- There is rising demand for drugs.
- There is a shortage of drug precursor chemicals.
- Mexican cartels are stockpiling cash and drugs.
Mexican drug cartels are finding it hard to smuggle drugs into the United States due to lockdown measures that have led to the reduced movement of people. They have made surveillance of people and vehicles much easier for the police. Subsequently, the prices of popular drugs, such as meth, fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine, have jumped in the past three months.
The US is the biggest consumer of illicit drugs in the world. US drug users spend approximately $150 billion each year to support their habit.
Mexican Cartels are Stockpiling Drugs
Mexican cartels are said to be stockpiling drugs, as well as cash, on both sides of the border. Coronavirus lockdown restrictions stipulate that only persons offering essential services can move across the US -Mexico border, and so movement of both drugs and money has been curtailed.
Before the scourge, traffickers would easily hide drugs in secret compartments in a vehicle and drive through the border.
The authorities have also ramped up operations targeting cartels. In the greater Los Angeles area, about $10 million in seizures have occurred between the months of March and May. This is over a 100 percent increase compared to 2019 figures.
The dwindling supply of drugs into the United States is causing their demand to surge. Precursor chemicals used to process drugs have also become harder to obtain. China is among the main exporters of these chemicals, but factory shutdowns have led to a shortage.
Before the coronavirus crisis, a pound of crystal meth cost about $900 a pound. Current rates hover around $1,900 for the same quantity.
The Mexican and US governments are additionally coordinating to tighten the noose around drug cartel operations. In March, federal agents carried out an unprecedented number of sting operations targeting the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, that is led by drug trafficker Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, also known as “El Mencho”. Over 600 cartel members were captured in the US.
The move was aimed at crippling its operations. The syndicate controls about a third of the US narcotics market.
Concerted efforts by the US and Mexican governments to bring it down have also led to major asset freezes. The Mexican government recently announced a $1.1 billion CJNG asset freeze. According to a statement issued by Mexican President Lopez Obrador:
“There was a request from the government of the United States because they had information about this group. There will no longer be protection for any organized crime group; I will continue facing organized crime to maintain peace in the country.”
The Mexican and US governments have been relentless in pursuing the cartels. The DEA recently affirmed its intention to capture and extradite fugitive drug lord Caro Quintero. He is wanted for ordering the execution of DEA agent Kiki Macarena in 1985.
He’s currently alleged to been involved in drug trafficking operations, allegations that he has repeatedly denied. Quintero has a $20 million bounty on his head.