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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Trump Wanted To Torture Migrants By Deploying A Military ‘Heat Ray’ At The Border

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Trump Wanted To Torture Migrants By Deploying A Military ‘Heat Ray’ At The Border

Saul Loeb / Getty Images

It’s no secret that President Trump envisions his far-from-completed border wall as essential in his plan to overhaul the U.S. immigration system. Given previous reports of arming the border with snakes or alligators, it’s obvious that Trump envisions the wall as a punitive source of physical harm as much as a deterrent.

So it should come as little surprise that the president has wanted to deploy military-grade weapons to the border to actually ‘torture’ and ‘maim’ those who try and cross the U.S.-Mexico border without authorization. However, a recent New York Times report goes into further detail on Trump’s ideas and they are, in fact, quite shocking.

The Trump Administration allegedly wanted to deploy a military-style weapon at the border to deter migrants.

Last week, it was reported by the New York Times that in 2018, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) had proposed using non-lethal weapon developed by the military to induce agonizing pain in migrants attempting to cross the border, with the intent to force them to turn back.

Described in overly simplistic terms by the Department of Defense as a “non-lethal, directed-energy, counter-personnel system,” the ADS is essentially a pain projector (the Times used the term “heat ray”) that subjects targets to the sensation of “heat felt from opening the door to a hot oven” all over their body. If deployed, the device would essentially make even approaching the U.S.-Mexico border a painful experience. 

So what exactly is the device that Trump and other CBP officials wanted to deploy?

Credit: Paul Richards / Getty Images

Although these ‘heat rays’ may sound like weapons for a made-for-TV villain, they’re actually very real. The U.S. Air Force began developing a weapon decades ago to give soldiers a non-lethal option for dealing with civilian mobs or or riots at overseas military bases.

The truck- or Humvee-mounted Active Denial System can affect multiple persons at range of up to one mile away. It silently emits a very high frequency microwave-like beam that can penetrate clothing and heats water molecules on the surface of the skin to 130 degrees Fahrenheit (55 C).

The resulting sensation, described as being akin to pressing a hot fluorescent light bulb to the skin, is so intense that within seconds affected persons are reflexively compelled to jump aside or run away. Supposedly the pain dissipates within seconds, though some accounts describe a lingering tingling that can last hours.

Although Trump floated the idea, according to DHS officials it was never considered as part of a border enforcement strategy.

Credit: John Moore / Getty Images

Although Trump and CBP officials mentioned the possibility of deploying ADS, per the Times, the idea was flatly rejected by Kirsten Nielsen, then the secretary of Homeland Security. She allegedly told an aide after the meeting that she would not authorize the use of such a device, and it should never be brought up again in her presence.

However, the idea of using a ‘heat ray’ to torture migrants was at least entertained by some within the agency, likely emboldened by Trump’s increasingly harsh rhetoric against immigrants.

A former DHS officials is the one sounding the alarm on Trump’s alleged plan.

Speaking with The Daily Beast, former Department of Homeland Security chief of staff Miles Taylor claimed he’d sat in meetings with the president in which “[Trump] says, ‘We got to do this, this, this, and this,’ all of which are probably impossible, illegal, unethical.” 

Among the things Taylor claims the president suggested are efforts to gas, “maim,” and “pierce the flesh” of migrants attempting to cross into the United States without documentation. At one point, Taylor said, “[Trump] looks over me and he goes, ‘You fucking taking notes?”

Other ideas Trump reportedly floated — such as building a trench around the border and filling it with alligators or snakes — was also shot down, according to the Times.

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Despite The Pandemic, The Sex Trade Is Still Booming Along The U.S.-Mexico Border

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Despite The Pandemic, The Sex Trade Is Still Booming Along The U.S.-Mexico Border

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

As the Coronavirus pandemic ravaged communities, workers were faced with an impossible choice. Stay at home, be safe, but risk going hungry or broke. Go out, earn a living, but risk your life and of those you care about. For so many in Mexico, this was the choice they were given.

It’s already a difficult choice to make – even if you work as an Uber driver or a restaurant worker. But imagine having to make that choice if you’re a sex worker.

The pandemic has slowed the sex trade along the U.S.-Mexico border by some degree, but in many parts it remains business as usual. So many sex workers are having to make that nearly impossible choice to work and make money or stay at home to stay safe.

And although the border is technically closed to nonessential travel, thousands of Americans are still crossing into Mexico to pay for sex, looking for a kind of fun that can’t be found legally in most of the U.S.

Mexico’s sex tourism industry is still going strong despite a global pandemic.

At the start of the pandemic, the U.S. and Mexico agreed to close the border to nonessential travel. However, tourists have still traveled south to cities such as Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez in search of nightlife, drugs, and sex.

In Tijuana famed red-light district, called Zona Norte, which is walking distance from the border, the area’s main strip is usually teeming with a frenetic action bathed in neon light. Women in short dresses and the highest of high heels stand along the sidewalks. Massive strip clubs, some with hotels attached, act as de facto brothels.

And now, although the city’s strip clubs and brothels may officially be closed due to the health crisis, many are welcoming customers through back doors. Last month a team from Baja California’s Commission for the Protection Against Sanitary Risks (COEPRIS) carried out inspections in Zona Norte after receiving several complaints that it was pretty much business as usual in the area. 

They reported that many places are open as usual. “We sent COEPRIS and they shut them down. Yes, they were disguising it, the front door was closed, but they were entering from behind and all the same activities were being held there with the doors closed,” Governor Jaime Bonilla Valdez said.

The newspaper El Universal reported seeing a drunk American stumbling down the street to hire a young prostitute, and witnessed a trio of tourists being offered marijuana and methamphetamine in full view of COEPRIS inspectors and police officers as they inspected businesses on Coahuila Alley.

Some sex workers are doing the best they can to protect themselves…

Credit: Luis Acosta / Getty Images

Although so many sex workers are forced to make the difficult decision to stay at home or keep working, those who decide to work have other choices to make.

“I’m so scared for my health,” said Alejandra, a sex worker in Tijuana, who spoke to CNN. “I don’t know if the person I’m with has the disease or not.”

Some sex workers, such as single mother Alejandra, say they are taking precautions against the spread of the coronavirus, such as making their clients wash their hands and shower prior to the act, and requiring the frequent use of antibacterial gel. But social distancing is impossible when you’re a sex worker.

Meanwhile, a former tourism official is urging cities to promote the sex trade to boost the economy.

Credit: Spencer Platt / Getty Images

A former tourism director for Tijuana is urging the city to “remove the taboo” of prostitution and brothels and promote them as tourist attractions instead. Pepe Avelar made those comments after being asked about night club and bar closures due to COVID-19.

“We should let them operate and exploit their appeal as much as possible, allowing for more regulation,” he said. “We should approve a promotional campaign for an activity that is historically synonymous with the city of Tijuana.”

“Let’s talk openly about this. I’m a firm believer that we need these open 24/7 in areas dedicated to bars and houses of prostitution because, in the end, these are also tourism products,” he said

As an example, Avelar used the city of Las Vegas, Nev., where tourism is promoted as “an adventure, as romantic and as a sexual destination.”

Cities on the U.S. side of the border have far higher numbers of cases putting Mexican border communities on alert.

Although Mexico’s border communities have been hit hard by the virus, it’s nothing like what’s happening on the U.S. side. For example, across the border from Tijuana in San Diego, there are 33,220 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, whereas 4,349 people have become infected in Tijuana according to official data.

This is largely why the land crossing between the U.S. and Mexico remains closed to nonessential travel. It was all done with the intent of slowing the virus’ spread.

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