Image credits: by Gage Skidmore
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News Article

Is Now the Time to Worry About Drug Cartels?

By Alessa Flores | Thu, 04/02/2020 - 11:35

Yesterday, the US President Donald Trump announced at a press conference that he will send warships and planes to the Caribbean as part of an enhanced anti-drug campaign and emphasized that in these moments of the COVID-19 pandemic, the US will not allow drug cartels to take advantage of the country and attempt to gain ground. Trump said his administration would double military resources in the region, including destroyers, surveillance aircraft and staff, in an anti-drug crackdown to deal with what he called a "rising threat." The fight against drugs will undoubtedly involve Mexico, which is the largest exporter of drugs to the US and a key point in the transit of drugs that come from Asia, according to the National Drug Threat Assessment (NDTA).

This declaration has been criticized by a member of the press that claim it is not time to battle two fronts – COVID-19 and narcotics – particularly given the level of contagion in the US. PAHO Director Dr. Carissa Etienne emphasized that the countries of the Americas must act immediately to delay the spread of COVID-19 and plan for hospitals and health facilities to protect their health workers.

Trump stated that drugs are a growing problem in the country and it is essential for his administration not to turn its back on it now. According to the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid overdose deaths rose from 38,329 in 2010 to 70,237 in 2017, followed by a small decline in 2018 to 67,367 deaths. Meanwhile, the US is the most COVID-19-affected nation in the region, with a total of 217,661 confirmed cases and 5,153 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). These figures exceed the previously most-infected countries: Italy, with more than 110,574 confirmed cases and 13,155 deaths and Spain, with 110,238 confirmed cases and more than 6,120 deaths, according to WHO. 

The question many ask themselves is why the US decided to further involve in the battle against drug trafficking when the COVID-19 crisis has heavily impacted its population. The military campaign directed by Trump against Venezuela has appeared alarming and potentially invasive, explains Julio Astillero, a top-ranked journalist from La Jornada. We must not forget that Venezuela's oil sales constitute about 99 percent of its export earnings. In addition to petroleum, the country's natural resources include natural gas, iron ore, gold, bauxite, diamonds and other minerals that are highly valued in the global economy, according to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Astilleros said President Trump's attempt to intervene in Venezuela obeys a geopolitical motive fueled by oil wealth that, in these unpredictable times, is becoming more important to the US. 

Famous political analysts like David Harvey would suggest that crises are the ideal terrain to reorganize the world’s economic, geopolitical and political dynamics. Which changes will the COVID-19 phenomenon bring to the relations, not just between Venezuela and the US or between the US and Latin America but between the countries that make up this globalized world?

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
La Jornada, NDTA, PAHO, WHO, OPEC
Photo by:   by Gage Skidmore
Alessa Flores Alessa Flores Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst