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Resurgent Colombian Cartels flooding U.S. market with cocaine

May 30, 2017  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Resurgent Colombian Cartels flooding U.S. market with cocaine Photo courtesy of ICE

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U.S. authorities say the resurgence of the Colombian cartels, who are behind roughly 90% of cocaine on U.S. streets, correlates with the increase in coca production in the South American country.

DEA officials revealed that traffickers are smuggling more cocaine into South Florida than authorities have seen since 2007.

The crop is thriving in Colombia after ten years of decline. Officials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection indicated that cocaine seizures in Florida totaled 9,500 pounds in 2015, a 61% increase compared to the previous year, according to NBC Miami.

Specialists say due to the accelerated increase in Colombian cocaine production, the full effects of the boom have not yet impacted the U.S.

Cocaine overdoses are on a constant rise, taking 1,834 lives in Florida between 2012 and 2015, exceeded only by fatalities from fentanyl, an opiate-based painkiller that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

Colombian Army Gen. Mario Montoya (L) examines a cocaine pack confiscated by troops near Puerto Asis, Putumayo province, in this February 12, 2001, file photo. 

Coca growth is back to taking over the agricultural market in Colombia. Production today even surpasses the cocaine output of Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel. Approximately 460,000 acres of coca is planted throughout the country, providing 710 metric tons of cocaine in 2015, up from 235 metric tons in 2013.

“There is a mountain of cocaine, much of it is headed our way,” Justin Miller, intelligence chief for the DEA’s Miami field division, said. “We already see these drug combinations, and cocaine deaths are going up significantly.”

Prices are also decreasing in the midst of a production boom, partly driven by financial incentives from the Colombian government.

The street price of one kilo of cocaine is dropping from as high as $35,000 to $26,000 in Florida.

The resurgence of cocaine occurs in the midst of the opioid epidemic, which took over 33,000 lives in 2015. The rise in opioid-related deaths is attributed to the emergence of deadly chemicals like fentanyl, which dealers put into their supplies. Authorities in the U.S. are becoming increasingly worried about fentanyl showing up in cocaine supplies, which is already seen in Chicago and New York.

Less than half a teaspoon of fentanyl is enough to kill ten people.

“We’re hearing indications of cocaine-fentanyl overdose deaths not involving heroin in New York City as well, suggestive of fentanyl mixed with cocaine,” Daniel Raymond, policy director for the National Harm Reduction Coalition. “It’s not clear that any specific demographics are being targeted or the market rationale.”

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