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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