U.S. authorities have implicated Colombia and Ecuador as transit and production zones for fentanyl, the new drug that is causing growing concerns due to its devastating effects on public health in North America. Traditionally, the main entry point for this synthetic drug into the United States has been Mexico, as it shares a border with the U.S. However, recently, the U.S. State Department has focused its attention on countries historically associated with exporting cocaine and that were believed to be less involved in this type of drug.
According to Todd Robinson, Chief of Antinarcotics at the U.S. State Department, fentanyl production begins in China, where it is easy to find the chemicals used to synthesize the drug.
According to U.S. reports, Mexican cartels are responsible for transporting these chemicals from Asia to the Americas, where they manufacture the drug before exporting it to the United States.
“México is the main entry point, but we know that there are other countries involved in the supply chain, such as Colombia and Ecuador. There are also suppliers in Asia. Several points are affecting the United States,” Robinson stated at an event on synthetic drugs during the annual United Nations assembly in New York.
Colombia as a Trafficking and Production Hub
The gravity of the situation lies in the fact that both Colombia and Ecuador are territories where not only is fentanyl trafficked, but it is also produced. This is made possible because these mainly Mexican criminal organizations bring the chemicals to the Americas, where manufacturing fentanyl is cheaper, and then illegally export it to the north, where the U.S. market is experiencing increasing demand.
This reality seems to contradict the Colombian government’s statements about fentanyl. Gustavo Petro has been sounding the alarm for months about a drug with deadly potential health effects on consumers, surpassing those of other narcotics. However, the Colombian president’s hopes were based on the idea that Colombia might not be involved in the production of this drug, so the demand for cocaine, which is cultivated and synthesized in the country, might decrease in the North American market.
The information from the U.S. State Department under the Biden administration appears to challenge these claims, as it suggests that Colombia is not staying out of fentanyl production and trafficking.
U.S. Considers Colombia’s Proposal
Nevertheless, Todd Robinson also stated that the U.S. is considering Colombia’s proposal for a new anti-drug plan. This plan aims to shift the focus of drug enforcement away from small coca leaf cultivators and instead concentrate on combating drug trafficking organizations.
It’s worth noting that coca leaf cultivation is an age-old practice in the Andean region of countries like Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, or Bolivia. Coca leaves are a natural product that, in and of themselves, do not have harmful effects on the health of those who consume them. However, they are also the main raw material for the chemical derivative that transforms them into cocaine.
The U.S. government, according to Robinson, has also expressed that they continue to work alongside the Colombian government in the fight against drug trafficking. Robinson acknowledged that the Colombian government has not abandoned crop eradication efforts, even though production has reached record levels, according to the United Nations.
“The Colombian government wants to provide greater security to the citizens of rural areas of Colombia, and we want to help with this,” Robinson clarified.
Coordinated International Response
The U.S. State Department and Colombia agree that the response to the public health challenge posed by fentanyl should be “international and coordinated.” It’s not just a problem for Mexico, the United States, or even these countries and Colombia alone. Experts in the fight against drug trafficking conclude that it’s a global network that involves multiple players and countries.
Therefore, only cooperation and joint efforts among nations can yield results in addressing a global challenge that poses a significant public health threat worldwide.
During the Latin American and Caribbean Drug Conference held from September 7 to 9 in Cali, the Colombian president presented a strategy to reduce cocaine production by 40% during the remaining three years of his administration. Similarly, he aims to support 50,000 out of the approximately 115,000 families involved in coca cultivation, guiding them toward legal livelihoods.