Quinones: D.C. Can Reduce Americans’ Fentanyl Deaths

Jenn Bennett, who is high on fentanyl, sits on her skateboard with a visible black eye as her friend, Jesse Williams, smokes the drug in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. Use of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that is cheap to produce and is often sold as is or …
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

The U.S. government can curb the fentanyl “national poisoning,” which is disabling and killing hundreds of thousands of Americans, Sam Quinones, the author of four much-praised books about the drug trade, said.

“This needn’t remain an intractable crisis” if leaders in the two countries cooperate to defeat the cartels, Quinones wrote in a March 21 article for the Washington Post, saying:

I believe this can be true of Mexico and the United States. How about starting with a sustained attempt to gain control of and regulate the supply of chemicals entering Mexican ports? How about a far more aggressive approach to stopping weapons heading south into Mexico?

In his Washington Post article, Quinones wrote:

Fentanyl has been spreading across the United States for close to a decade and now fuels a record number of drug-related deaths; two-thirds of the 107,000 overdose deaths in 2021 involved fentanyl or synthetic opioids like it. My reporting shows, furthermore, that the meth coming out of Mexico is creating harrowing symptoms of mental illness — because of chemicals in the mix or, perhaps most likely, because of the unprecedented potency with which it is hitting U.S. streets. Meth from Mexico is now a driver of mental illness and homelessness in many parts of the United States.

In Fresno, Calif., a wholesale pound of meth went for $20,000 in 2008; now it goes for $800. In Nashville six years ago, a pound wholesale sold for $16,000; today, it’s $2,000.

“As many drug counselors will tell you: Unlike with heroin, there is no such thing as a long-term street-fentanyl user. They all die,” Quinones wrote.

However, President Joe Biden and his cabinet members have yet to sign a public deal on drugs with Mexico — even as they quietly collaborate to steer millions of migrants into America’s towns.

In January, Biden met Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. He departed without a deal on drugs, but with a series of higher priority deals that get more to help deliver more migrants — including Mexicans — into the United States.

Since then, Obrador has made a show of denying Mexico’s central role in the manufacturing and delivery of fentanyl to afflicted Americans.

Obrador is a Mexican nationalist and wants to help Mexicans — and Latinos — gain a greater share of American jobs and wealth via hardnosed diplomatic and economic deals.

“We need the assistance of Mexico. … They are helping us, but they could do much more,” Attorney General Merrick Garland told a Senate hearing on March 1. “There’s no question about that”:

Homeland security chief Alejandro Mayorkas has developed migration deals with Mexico. But when asked about drugs, he told the Washington Post that “we are doing that which needs to be done.”

In 2019, President Donald Trump used the threat of trade tariffs to force Mexico to block economic migrants on their trek to the U.S. border. His threats were fiercely opposed by U.S. business groups, but they quickly persuaded Mexico to slash migrant arrivals from 144,000 in May 2019 to 53,000 in September 2019.

U.S. politicians are paying more attention to the fentanyl disaster — and are looking for ways to pressure Mexico. AMLO “is clearly not against the cartels — he’s clearly defending the cartels at the detriment of his own people,” Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) said on March 11.

Republican legislators are also spotlighting China’s role in providing the raw chemicals to the cartel-run drug manufacturers in Mexico.

GOP Rep. Mark Green, the chairman of the House homeland security panel, pushed Secretary of State Antony Blinken on March 23 to grapple with the entangled issue of cartel-delivered drugs and migrants into the United States. Blinken agreed and said, “We need to bring China into this — my hope would be cooperatively. But in the absence of that, we have to look at other steps that we can take.”

Blinken told Congress on March 22:

We have to be, and we are, working to disrupt the transnational criminal organizations that are engaged in making this stuff and moving this stuff. And we are, we need to be working with, as we are, with Mexico, to take down the labs, to take down the enterprise.

Ten U.S. legislators met with Obrador on March 19, and he said he would ask China’s government to stop the export of drug-making chemicals to the cartels.

Several GOP lawmakers have developed legislation that would declare the cartels to be terror groups, but there is no visible effort to threaten Mexico with economic sanctions if they refuse to suppress the cartels.

The New York Times provided a dramatic account of spreading insanity and drug deaths around a sidewalk sandwich shop in Phoenix, Arizona:

Soon there were hundreds of people sleeping within a few blocks of Old Station, most of them suffering from mental illness or substance abuse as they lived out their private lives within public view of the restaurant. They slept on Joe and Debbie’s outdoor tables, defecated behind their back porch, smoked methamphetamine in their parking lot, washed clothes in their bathroom sink, pilfered bread and gallon jars of pickles from their delivery trucks, had sex on their patio, masturbated within view of their employees and lit fires for warmth that burned down palm trees and scared away customers. Finally, Joe and Debbie could think of nothing else to do but to start calling their city councilman, the city manager, the mayor, the governor and the police.

Few manage to escape the downward spiral, the article notes:

The sun went down, and [one sidewalk resident]  saw her closest friend and neighbor, Kipp Polston, 65, coming back from the bus stop carrying a bucket and his 10-foot window-washing pole. In the last year, he had lost his business to heroin addiction, his apartment to eviction and his truck to an accident. Now he was working to get clean, leaving his tent at 5:30 each morning for an appointment at a methadone clinic before riding the city bus to businesses all across Maricopa County. He was trying to piece his life back together one window at a time, washing each for $3.

And then there was Keisha, barely out of her teens, who had skittered around the encampment like a scared cat, wary of everyone, carrying a few old dolls and crying sometimes. Joel had tried to watch out for her, offering her water or a few minutes inside whenever she was upset. But one weekend when he wasn’t around, the temperature was 115 degrees, and she lay down on the curb near his gallery and died of heat exposure and dehydration.


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