Fentanyl cases in the United States continue to surge.
This escalation is attributed to the disruption of a thirteen-year agreement between the United States and Mexico and the decommissioning of a single man and his team.
Admiral Marco Antonio Ortega Siu, known by the code name El Águila or “The Eagle,” head of the U.S. Navy special operations unit, was known as the most trusted ally America had in Mexico in the war on drugs. He and his unit brought down dozens of major traffickers, including Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.
“Águila became the white knight. The favorite son,” said John Feeley, a former U.S. ambassador, according to The Washington Post.
Siu worked with the United States under the Merida Initiative, a cooperation agreement between the United States, the government of Mexico, and the countries of Central America, with the declared aim of combating threats of drug trafficking, signed in June 2008.
The signatories to the agreement established a new strategic framework for Merida Initiatives under four pillars. These pillars were to disrupt the capacity of organized crime to operate, institutionalize the capacity to sustain the rule of law, create a 21st-century border structure, and build strong resilient communities. The $3 billion plan had been in place for 13 years.
However, in 2019, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he wanted to refocus the program toward social program investment rather than disrupting crime. “It hasn’t worked,” said Obrador. “We don’t want cooperation in the use of force, we want cooperation for development,” he continued.
As a result, Águila was decommissioned, and his men were reassigned. Obrador refused U.S. offers for new drug-detection technology. The nation also shut down a base used by special forces and U.S. agents.
This disruption in cooperation arrived at the same time that Mexico overtook China as the main source of fentanyl in the United States.
Since then, fentanyl overdose cases have surged in the United States.
Rates of overdose deaths due to synthetic opioids, including fentanyl and its analogs, increased by more than 56% from 2019 to 2020, according to the CDC. The number of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids in 2020 was more than 18 times the number of deaths in 2013. This public health crisis is happening concurrently with our obesity crisis, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.
The DEA announced in September the results of its enforcement surge effort, dubbed the One Pill Can Kill Initiative, which sought to reduce the supply of fentanyl. Of the 390 cases investigated from May 23 to September 8, 51 were linked to overdose poisonings, and 35 were linked directly to either the Sinaloa Cartel, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, or both. These cartels are alleged as the primary Mexican cartels responsible for most fentanyl in the United States.
“If there are more chemicals coming from China and more fentanyl is being produced, the Mexican government and Mexican authorities will have to do more to stop that from happening,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram, according to the Washington Post. “The vast, vast majority of fentanyl is coming from Mexico and is attributable to the Sinaloa and [Jalisco] cartels.”