Fear and panic have been sweeping the United States as the coronavirus pandemic gets more intense each day.
While most are worried about supporting themselves and/or their families during these tough times, the Trump administration wants everyone to know they are ramping up efforts even more to secure America’s borders.
During a White House press briefing on Wednesday, President Donald Trump announced a slew of new “counternarcotics operation” in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea to “combat the flow of illicit drugs into the United States.”
Flanked by Attorney General Bill Barr, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, and top military officials, Trump revealed that the U.S. had received intelligence that drug cartels are ramping up efforts to exploit the coronavirus.
“We must not let the drug cartels exploit the pandemic to threaten American lives,” Trump said. “In cooperation with the 22 partner nations, U.S. Southern Command will increase surveillance, disruption, and seizures of drug shipments and provide additional support for eradication efforts, which are going on right now at a record pace.”
Included in the force package are Navy destroyers, other combat ships, Air Force surveillance planes and helicopters, and ten Coast Guard cutter ships, Trump said, noting that the new forces would double U.S. interdiction capacity in the region — and help slow the spread of the coronavirus by reducing illicit travel.
Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the United States had obtained intelligence that cartels were seeking to “take advantage” of the coronavirus to smuggle drugs.
“We came upon some intelligence some time ago that the drug cartels as a result of COVID-19 were gonna try to take advantage of the situation and try to infiltrate additional drugs into our country,” Milley remarked. “As we know, 70,000 Americans die on an average annual basis to drugs. That’s unacceptable. We’re at war with COVID-19, we’re at war with terrorists, and we are at war with the drug cartels, as well.”
“This is the United States military. You will not penetrate this country,” Milley continued matter-of-factly. “You will not get past Jump Street. You are not going to come in here and kill additional Americans.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Milley warning to drug cartels who would take advantage of the coronavirus crisis: "This is the United States military. You will not penetrate this country…You are not going to come in here and kill additional Americans." pic.twitter.com/B28rAcy3Ft
— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) April 1, 2020
Barr called the situation a “national security threat,” and said the U.S. was not interested in “half-measures.”
Esper said he wouldn’t disclose how long the new force posture would last, but that an interagency team would regularly brief the president.
“Every year, tens of thousands of Americans die from a drug overdose, and thousands more suffer the harmful effects of addiction,” Esper said. “Furthermore, corrupt actors, like the illegitimate Maduro regime in Venezuela, rely on the profits derived from the sale of narcotics to maintain their oppressive hold on power.”
“Today, the United States is launching enhanced counter narcotics operations in the Western Hemisphere to protect the American people from the deadly scourge of illegal narcotics.”—@realDonaldTrump pic.twitter.com/gQBPpn7Drz
— GOP (@GOP) April 1, 2020
The outbreak of COVID-19 has sent the price of heroin, methamphetamines, and fentanyl soaring, as the likes of the Sinaloa cartel – and its main rival, the Jalisco “New Generation” – struggle to obtain the necessary chemicals to make the synthetic drugs, which typically come from China and are now in minimal supply.
“The cartels have suffered from COVID-19 due to the inability to get the regular shipments of synthetic opioids and precursor chemicals for the massive production of meth from China,” Derek Maltz, a former special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Operations Division in New York, told Fox News this week.
“The cartels have continued their production at a slower rate, but the demand seems to be increasing during these times of uncertainty in America. The shutdown of cities in China and travel in and out of China have also negatively impacted the flow of chemicals and drugs to Mexico.”
Federal agents assigned to the San Diego Tunnel Task Force, including Border Patrol agents, uncovered a sophisticated drug smuggling tunnel on March 19. Inside, agents seized 4,400lbs of illicit drugs worth over $29M. Learn more: https://t.co/ky7EJH1LnR pic.twitter.com/9fYpEbHKDw
— CBP (@CBP) March 31, 2020
Last week, Barr announced that there will be swift and decisive action taken against any government engaged in spreading disinformation to keep Americans in fear.
Barr told U.S attorneys in a memo sent on Monday that they should make it a priority to prosecute anyone engaged in attempting to profit from the pandemic.