West News Wire: Four Mexican males known as “Los Chapitos,” the sons of jailed Sinaloa cartel leader Joaqun “El Chapo,” were recently named the nation’s top enemy, according to Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) chief Anne Milgram, who raised the alarm at a news conference on April 14 in Washington, DC.
Insisting that El Chapo’s descendants were “responsible for the massive influx” of the synthetic opioid fentanyl into the United States, Milgram said: “Let me be clear that the Chapitos pioneered the manufacture and trafficking of the deadliest drug our country has ever faced.”
As if this were not news enough, the DEA chief threw in some additional alleged trivia, according to which the Chapitos had “fed their enemies alive to tigers, electrocuted them, [and] waterboarded them” activities the likes of which the US has obviously never perpetrated against its own enemies.
There is no debating the deadliness of fentanyl, which is 50 times more powerful than heroin. Drug overdoses, the majority of them fentanyl-related, are now killing more than 100,000 people a year in the US. Entire communities have been devastated.
And yet it is curious that the Chapitos are spontaneously to blame for the whole fentanyl epidemic although the new narrative certainly comes in handy when justifying the continuing frenzied militarisation of the US-Mexico border.
Back in 2017, a US congressional hearing on fentanyl featured testimony from Debra Houry, a director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the national public health agency, who noted that many of those dying from fentanyl overdoses had previously been prescribed legal painkilling opioids.
People who take prescription opioids become addicted to the drugs and may eventually overdose on heroin or fentanyl, according to Houry.
Given the unrestrained opioid over-prescription that has come to symbolise the US healthcare system today a system that ultimately has more to do with money than health it is not surprising that people are dying at alarming rates from fentanyl.
Indeed, as was the case in the state of West Virginia, it takes a seriously broken system to permit the delivery of nine million opioid pills over the course of two years to a single drugstore in a community with 400 residents.
The US pharmaceutical industry’s major players and drugstore chains have recently been compelled to pay symbolic financial compensation for their irresponsible practices that fuelled the crisis, there has been no actual admission of wrongdoing or any serious connecting of the deadly dots.
In other words, the sick capitalist roots of the US have never been reevaluated, which implies that absurd things like human lives will never be prioritised before corporate profit.
After all, blaming the Chapitos alone is simpler.
The lives of the impoverished are the ones that are least important, as would be expected in any such situation. And what are you aware of? Poor people have been disproportionately affected by the fentanyl problem. According to a 2020 article posted on the National Library of Medicine website, those who were poor had a higher chance of deadly opioid overdoses.
In addition to recently released inmates, individuals with unstable housing or no health insurance were also members of at-risk socioeconomic categories. According to the article, economic hardship is a risk factor for opioid overdoses in the United States and contributes to patterns of declining life expectancy that differ from most developed countries.”
How is that for American exceptionalism?
To be sure, in a country with so much pain, it makes perfect sense that there should be such a demand for painkillers and the cheaper the better for the impoverished communities upon whose misery the capitalist superstructure is built.
Meanwhile, it is more practical to continue the war on the poor, which keeps US society moral and submissive, the more the lower socioeconomic tiers may be criminalised for their destitution and addictions.
It pretty well sums up the misplaced priorities of a nation that can spend trillions wreaking havoc around the world but cannot be bothered to care for even its own soldiers that US military veterans are twice as likely to die from an opioid overdose.
Then, of course, there is the matter of the intersection of socioeconomic and racial oppression against the backdrop of the fentanyl-dominated opioid crisis and drug overdoses in general. According to Scientific American magazine, the overall overdose death rate for Black people in the US first surpassed the death rate for white people in 2019, with the proliferation of fentanyl producing a panorama in which “Black men older than 55 who survived for decades with a heroin addiction are dying at rates four times greater than people of other races in that age group”.
The CDC reports that the overdose death rate for Black people increased by 44 percent between 2019 and 2020 alone, while the rate for Native Americans increased by 39 percent.
And in 2020, as per CDC statistics, overdose death rates for Black people in US counties with greater income inequality were more than twice as high as in counties with less income inequality.
If capitalism has taught us anything, it is that inequality is deadly. This is why the US administration relies on foreign bogeymen like the Chapitos to divert the attention of its citizenry from the rather harsh reality that the capitalism system itself is the number one enemy of the people.
The prison-industrial complex is thrilled that US lawmakers are now pressing for heavier sentences for fentanyl possession and trafficking, but society is less pleased. One can’t help but think back to the 1980s crack cocaine pandemic, when Black communities in Los Angeles were completely destroyed by a drug invasion directly caused by the US’s terrorization of Nicaragua during the Contra battle against the alleged “red menace.”
Forty years later, capitalism remains as deadly a drug as ever and a euphemism for the all-out US war on the poor a war for which fentanyl is merely the latest face.