The State Department released its annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report.
This year’s report stresses that the opioid crisis remains a global challenge. For the third year in a row the loss of life from drug overdoses in the United States reached record highs, with over 91,000 deaths in 2020 and over 100,000 in the 12-month period ending in April 2021, according to preliminary figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The deadly synthetic drug fentanyl was responsible for more than 60 percent of overdose deaths.
The Western Hemisphere remains a top concern for the United States. Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia are the first, second, and third largest cocaine source countries in the world, continuing an established trend. Even so, Colombia managed to eradicate 103,000 hectares in 2021. In addition, greatly increased numbers of seizures took place, including by Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, and the Dominican Republic.
In September 2021, the United States determined that Bolivia and Venezuela once again failed to uphold their obligations under international drug control agreements. In Bolivia, this was largely due to the government’s failure to control its legal coca market, although the government took some steps on coca eradication and drug seizures. In Venezuela, the regime of Nicolas Maduro failed to take any meaningful action to combat the illicit drug trade.
Mexico remains a major transit country for cocaine from South America to the United States and a destination for fentanyl precursors originating mainly from the People’s Republic of China, or PRC. Notably, while Mexican fentanyl production has soared, fentanyl seizures by Mexican authorities have as well.
The rapid shift in fentanyl production from the PRC to Mexico reflects the ability of transnational criminal organizations to rapidly adapt to changing circumstances and the global reach of the drug trafficking trade.
In addition to Mexican criminal organizations establishing a foothold in the PRC, cocaine originating in South America is trafficked to virtually every other region on earth; Nigerian traffickers have expanded their worldwide reach; the cocaine markets in Europe and Asia have exploded; and precursor chemicals from the PRC and India are diverted to all parts of the globe.
For a counternarcotics approach to achieve success, supply and demand reduction measures are necessary. The United States will continue to work with partner countries and the private sector to target criminal organizations, address corruption, and strengthen the rule of law.