Monday, April 24, 2017

Heroin

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The Feds are pushing drugs . . . again.

The U.S. government’s multi-billion-dollar effort to counter narcotics in Afghanistan is a humiliating failure that’s resulted in a huge increase in poppy cultivation and opium production. Despite the free-flow of American tax dollars to combat the crisis, opium production rose 43% in the Islamic nation, to an estimated 4,800 tons, and approximately 201,000 hectares of land are under poppy cultivation, representing a 10% increase in one year alone.

Uncle Sam’s embarrassing counter narcotics effort is part of a broader and costly failure involving the reconstruction of Afghanistan. More than $100 billion have been dedicated to help rebuild the war-torn country and much of it has been lost to waste, fraud and abuse not to mention corruption. The drug initiative is a recent example, documented by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) in a quarterly report to Congress. The document is painful to read because it goes on for 269 pages, but Judicial Watch created a link for the counter narcotics section, which is around 19 pages and includes informative charts, graphs and the latest available statistics.

As of December 31, 2016, the United States has spent an astounding $8.5 billion for counter narcotics efforts in Afghanistan since 2002, the report reveals, making it clear that the cash will continue flowing. “Nonetheless, Afghanistan remains the world’s leading producer of opium, providing 80% of the global output over the past decade, according to the United Nations,” SIGAR writes. The watchdog includes statistics from the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) confirming a 10% increase in the amount of Afghan land that was under poppy cultivation between 2015 and 2016. Despite Uncle Sam’s generosity, poppy eradiation results were the lowest this decade, the watchdog states. “No eradication took place in the biggest opium-growing provinces because of the grave security situation,” the report reveals, noting a steady rise in production and cultivation in the past decade. “Eradication efforts have had minimal impact on the rise in illicit opium cultivation.”

This, of course, translates into a large increase in opium production—43% in a year—the watchdog reveals, to an estimated 4,800 tons. “The reported production increase reflected the larger area under cultivation, higher yields, and lower eradication results.” Part of the problem, U.S. authorities say, is that between 2.5 and 3 million Afghans are drug users and the country lacks sufficient treatment centers to address the growing drug-abuse problem, particularly for women and children. American cash hasn’t put a dent on that problem either. A State Department branch known as the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) doled out $12.9 million in 2015 for drug treatment and education programs in Afghanistan and has allocated millions more despite past failures. INL also funds a scandalous, multi-million-dollar program called Governor-Led Eradication (GLE) that pays provinces for the cost of eradicating poppies. Between 2008 and 2016 INL disbursed $4.6 million, according to the SIGAR.

Afghanistan reconstruction has been a huge debacle that continues fleecing American taxpayers. Judicial Watch has reported on the various boondoggles over the years, most of them documented in tremendous detail by the SIGAR. Highlights include the mysterious disappearance of nearly half a billion dollars in oil destined for the Afghan National Army, a $335 million Afghan power plant that’s seldom used and an $18.5 million renovation for a prison that remains unfinished and unused years after the U.S.-funded work began. Among the more outrageous expenditures are U.S. Army contracts with dozens of companies tied to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The reconstruction watchdog recommended that the Army immediately cut business ties to the terrorists but the deals continued. Another big waste reported by Judicial Watch a few years ago, involves a $65 million initiative to help Afghan women escape repression. The government admits that, because there’s no accountability, record-keeping or follow-up, it has no clue if the program was effective.

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Mexican

The Obama administration’s failure to protect the southern border has allowed Mexican cartels to smuggle record amounts of drugs into the United States, especially heroin, which is increasingly popular in the U.S.

Once the drugs get smuggled north Mexican traffickers use street, prison and outlaw motorcycle gangs to distribute them throughout the country much like a legitimate business enterprise.This has been going on for years and there seems to be no end in sight, according to a disturbing new report published by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the nonpartisan agency that provides Congress with policy and legal analysis.

“Mexican transnational criminal organizations are the major suppliers and key producers of most illegal drugs smuggled into the United States,” the CRS states in its new report.

“They have been increasing their share of the U.S. drug market—particularly with respect to heroin.” The bulk of the heroin smuggled into the United States transits across the Southwest border, the CRS writes, revealing that “from 2010 to 2015 heroin seizures in this area more than doubled from 1,016 kg to 2,524 kg.”

The trend mirrors the increase in overall seizures throughout the U.S., the CRS figures show. For instance, federal arrests and prosecutions of heroin traffickers have skyrocketed with 6,353 heroin-related arrests in 2015. Additionally, the number of individuals sentenced for heroin trafficking offenses in federal courts has increased by almost 50%, the report says.

There are at least eight major Mexican drug trafficking organizations operating in the United States with the Sinaloa Cartel being the most active, the CRS reveals. “Mexican transnational criminal organizations (MTCOs) remain the greatest criminal drug threat to the United States; no other group can challenge them in the near term.”

They operate sophisticated enterprises, using nearly 100 U.S. gangs in their cross-border crimes, government figures show.

Because the Mexican cartels move their drugs through the Southwest border, western states have become part of what’s known as the “heroin transit zone,” the CRS report says. “In addition, as the Mexican traffickers take on a larger role in the U.S. heroin market, and expand their operations to the East Coast, authorities have seen black tar heroin emerge in the Northeastern United States, where it had rarely been seen,” the report states.

Large quantities of a synthetic opioid known as Fentanyl are also entering the U.S. primarily via the Mexican border, though the drug also comes from China. Fentanyl is 25-40 times more potent than heroin and 50-100 times more potent than morphine.

Undoubtedly, there’s an epidemic of drug abuse in the U.S. but cutting off the source would obviously improve the crisis. This may seem like common sense, but the CRS gently reminds legislators to consider it. “Policymakers may examine U.S. efforts to combat heroin trafficking as a means of combatting opioid abuse in the United States,” the CRS writes in its report.

“Policymakers may also look at existing federal strategies on drug control, transnational crime, and Southwest border crime to evaluate whether they are able to target the current heroin trafficking threat.”

Among the common-sense suggestions listed in the document is “securing U.S. borders.” It comes from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), which has made disrupting drug trafficking and production a priority.

The impact of Mexican drug cartels has been well documented for some time in a number of government audits, even as the Obama administration insists the southern border is secure.

Less than a year ago the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a report confirming that the majority of illegal drugs in the United States come from Mexico and Mexican traffickers remain the greatest criminal threat to the United States.

They’re classified as Transitional Criminal Organizations (TCOs) by the government and for years they’ve smuggled in enormous quantities of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana.

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