Between April 2020 and April 2021, 100,000 people died in the United States from an overdose (primarily opioids), 28.5% more than in 2019-2020. Billions of taxpayer dollars and the militarisation of law enforcement agencies seem futile as narcotics ruin the future of thousands of people, especially among the black and Latin American populations.
Throughout the 20th century, various institutions were born in the US governmental system, which even today intervene in the battle against illegal substance trafficking, among them the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
Law enforcement agencies have not managed to reduce domestic consumption, which accentuates the existence of routes through Central American countries to supply the great power, said Heidy Albelo, MA in International Relations, to the International Politics magazine.
Drug trafficking is a recurring problem in the United States, but mostly it is a business that moves billions of dollars, Nidia Alfonso, professor of the Higher Institute of International Relations Raul Roa Garcia in Havana, commented to Escaner.
She explained that illegal substances enter US territory mainly through the border between the two countries, which is “porous”, and traffickers often use tunnels and points that are well-known, even by the authorities.
Mexico, she said, is the primary entrance point into the United States for drugs coming from Central America and the south of the continent, which implies that a culture associated with narcotics has taken root in the Aztec nation, becoming a source of income for many families.
Despite reaching the United States through the south, consumption in this country does not exclusively take place in the border states, as the ramifications are felt throughout the nation, something that is recognised by the DEA, according to research divulged to the press.
Alfonso emphasised that relevant financial institutions, like the Bank of America or Citibank, were repeatedly accused of laundering money coming from drug trafficking, therefore others are associated with this crime making it an even more lucrative business.
As an example, the interviewee stated, around 8% of international commerce is dedicated to drug trafficking boosted by countries like the US, where there is a market interested in its consumption, and a system already exists there to launder the income.
A military and political instrument
It is no secret that United States governments have used drug trafficking into their own country as a tool to push their interests in expansion and domination, according to social researcher Ricardo Arturo Salgado’s notes.
Former Bolivian president Evo Morales criticised how the United States, the biggest drugs consumer in the world, uses its certifications and bank notes as an excuse to intervene militarily and politically in countries, as it did in Colombia and Afghanistan.
Morales was referring to what essentially was the objective of the anti-drug policies deployed by Washington, primarily in Latin America, as a pretext for “supporting” right-wing governments with financial and logistic resources against any attempt at economic or political independence, or to avoid the triumph of progressive movements.
In 2005, the then-president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, ordered the expulsion of the DEA due to their agents supporting drug traffickers instead of battling them, as well as generating domestic instability in the Bolivian nation.
Currently, analysts have confirmed that the CIA and the DEA (with 92 offices in 69 countries) have kept up contact and business with drug cartels, and that they work to organise important money laundering networks that have even reached Wall Street and involve the international banking system. Drug trafficking money flows like ‘blood’ in the circulatory system of global capitalism. There is no movement of drugs, or trafficking of people or weapons that these people ignore, nor money coming from them that is outside of the global banking structure, Salgado expressed.
He stated that the United States, the largest sponsor of drug dealing in the world, is leading an ideological network to become a global judge against the drug dealers who are not their friends. In this aspect, Professor Nidia Alfonso is in agreement, as for her, as in many other aspects of international politics, it is undeniable the double standard of Washington’s so-called “war on drugs”, something that she defines as a love-hate relationship. While they assemble extensive media coverage when big bosses and political figures related to drug trafficking fall, US demand continues and others will take up this space.
The opioid epidemic
Considered a deadlier epidemic than Covid-19, the opioid crisis is the result of a failed “war on drugs”, which in 50 years did not know how to put a stop to trafficking and substance consumption with such serious consequences for human health, according to analysts.
The DEA states that this type of narcotic, with 100 times more of a powerful analgesic effect than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroine, is arriving into the country from Mexico as a result of drug trafficking. These networks associated with drugs seem today to be experiencing a financial revolution thanks to fentanyl which, compared to products like marijuana and cocaine, is cheaper to make, does not require large areas of land nor much of a work force, just barely regulated chemicals.
Even though the US opioid crisis was not born of the illegal market for noxious substances, but rather in big pharmaceutical companies, it currently uses the drug trafficking networks to expand its number of consumers.
A business with friends
In the US, even though neither famous cartels like the Mexican ones nor armed groups who dispute coca crop territory like in Colombia exist, there are organisations dedicated to drug trafficking.
The US media itself recognises the disaster of the anti-drug strategy of successive administrations, meanwhile the illicit substance market, personal consumption by every age, and therefore, deaths and health disorders associated with drugs are prospering.
The apparent efforts to halt those effects were completely undermined by inefficient policies focused on public security, according to the Brookings Institute which is based in Washington D.C.
This organisation indicates that the anti-drug and drug trafficking strategy was built on a base of racism and xenophobia with the goal of vilifying African Americans, Native Americans, Asian and Latin American immigrants, and other social groups.
Human rights defenders in the United States expressed that the criminal justice system linked to drugs, from arrest to trial, incarceration and post-release conditions, disproportionately punishes people of colour, creating a harmful cycle in their communities.
Current levels of trafficking and consumption reflect the existence of an agreement between economic power and political power, which promotes, praises and protects drug traffickers from the upper echelons, stated Professor Nidia Alfonso.
The drug trafficking problem, experts concluded, lies in the fact that it does not create a true obstacle for National Security in the USA, or at least, not one that could destabilise or put the “capitalist system” in danger, but rather the opposite; it nurtures it.