Joe Biden is reacting to a staggering rise in fentanyl overdoses by cracking down on the supply chain of synthetic opioids, most of which enter the US through the southern border.
The president’s imposition of the sanctions comes as Republicans raise calls for military action in Mexico – and even bombings – to stop drug cartels from continuing to flow the deadly fentanyl into the country.
Nearly 71,000 American deaths in 2021 were related to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids overdoses, up 26 percent from 2020, according to the National Safety Council.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) assessed in a December report that “most” of the fentanyl distributed by two massive cartels “is mass-produced in secret factories in Mexico using chemicals largely sourced from China.”
The Biden administration announced Tuesday that it plans to issue new economic sanctions on illegal drug cartels in Mexico after nearly 71,000 Americans died in 2021 from fentanyl overdoses.
The Biden administration released a fact sheet Tuesday morning detailing the steps it plans to take to address the massive increase in illegal drug trafficking from Mexico, which has only been exacerbated by the southern border crisis.
A key step would be imposing sanctions in an effort to financially cripple illegal drug cartels, which Republicans want to designate as foreign terrorist organizations because they claim they operate “more like ISIS than the mafia.”
The White House fact sheet notes that “Drug traffickers, primarily driven by profits, require substantial funds to operate their illegal supply chains.” The Biden-Harris administration will expand its efforts to disrupt the illicit financial activities that fund these criminals by increasing accountability measures, including financial sanctions, on key targets to disrupt drug traffickers’ access to the U.S. financial system and illicit financial flows.
But Republicans are likely to say that economic sanctions are not enough to address the crisis.
While the Texas National Guard has already been deployed to the border over the past few years as illegal immigration has risen, some Republicans want to move military action into Mexico to attack the root of the problem.
Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas and Mike Waltz of Florida, a former Green Beret, have introduced a bill seeking an authorization for military force to engage in “war with the cartels.”
Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas has also said he is open to targeting drug cartel leaders by sending troops to Mexico – as long as the US’s southern neighbors agree.
“We need to start thinking of these groups more like ISIS than we do the mafia,” Rep. Waltz said Tell Politico.
Some administration officials have pressed for the drug cartels to be designated as foreign terrorist organizations, claiming that this change of address would not affect any authority to act against the groups.
Migrants continue to pour in across the southern border, creating more confusion and smugglers’ ability to reach the United States with illegal drugs. Pictured: Hundreds of Venezuelan migrants approach the border on foot Monday, April 10, from Juarez, Mexico, to El Paso, Texas.
“The Biden-Harris administration will expand its efforts to disrupt the illicit financial activities that fund these criminals by increasing accountability measures, including financial penalties,” said a White House fact sheet released Tuesday on the fentanyl crisis.
The White House noted in its fact sheet on the fentanyl crisis that the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has already identified nearly 100 individuals and entities for their involvement in the illegal drug trade.
This includes, according to the department, those associated with major smuggling organizations such as the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels.
Republicans blame Democrats for the drug crisis, claiming that poor border policies not only led to a mass immigration crisis, but also facilitated a ripe environment for drug traffickers to cross clandestinely and bring in deadly amounts of fentanyl.
The Biden administration has hailed its massive seizure of fentanyl as evidence it is quelling the crisis, but Republicans point to the fact that the amount it succeeded in far exceeded what was recovered.
By listing the fentanyl recovered at the border, the White House notes that the DEA seized more than 57.5 million fentanyl-coated pills in 2022 and 13,740 pounds of powder.
In addition, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized 14,700 pounds in the last fiscal year – a 31 percent increase from what it seized in 2021.