Things That Matter

The U.S.-Mexico Border Closure Is Having A Huge Impact On Cartels But How Long Will It Last?

In March, authorities on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border agreed to close down the world’s most busy international frontier to non-essential travel. Traffic in both directions has been restricted – meaning unless you have a very important reason to cross the border, you’re not getting across.

This has had a major impact on trade and the economy, as well as families who can no longer cross to visit one another. But one lesser thought of repercussion of the border closure has been its profound impact on the cartels and the drug trade.

From growers to dealers, the Coronavirus has upended the drug trade between the two countries.

With all non-essential travel between Mexico and the United States currently banned due to the Coronavirus pandemic, businesses are hurting – including the business of drug dealing. The pandemic has closed borders and severed supply chains and is creating headaches for smugglers.

Date from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agency show that from February to March, as the United States began to impose strict travel restrictions in the face of the growing Covid-19 outbreak, seizures of drugs and cash dropped substantially, as did the rate of human trafficking.

Seizures of cocaine, fentanyl, methamphetamine and heroin all decreased, while confiscations of marijuana rose slightly. The four harder drugs, whose movement appears to have been seriously affected, represent the bulk of sales for the drug cartels.

In March, the two governments beefed up security along the border – making it harder for cartels to operate.

Credit: US DHS

In March, as the pandemic began to seriously affect the United States and Mexico, the Pentagon deployed 500 additional troops to reinforce the more than 20,000 Border Patrol officers on the frontier.

This beefed-up military presence and the decrease in automobile traffic entering the United States lowered the number of drug mules smuggling contraband north, since it’s not as easy for cartels to hide their shipments.

Acting administrator for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Uttam Dhillon, told Business Insider they’ve already noticed an impact on the black market.

“We’re seeing those disruptions on the dark web. Websites that sell illegal drugs, those websites are either shutting down or they’re delaying deliveries.

The cartels are also having a though time sourcing the materials they need to manufacture drugs.

Cartels have been struggling to deliver drugs like methamphetamine, fentanyl, and other synthetic opioids because the precursors used to cook them came from China.

“Since coronavirus hit, and of course, Wuhan is the epicenter, they have had a total lockdown in the city and it’s been a lot harder to get these chemicals out of Wuhan. And, as a result, the Mexican cartels haven’t been able to get the supply that they would like to have,” Ben Westhoff, the author of the book “Fentanyl, Inc,” told Fox News.

Cartels have proven themselves to be adaptable in the past so this downturn isn’t expected to last long.

Latin America is the epicenter of a global drugs trade that is estimated to be worth up to $650 billion a year. The cartels make hug profits producing and transporting illicit drugs across the world. However, the U.S.-Mexico border is one of the most profitable drug routes – meaning the pandemic is seriously having an impact on cartel’s bottom line.

The disruptions are likely to be short-lived. Cartels have proven adept at surmounting any obstacles. The pandemic will eventually ease, trade routes will open, customers and dealers will come out of their homes.

Still, coronavirus has managed to do what authorities worldwide have not: Slow the global narcotics juggernaut almost overnight and inflict a measure of pain on all who participate.

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Smugglers Are Tagging U.S.-Bound Migrants With Color Coded Wristbands And Here’s Why

Things That Matter

Smugglers Are Tagging U.S.-Bound Migrants With Color Coded Wristbands And Here’s Why

WENDELL ESCOTO/AFP via Getty Images

As the United States experiences a so-called surge of people attempting to enter the U.S., human traffickers and smugglers are working double time as they try to capitalize on the increased movements.

Cartels and human traffickers have long run their smuggling operations like a legitimate business but they’ve only got more advanced in how they move people across the border region and one key tool: color-coded bracelets. These bracelets almost act as passports for migrants to safely cross a cartel’s territory without interference or threats of violence. But what do these bracelets mean and how are they fueling the problem of human trafficking?

Plastic bracelets are being used by cartels to identify migrants in their territory. 

U.S. border agents carried out nearly 100,000 apprehensions or rapid expulsions of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in February, which is the highest monthly total since mid-2019. With the increase in people attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, cartels are managing this migration of people over their territory and trying to make money off the humanitarian crisis. 

Many cartels have implemented a color-coded bracelet system that identifies those migrants who have paid for permission to cross their territory. In the Rio Grande Valley sector, Border Patrol agents have recently encountered immigrants wearing the bracelets during several apprehensions, Matthew Dyman, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told Reuters.

The “information on the bracelets represents a multitude of data that is used by smuggling organizations, such as payment status or affiliation with smuggling groups,” Dyman said.

The color-coded system isn’t totally understood.

Credit: ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images

Migrants can pay thousands of dollars for the journey to the United States and human smugglers have to pay off drug cartels to move people through parts of Mexico. This is a money-making operation and cartels want to pay close attention to who has paid. The bracelets may just be a new way to keep track.

Criminal groups operating in northern Mexico, however, have long used systems to log which migrants have already paid for the right to be in gang-controlled territory, as well as for the right to cross the border into the United States, according to migration experts. In fact, in 2019, smugglers kept tabs on rapidly arriving Central American migrants by double checking the names and IDs of migrants before they got off the bus to make sure they had paid. 

One man, a migrant in Reynosa – across the border from McAllen, Texas – who declined to give his name for fear of retaliation, showed Reuters a picture of a purple wristband he was wearing. He told them that he had paid $500 to a criminal group in the city after he arrived from Honduras to ensure that he wasn’t kidnapped or extorted. He said once migrants or their smugglers have paid for the right to cross the river, which is also controlled by criminal groups, they receive another bracelet.

“This way we’re not in danger, neither us nor the ‘coyote,’” he told Reuters.

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Ted Cruz is Roasted On Twitter After Posting Bizarre Video Saying He Was ‘Heckled’ at the Border By Cartel Members

Things That Matter

Ted Cruz is Roasted On Twitter After Posting Bizarre Video Saying He Was ‘Heckled’ at the Border By Cartel Members

Photo via Twitter

Ted Cruz is, once again, in the headlines. The Texas senator took a break from feuding with celebrities on Twitter to take another trip to Mexico. But this time around, Rafael Cruz wasn’t fleeing his state for a quick Cancun getaway.

This past weekend, Senator Cruz took a trip to the U.S./Mexico border along with 18 other Republican senators. Their mission, ostensibly, was to shine a light on what they deem to be a “border crisis”.

Instead, what ended up grabbing headlines was Ted Cruz’s bizarre documentary-style video of the trip that he released on Twitter.

Surrounded by tall grass, Ted Cruz addresses the camera in hushed tones, much like he was hosting a nature documentary. “So it’s past midnight. I’m standing on the shore of the Rio Grande. I’m down at the Texas border along with 18 senators who made the trip to see the crisis that is playing out.”

In the grainy video, he continues: “On the other side of the river we have been listening to and seeing cartel members – human traffickers – right on the other side of the river waving flashlights, yelling and taunting Americans, taunting the border patrol.”

Later, Ted Cruz also visited a migrant shelter and attempted to film the migrants for his social media posts.

A worker intercepted Senator Cruz and repeatedly asked him to respect the migrants and stop filming. “Please respect the rules sir, and give the people dignity and respect,” says the woman. “Full heartedly I ask you, please respect the people. This is not a zoo, sir, please don’t treat the people as such.”

Indignant, Sen. Cruz refused to comply. “You were instructed to ask us to not have any pictures taken here, because the political leadership at DHS does not want the American people to know,” he responds.

Despite Rafael Cruz‘s goal of bringing attention to what’s happening at the border, his nature documentary ended up being what really captured the internet’s attention.

As is usual with Rafael Cruz, the internet couldn’t help but see his Crocodile Dundee-style documentary as the ploy that it was. And because Rafael is so easy to drag, that’s exactly what the internet did.

Mainly, Twitter mocked Ted Cruz for the irony of him being in Mexico when he was just there weeks ago under very, very different circumstances.

The jokes kept coming…

And coming…

And coming.

The bottom line is, Ted Cruz never publicly cared about the huminitatirna crisis of border camps (which, by the way, are problematic) when Trump was president.

But now, Ted Cruz is using the increased migrant numbers as an opportunity to virtue signal and fan the flames of fear among Americans. As Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar said, Cruz’s Rio Grande trip was “political theater”.

“These are people who are about to engage in political theater, use the border as a prop, [and] do a whole lot of complaining and finger-pointing,” she said in a recent podcast interview. “But these are the same people who’ve been in the Senate for a number of years.”

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