“Socalj” for Borderland Beat

According to renowned journalist Ioan Grillo, in CBP’s database on drug seizures, a huge spike in fentanyl occurred during the month of December 2022 in Miami, Florida. The Miami Field Office of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized a record-breaking 2 thousand pounds of fentanyl in that month alone, public records show CBP has not released a press statement on the colossal haul, and it has not been previously reported by the media, but it is shown in its database on drug seizures.
A spokesperson for the CBP confirmed the data but said they were unable to comment further, and would not specify if the amount was seized in single or multiple busts; the database appears to confirm it was taken down in a single operation, signaling it could be one of the biggest fentanyl busts in history.
This could be signaling that traffickers are turning to their old smuggling route of the Caribbean to shift the drug that is driving an overdose epidemic in the United States.

To get a sense of how vast the seizure is, it was almost half of the 4.5 thousand pounds of fentanyl seized by all sectors of the CBP, including along the entire Mexican border, in December, which was itself a record-breaking month. In October, the office of the Florida attorney general announced a seizure of 50 pounds of fentanyl, which it claimed was “enough to kill more than 11 million Floridians.”

This is 40 times that amount. Enough to kill more than the entire population of the United States and Mexico combined.

It has not been revealed who the drugs belonged to but the majority of fentanyl trafficked into the United States is alleged to be smuggled by Mexican cartels who get the drug or its precursors chiefly from Chinese chemists. Mexican cartels have long operated in Florida. In October, detectives in Polk County arrested suspected fentanyl dealers who they said were buying products from the Sinaloa Cartel and La Familia Michoacana. In 2021, agents seized 1100 pounds of crystal meth in Miami Dade and it was traced to the Cartels United (Cárteles Unidos) of Michoacán. However, there is a possibility the new record seizure is from a totally different type of drug trafficking organization.

The majority of fentanyl import busts over the last four years have been found in cars and trucks going through the ports of entry (the official crossings) on the Mexican-U.S. border, especially the busy Tijuana-San Diego entrances. However, efforts to clamp down on trafficking there could have led cartels to diversify their smuggling routes and move fentanyl over the Caribbean into Florida, says Alex Pacheco, a recently retired CBP supervisor.

“It could be that we’re increasing so much along the southern border in the obvious ports of entry that they realize what we’re looking for and they’re really trying to do a good job to move things around to all these other ports of entry that aren’t accustomed to getting that type of traffic,” he said.

Pacheco explained that the Miami Field Office consists of the official entrances for both people and cargo, including the airports and shipping ports. PortMiami, as it is known, is the biggest cruise port in the world and one of the biggest cargo ports in the United States, with 11 million tons of goods passing through it in 2021.

The shift by Mexican cartels from focusing on plant-based drugs including marijuana, cocaine and heroin, to synthetic drugs, especially fentanyl and crystal meth, has coincided with a soaring increase in overdose deaths in the United States. In 2021, a staggering 107,000 people died from OD’s, with fentanyl or similar opioids involved in 71,000 cases.

Florida is one of many states that has been hit hard by the overdose epidemic and Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has joined other prosecutors and politicians in calling on the White House to declare fentanyl a weapon of mass destruction. “Given how many Americans are being murdered, the whole federal government and every tactic and capability we have should be utilized to stop the death and destruction that fentanyl is causing,” she wrote in a July letter addressed to President Joe Biden.

President Biden called for a “surge” in the fight against the synthetic drug in his State of the Union address on Tuesday to both standing applause and heckles.

“Fentanyl is killing more than 70,000 Americans a year,” he said. “Let’s launch a major surge to stop fentanyl production, sale, and trafficking, with more drug detection machines to inspect cargo and stop pills and powder at the border. Working with couriers like Fed Ex to inspect more packages for drugs. Strong penalties to crack down on fentanyl trafficking.”

Colombian drug lords used to fly cocaine over the Caribbean straight into Florida in the 1980s. But amid an uptick in violence in Miami, the South Florida Task Force, headed by then Vice President George H. W. Bush, brought together the DEA, FBI, Customs, the army, and navy to clamp down. In response, the Colombians turned to Mexican traffickers and worked together to shift cocaine over the southern border.

More recently, however, traffickers have been turning back to Miami to bring various types of drugs into the United States. In 2022, the Miami Field Office of the CBP bust 2.2 thousand pounds of cocaine, and in 2021, it nabbed 5.7 thousand pounds of the white powder.

Opening up this trafficking route for fentanyl puts even more pressure on U.S. law enforcement, which is struggling to deal with the vast quantities of the synthetic drug amid relentless funerals of those dying from it.

Source Ioan Grillo