Heroin Epidemic

Addressing an anti-opioid gathering in Virginia, FBI Director James Comey said Mexican cartels are saturating the U.S. with highly pure heroin, creating a national epidemic. They are also offering a synthetic opioid fentanyl, which is fifty times more powerful than heroin. And if that isn’t enough, the Wall Street Journal reports the arrival of still another synthetic narcotic, carfentanil, which is 100 times more powerful than fentanyl.

The Mexican cartels are thriving more than ever at the expense of both Americans and Mexicans. If the U.S. has a drug epidemic, Mexico has a killing epidemic as homicidal cartels battle one another and the population at large over a multi-billion dollar drug trade.

For a couple of years it seemed as if there might be a lull in the violence, but it revived last year with 20,792 homicides in Mexico, a 22% increase over 2015. January of this year set a record with nearly 2,000 murders, more than any January since crime data were made available in the 1990s. The Los Angeles Times says this could be the deadliest year since the drug war began.

Juarez, known as the murder capital of the world, is symptomatic. After the central government provided new community facilities and fresh troops, the murder rate dropped and the future looked brighter. Hopes have now been dashed by the resurging crime. “It is a lie that Juarez changed,” Jorge, a cartel enforcer, told El Universal. The cartels just learned to be more discrete about their killing, not shooting openly in the street and using clandestine cemeteries. The killing will only get worse, says Jorge.

Appropriately, a newsman, Cecilio Pineda, was shot dead in early March after receiving many death threats through social media, the 86th Mexican journalist to be murdered since 1992. In fact, the cartels have become adept at using social media like Facebook to get the personal information they need for their activities. Tom Wainwright, author of “Narconomics,” told Business Insider: “For companies, it’s really useful to know what consumers like and what they’re doing. For cartels in the extortion business, it’s more useful still.” Displaying their marketing skills, the cartels time their murders for 5:45 p.m. in order to lead the 6 p.m. evening news. A good time to stay indoors.

The cartels have ravaged Mexico too long. The human slaughter is prodigious.  How to curb the drug traffic that leads to the violence? To start with, legalize marijuana across the board. Except for medical purposes, it’s not particularly good for people, though probably no worse than alcohol. Anyway, Americans will have it. So be it.

Since half the cartels’ profits are from marijuana, legalization would hurt, maybe cripple them. They couldn’t compete with the home-grown product. As of now, they complain bitterly about legalization to date in the U.S. How dare we do this to them!

Legalization would also free the Border Patrol and DEA to concentrate on the smaller, harder drugs like heroin. They wouldn’t have to waste time lugging around bales of marijuana, and penalties could be increased for trafficking in the more dangerous products.

A wall properly constructed and effectively manned will help. Stopping the drugs at the border makes more sense than trying to eradicate poppy fields in the interior or targeting cartel chiefs. Given the money involved, they’re easily replaced. Supporting one cartel against another is a fool’s errand. One is as violent as another.

A crucial element of the criminal traffic remains mostly untouched: money laundering of the many billions of dollars in drug earnings. Apparently, people of power and influence engaged in it are beyond the reach of the law.  Until that changes and there’s equality of law enforcement, the trafficking and violence will continue.

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