Mexican cartels feel the COVID burn: Chemical shortages cause price of meth, heroin to explode in US, as cartels flounder

Mexican cartels feel the COVID burn: Chemical shortages cause price of meth, heroin to explode in US, as cartels flounder

Not even criminals are outside the shadow of this pandemic

VicesApril 21, 2020 By Will Brendza

COVID-19 has sucker-punched just about every person, business, nation on Earth and the global economy at large.

Everyone's been affected by this pandemic in some way. No matter what your socio-economic status, age, occupation, status as a small business, corporation, or illegal cartel. It’s affecting every level of society and the butterfly effects that’s having around the world are both fascinating to watch, and terrifying to behold.

Something acutely portrayed by the Mexican drug cartels’ current situation.

Just like any other business (legal or otherwise), the cartels rely on supply chains and functioning economies to, not only get the resources they need to make their illicit products (meth, syththetic opioids, etc.), but also to distribute them. And with Chinese factories no longer producing enough precursor chemicals to outsource to Mexico, and with travel and commerce virtually suspended over borders, the cartel’s entire drug infrastructure has been shaken to its core.

“The cartels are having a lot of difficulty producing drugs right now, and when the supply is low the price always goes up,” a US federal law enforcement source told the New York Post. “China has pretty much stopped production on the chemicals they need to do business.”

Smugglers are stockpiling cash and narcotics along the US, Mexico border, according to AP. And the US drug Enforcement Agency has even seen a decrease in online drug orders and money laundering.

“They are facing a supply problem and a demand problem,” Alejandro Hope, a security analyst and former official with CISEN, the Mexican intelligence agency, told Associated Press in an interview. 

It seems that even the ever-powerful, ever-wealthy, ever-sinister cartels are not insulated from this epidemic. Meaning too, that the price of heroin, fentanyl and meth is on the rise across America — which will create problems of its own on this side of the border. 

A recent Vice article reported that Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, the leader of the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel, introduced a major price hike for methamphetamines and opioids in the wake of COVID. Without easy access to Chinese-made precursor chemicals like benzylfentanyl, norfentanyl and 4-anilinopiperidine, they’ve had to make some dramatic price adjustments.

“Mayo sent this announcement saying, ‘Everyone is going to sell a pound of crystal (meth) for 15,000 pesos ($600) from now on because of the shortage. Before that, it was 2,500 pesos ($100),” one cartel operative explained in the Vice interview. “The message also said, ‘If you don’t obey, pay attention to the consequences.’”

Those price hikes fall on the shoulders of America’s most at-risk drug users: People who are hooked on some of the worst drugs on Earth; who are often poor and desperate and criminally inclined. If those addicts can’t get their fix, they will get desperate.

And what then? What happens when desperate junkies can’t afford such expensive crystal or H? How is that going to affect life on American soil?

Well, in combination with reduced police activity — both at the border and around the nation — it might just create the perfect storm for a wave of crime no one expected. A domestic uprising; a swell of break-ins, burglaries and theft, that sends yet another shudder through our already-off-kilter society. And as times get economically tougher, that wave will only grow in size and scope.

No one is outside the shadow of this pandemic. Not The People, not the governments, not even the most powerful criminal organizations on Earth. We’re all in this boat together — wherever the fuck it might be headed.