That's remarkable stuff. We say Dominic and then manager - - it's almost like an oxymoron at this stage of the thing.


I've never known anything like it. You know, it's all entertainment.

Pedro Pinto is down in South Africa with all the action for you. Remarkable stuff. In early action -- thanks, Pedro -- there were plenty of goals when Portugal took on North Korea. Six members of the Portuguese force got sent off. No they didn't. They thought (ph), as the side won seven-nil. But the most entertaining strike came from Christiano Ronaldo, the bull rollicking, and rolling up his back, over his head before he cast it into the -- how about that.

(INAUDIBLE) Chile faces Switzerland in Fort Elizabeth. Valon Behrami became the first Swiss player to be sent off in a World Cup match for this foul. Knocking the (INAUDIBLE). They proved hard to break. It's got to be said, it wasn't until the 75th minute the Chilean's substitute Mark Gonzalez headed in this diagonal prop to secure the only goal of the game.

With seven goals on the scorecard, I imagine Portuguese fans, including Pedro, it's got to be said, must be pretty jubilant this month. We're going to catch up with one in our World Cup postcards later in the show. So stay tuned for that.

Well, after the break now, thousands of wells drilled across Bangladesh were supposed to provide clean drinking water. Instead, they were apparently laced with poison. Let's take a look at how this could happen over and over again for decades.

Back in just a moment. Your headlines follow this short break. Stay with us.


ANDERSON: You're watching "CONNECT THE WORLD" and I'm Becky Anderson in London. Let's get you a check of the headlines this hour.

Spanish domination in South Africa. The world's top-ranked squad rebounded from an opening defeat with an easy two-nil win over Honduras. It's going to be more though. David Via (ph) missed a penalty after scoring both goals. The win though moves Spain into a second place position tie with Switzerland in group H. Chile leads off, beating the Swiss one-nil earlier.

Well, Belarus is promising to pay its $200 million gas debt to Russia within weeks. That's two weeks, they say. That's after Russia's president ordered gas delivery to Belarus reduced by 15 percent over the dispute. Belarus also says Russia still owes it $217 million in transiting fees for supplying gas to Europe through its pipes.

Well, flooding and landslides in central and southern China have claimed at least 175 lives. 1.7 million people have been forced to move to higher ground. The storms have washed out bridges and roads, making rescue efforts difficult. The heavy rains have been pounding the region for more than a week. More rains are forecast in coming days.

An oil rig worker has told the BBC he raised the alarm about safety problems on the Deepwater Horizon well weeks before the April 20th explosion. Tyrone Benson, who is now suing B.P. and Transocean, claims both were informed of the leak in the safety device. B.P. says it is aware of the allegations. CNN though has not had a response from Transocean.

We are going to focus on another disaster now in Bangladesh. Millions there are slowly but surely being poisoned. Dan Rivers for you now, taking a look on what's been seeping into the country's water wells for decades, and why it could be behind as many as 20 percent of all deaths.


DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It may look clean, but water from wells like these in Bangladesh is responsible for the largest mass poisoning in history. The World Health Organization has long said many pumps here and elsewhere in South Asia are contaminated with naturally occurring arsenic. Now a new study casts light on exactly how many people are dying as a result.

An international team of researches studied 12,000 people in Bangladesh for a decade. They found 20 percent of deaths were from exposure to arsenic-contaminated water. A report in the British medical journal, "The Lancet," also says between 35 and 77 million people are exposed to arsenic in Bangladesh alone.

(on camera): In the early 1970s, aide agencies came to Bangladesh and installed millions of these tube wells, which suck clean water up from deep underground. The noble intention was to reduce the amount of water-borne diseases. They managed to get rid of a lot of dysentery, diarrhea and Cholera, but in doing so, they created a new problem, which now affects up to half the population.

(voice-over): Alema Vagum (ph) has been suffering from these skin legions for the past 12 years. Her legs and feet are covered in them. And they only appeared after she started drinking water from a tube well.


RIVERS: She complains that she can't sleep because they are so itchy and painful. She thinks they are probably caused by the arsenic found in the groundwater tapped by the wells.

There is hope here though. A simple two-bucket filter system, called the sono filter, has been developed to remove arsenic from the water.

We meet Mohammed Ishwel Hak (ph) in the same village. His hands used to be covered in lesions, a symptom of arsenicosis. But since he started using the sono filter, the lesions have gone.

MOHAMMED ISHWEL HAK (ph), BANGLADESH RESIDENT: Then we avoid the arsenic water and used the filter water, sono filter. And after that, I cured. We are all cured.

RIVERS: Dr. A.K. Munir helped develop the filter with his brother, and thinks the problem is even greater than "The Lancet" study suggests.

DR. A.K. MUNIR, SONO FILTER DEVELOPER: 77 to 95 million are at -- have arsenicosis. One, two, three children, 4,000 is (INAUDIBLE) arsenicosis. So in Manzen (ph), it is the greatest mass poisoning in the human history.

RIVERS: Across Bangladesh, this poisoning continues for millions of people, unaware that the water they drink is slowly killing them.

Dan Rivers, CNN, Bangladesh.


ANDERSON: After the break, remembering Neda.


ANTONY THOMAS, DIRECTOR: She was just like millions and millions of other young girls all over the world. She just wanted the freedom to be, with the clothes she wanted, to go to the gym, to dance, to be with friends. But what she did have, which many of those millions probably don't have, is just unbelievable courage and strength and determination.


ANDERSON: Our "Connector of the Day," director, Antony Thomas, in just a minute.


ANDERSON: Welcome back. You're watching "CONNECT THE WORLD." It is 40 minutes past nine in London.

It was a year ago when anti-government protests swept through Iran following the president's landslide victory there, the election victory, and one year ago when Neda Agha Soltan was killed, a woman who came to symbolize the struggle for the Green Revolution. We're going to have that story in a moment.

But first, take a look at the escalating tensions over Tehran's nuclear program. Reza Sayah has the story.


REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Iran has certainly had a rocky relationship with the IAEA, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog. And with this report, things will probably get rockier. State media reporting that Iran has banned two IAEA inspectors from ever coming back to Iran and working because, quote, "They've released wrong and untruthful information."

State media says the announcement was made by the head Iran's nuclear program, Ali Akbar Salehi. But the information coming out of Iran is very vague and it's not really clear what the information in question is, and how it relates to Iran's nuclear program.

We tried to contact Mr. Salehi, but his office told CNN that he wasn't available for comment at the time of this report. But what we can tell you is that Iran was not happy with the IAEA's latest report on Iran's nuclear program. A portion of that report said inspectors, last month, went into a research laboratory in Tehran and found that a piece of equipment had been removed. Iran disputes this. They say it's false and nobody has removed any pieces of equipment from that research laboratory.

The banning of these two inspectors could have something to do with a controversy surrounding that issue but we cannot be certain because of the lack of information coming out of Iran.

We should also note that this is only Iran banning two inspectors. They're not banning all inspectors. And there's no indication that they're on the verge of cutting off ties with the IAEA. But it certainly underscores what appears to be a growing conflict between Iran and the IAEA, just weeks after the U.N. Security Council voted on a fourth round of sanctions against Iran.

Of course, Washington and Western powers still believe Iran is using its nuclear program to go after nuclear bombs. Iran is still insisting that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Reza Sayah, CNN, Islamabad.


ANDERSON: All right, well, I want to stay in Iran now for more on Neda's story.

A woman's tragic death made her the face of the post-election reform movement. Take a look at this.


ANDERSON (voice-over): She became the face of a movement after her tragic death was broadcast the world over. Neda Agha Soltan, shot down during Iran's post-election unrest. Her last moments, captured with a cell phone camera, were seen across social media outlets the world over, and brought new outcries against the Iranian regime from green-clad reform protesters and others.

One filmmaker has now had the courage to tell her story. Director, Antony Thomas, worked with local Iranians to delve into Neda's life and her background.

Thomas' film explores the larger Iranian struggle and the underlying chasms in the country. Telling the story, no matter what the costs, Antony Thomas is your connector today.


ANDERSON: When I sat down with Antony earlier today, and I started by asking him, what he wanted to accomplish with this film. And this is what he told me.


THOMAS: I wanted to make sure that Neda would never be forgotten. I know Iran very well. I've been there, as recently in 2007. And frankly, I just fell in love with the Iranian people. And I really felt that, in the West, particularly in Britain, the United States, we think of the Iranian people as 70 million fanatics. I really wanted to make a film which they would be seeing in a different light. And finally, I wanted those brave people who had taken to the streets to know that they weren't forgotten.

ANDERSON: Paul Andey asks, what's the most interesting fact about Neda's life that you learnt through making this film and talking about her.

THOMAS: Yes, this is interesting. When the first reports came out, it was suggested that she had nothing to do with the demonstrations at all. She was in the car. The car was stopped by demonstrators. She got out to get her some fresh air and then she was shot.

So what did motivate her? And what I found fascinating about her, really, really fascinating was, hey, she wasn't that bystander who just was shot by accident. She was actively taking part in the demonstrations.

But she was not a political person. She didn't belong to any political group, any movement or anything like that. She was just like millions and millions of other young girls all over the world. She just wanted the freedom to be, to wear the clothes she wanted, to go to the gym, to dance, to be with friends. But what she did have, which many of those millions probably don't have, is just unbelievable courage and strength and determination. And she was out there on the street, as witnesses tell you in the film, really drawing attention to herself. And she died for her beliefs.

ANDERSON: Memula has written to us and says, if you could show this film to the Iranian president, would you. And if you were to, what would you want him to take away from this?

THOMAS: I would love to show it to the Iranian president. Indeed, I hope he's already seen it. And what I want to take -- him to take away from this is really, please, Mr. President, rethink. Let's have a real democratic election for the Iranian people, and please respect those results.

ANDERSON: You interviewed a lot of people for this film. You must have been disappointed when, last week, we saw nothing like the sort of movement on the streets, nor across the Internet that we saw a year ago.

THOMAS: No, that's absolutely true. And I don't think though we should come away from that feeling that the green movement is dead. The statistics I saw was the government put two million military personnel on the streets. And, you know, it takes a lot of courage to come out with that kind of opposition. But it's there. You know, you can try and keep the lid down with violence and threats, but that doesn't change what's happening.

ANDESON: Brandon has written to us and says, it's been a year since the uprising. What has changed over that period of time?

THOMAS: Unfortunately, very, very little. The regime has consistently stamped down on any further protests. I'm in touch with Iranian refugees in desperate situations in places like eastern Turkey. They're continually coming out of the country all the time. The regime, as far as the regime's posture is concerned, nothing has changed at all.

And what I would like would be to have certain changes in our attitude and in our behaviors towards Iran.

ANDERSON: You haven't met and didn't meet Neda. But you spent a lot of time with her --

THOMAS: That's right.

ANDERSON: -- since you've been making this movie, or this film. What do you think she'd say about it?


THOMAS: The family have been wonderful with their response. I got another e-mail this morning and they do love the film.

I -- I'm sure, if I was sitting with her -- I mean, this is an absurd -- but if I was sitting with her, I -- I think she would be happy with me.


ANDERSON: Antony Thomas. His film, "For Neda."

And if you're a gleek, you may recognize tomorrow's "Connection of the Day." Matthew Morrison has gone from Broadway star to one of the biggest television sensations on the planet, and it is all thanks to the hit show, "Glee." So send us your questions at

Taking on childhood obesity, that's next. An American teenager goes to extreme measures to wiggle down her size. But is she risking her future? "CONNECT THE WORLD," here on CNN.


ANDERSON: Next up, it's the story of a global epidemic and it is happening right in front of you. All this week, we're taking a close look at childhood obesity.

The World Health Organization estimates that 43 million kids under the age of 5 are overweight. And, of course, obesity is far more prevalent in developed, relatively wealthy countries than it is in the developing world.

A worldwide comparison from the International Obesity Task Force found that about 30 percent of kids in the Americas are believed to be overweight compared to about 20 percent in Europe, more than 15 percent in the Near and Middle East, and less than 5 percent in Asia Pacific and in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Well, imagine being 14 years old and weighing nearly 500 pounds. Well, that is what an American teenager, named Maria, wakes up to everyday. She is hoping the weight-loss surgery will change her figure, but more importantly, her life.

Randi Kaye tells us if Maria's dreams are coming true.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Her name is Maria Caprigno. And if you're staring at her, she won't be surprised. Because of her weight, people have been doing so since she was a little girl.

Look at these family photos. They tell the story of Maria's ongoing battle with childhood obesity. At 4, she weighed 79 pounds, as much as a 7 year old. By the time she was 7, 168 pounds. Off the charts, her doctor said. By 9, she weighed 250. Last month, at 14, she topped out at 445 pounds.

(on camera): Does it hurt when people stare at you?

MARIA CAPRIGNO, OVERWEIGHT U.S. TEENAGER: Yes. The first thing that goes through their mind is, why is she so fat. And like, oh, my god, she's so fat, why doesn't she just hop on a treadmill.

KAYE: Maria's parents are overweight too and admit they don't eat healthy foods. Maria's always been a junk-food junky. Dieting never worked. So a few years back, Maria pleaded with her mother to find a doctor willing to do weight-loss surgery on teenagers.

Their search led them here, to National Children's Hospital in Washington, D.C., and Dr. Evan Nadler.

DR. EVAN NADLER, SURGEON, NATIONAL CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: I had to help her because she was 440 pounds and going nowhere except for gaining more weight.

KAYE: Maria was 12, and already pre-diabetic.

NADLER: Her BMI, which is a measurement we use to determine how obese someone is, put her in the highest risk category, not just morbidly obese, but actually two categories higher than that.

KAYE (on camera): Dr. Nadler says 25 percent of all high school-aged children are either overweight or obese. And he believes that those most obese face health risks, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and depression, that far outweighed the risks of any weight-loss surgery.

(voice-over): But some disagree, like Dr. Edward Livingston, who turns away most young patients.

DR. EDWARD LIVINGSTON, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS, SOUTHWESTERN MEDICAL CENTER: Kids don't really know what they're getting into. So I think you have to be really careful with children.

KAYE: Before surgery, Maria had to meet with a nutritionist, pediatric cardiologist and psychologist for approval.

CAPRIGNO: My name is Maria Caprigno. I am --

KAYE: She also wrote this letter to her insurance company, seeking coverage.

(on camera): You told the insurance company you need this surgery to make it to your 15th birthday?

CAPRIGNO: Doctors have told me for years that if I keep gaining weight, I'm not going to see 18. And that has terrified me. I want to live. I want to do so many things. And I knew that this was my only option to do them.

KAYE: This is a life-or-death surgery for you, you felt?


KAYE (voice-over): Even so, some critics still argue, not enough is known about possible long-term complications.

NADLER: I fully agree that we need to study this more. But I don't think it's fair to the Maria's of the world to keep them from having this procedure based on their age alone.

KAYE (on camera): In his own study, Dr. Nadler followed 41 teenagers for two years after weight-loss surgery. He says they loss half their excess body weight and their health had improved.

(voice-over): Last month, Maria had an experimental procedure, known as a gastrectomy. 80 percent of her stomach was removed, including the area that makes her appetite hormones.

CAPRIGNO: I wasn't hungry after surgery. Like normally, I would have been starving.

KAYE: Maria's already lost 45 pounds and trimmed two inches off her waist. She's off junk food, getting regular exercise --


-- and eating a high-protein diet.

(on camera): What is your goal weight?

CAPRIGNO: It's not about the numbers. I want to be at a healthy size. I want to be able to run. I haven't been able to run since I was 5 years old. I want to be able to wear a bathing suit without feeling embarrassed. I just want to be able to be normal.

KAYE (voice-over): Normal and healthy.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Norwood, Massachusetts.


ANDERSON: Well, they call themselves the Four Fab Fatties.


ANDERSON: And they hope to make it big in China by sizing down. Find out how this singing quartet plans to lose 1,000 pounds. That is tomorrow.

It's a special theme week for us here on "CONNECT THE WORLD" tonight. We'll be right back.



ANDERSON: Well, I think it's fair to say that the World Cup has gripped football fans. (INAUDIBLE) probably around the globe. And we are reaching out to you for your reaction on soccer's biggest showcase.

Now each day we've been getting you to respond with your chants, your cheers and, indeed, your tears. In today's World Cup postcard, expect celebrations galore as we go to two winning nations, Portugal and Chile.


CARLOS DE SPIONOLA, PORTUGAL FAN: So Portugal won by -- oh, oh, -- seven goals. And it was an actually awesome game. I mean, first off, it was it was a bit quiet. You know, the weather was absolutely dismal. It was raining. And one goal in the first half. Six goals in the second half. And the greatest thing about it is we actually got Ronaldo to score a goal. Hallelujah. So all I can say is viva, Portugal, viva!

ALREDO FRIAS, CHILD FAN: It was so exciting. It was very tough. (INAUDIBLE). But we believe we will beat the Spanish on the next match. Obviously, going forward, (INAUDIBLE) Brazil. That's all. I don't know if you (INAUDIBLE), but we don't want to play Brazil in these next rounds. But I'm so excited. Very, very excited.


ANDERSON: Do it. Send us your postcards from wherever you are watching the World Cup. We want them all. Put you on air, put the best on air.

I'm Becky Anderson. That's it for the show on the teley. Stay connected with us online 24/7. "Back Story" is next, right after this check of the headlines.