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on the border line between the US and Mexico
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Thursday, November 3, 2022

Tijuana Gets A Dose Of Its Own Fentanyl

"Sol Prendido" for Borderland Beat


The Tijuana River drainage canal slopes down from sprawling barrios to slice through the city center marking the border and then crossing into the United States, where it spews sewage near Imperial Beach. This binational waterway also highlights a perilous problem that links the the two nations - opioids.

Homeless people sleep in nooks and crannies in the concrete channel, many of them addicts. Dealers have long hawked heroin and crystal meth there but now they are increasingly selling the more perilous fentanyl.

Many of the homeless and addicts line up at the “Father Chava” soup kitchen close by. I talk to them about the fentanyl and they refer to “las pastillas” – the pills - or to “medicina.”  

“It’s medicine to help the pain,” says Roberto, a 51-year old one user in a white t-shirt turned yellow. “I’ve got a lot of pain. I’ve been shot. I’ve had my bones broken.” He shakes his head and shrugs. “I don’t want to talk about me.”


Fentanyl trafficking is a hot (and tragic) political issue in the United States after a record 71,000 deaths from synthetic opioids in 2021, out of more than 107,000 overdose deaths overall. Mexican cartels move a huge amount of the opioids, which they often import from China, or they import precursors and make fentanyl in Mexico.

In fiscal year 2022, U.S. agents seized more than 14,000 pounds of fentanyl on the Mexican border, a five-fold increase compared to 2019. There is now much more fentanyl seized than heroin, as well as more crystal meth than cocaine, showing that cartels have shifted the core of their business from plant-based to synthetic drugs.     

In most of Mexico, however, there is only a limited amount of fentanyl offered to users on the street. This is partly because the cartels themselves ban the sale of it in many places, according to dealers I have spoken to. Tijuana, though, is an exception, and here fentanyl has become rife.

Police seizures of fentanyl from street dealers in the Zona Norte area, home of the strip clubs and brothels popular with foreigners, were up by more than 300 percent in the first eight months of this year.

It’s cheap. In a Zona Norte bar, I find a dealer offering pills for 50 pesos a shot, or about U.S. $2.50. Some of the addicts mention this same price, but others say they buy pills for as little as four for 100 pesos, or just $1.25 each.

As well as coming in pills, the fentanyl can come in powder form or mixed up into heroin, which many in Tijuana call “china white.”

their own communities, or at least their own employees. The infamous head of the Knights Templar mob tried to ban sales of crystal meth in his native Michoac√°n, even while he churned out tons of it for the gringos. Some of those who make fentanyl refer to it as “el diablo” and stay away.

Tijuana, however, has always been ground zero for Mexican drug use. One reason is that so many people there have spent time in the United States; many were deported along with their addictions. Victor Clark also found that many Mexicans learned to cook meth in the California labs in the 1990s before landing in Tijuana where they made it for a local market.

Victor says the cartels began selling fentanyl in Tijuana from about 2017, and it has increased massively over the last two years. “The cartels were very shrewd in how they introduced a new product to the market,” he said. “First it was mixed with heroin, to get people used to it, and then it was sold as straight fentanyl. Now in all of the narcotienditas [drug selling points] in Tijuana they sell it.”

Drug dealing in Tijuana goes well beyond the homeless in the canal and the vice of the Zona Norte to large swathes of the urban sprawl of two million. A report by the legendary Tijuana weekly Zeta identified 5,000 narcotienditas in the state of Baja California.

The investigation showed how the dealers work for the three cartels who operate in Tijuana: the Sinaloa Cartel, Jalisco New Generation Cartel, and the remnants of the Arellano Felix Cartel. Fighting over the profits of these street sales is a huge driver in the violence, and has helped make Tijuana one of the most murderous cities on the planet, recording over 100 murders per 100,000 people every year since 2017.

I have spent time around hard drug users since I was a teenager in England and talked to plenty in Latin America. But I found the addicts from the canal in Tijuana were particularly spaced out and hard to get much sense out of. More than heroin or crack, fentanyl seems to impact people’s basic ability to function - although this is an issue I need to explore further with medical evidence.

Either way, the shift by Mexican cartels to fentanyl and crystal meth in the last decade surely alters the nature of the U.S.-Mexico trafficking relationship. When the main profits of the narcos were from marijuana and cocaine, it could at least be argued they were providing popular products. But when overdoses top 100,000 a year there is a legitimate argument that they are flooding poison over the border.

On the flipside, many in Mexico have long bemoaned that it is U.S. drug demand that pumps billions of dollars into cartels, causing the catastrophic violence here. The United States suffers the drug war deaths from overdoses and Mexico suffers the drug war deaths from bullets. If fentanyl use spreads in Mexico, however, it could suffer from both overdoses and bullets, and a terrible situation could get even worse.


Ioan Grillo

40 comments:

  1. That 2.50 price is the same price out here in nor cal even drops to 1.50 if u buying big quantities ūüėČ

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 3:07 not having a mafia like commission in Mexico to control the price and increase profits is hurting the cartels.

      Delete
    2. 2.50 peisos? Not worth shit,
      If it is dollars, I doubt a homeless drug addicted criminal earns that much daily.
      Please check your facks...

      Delete
    3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

      Delete
  2. Thanks to ELMO and Enrique PU√ĎETAS Nieto who didn't care about the citizenry.

    ReplyDelete
  3. 80% of those addicts in Tijuana are Centralamerican ilegals

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 99% of statistics are made up.

      Delete
    2. 2:22 "10% of the people is the reason of 90% of the problems"
      Edward Deming, American

      Delete
  4. Mexicans are their own worst enemy. Midterms are here and Mex-Americans need to demand their fair share of the american pie and citizenship for the dreamers and all undocumented Mexicans residing in the us. Stop being scammed by the politicos!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mexicans are also their own best friends.

      Delete
    2. There goes Truther with a 20%IQ comment.

      Delete
    3. Oh brother a so so lame statement.

      Delete
    4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

      Delete
    5. mexican and mex americans are never going to be on the same page. mex americans that have been in the american southwest since the spanish colonial period have historical, racial and cultural diff than recent arrivals... their mistake will be siding with white american interests and taking the advice of non mexicans who will take their political support but have no intention of actually allowing them to participate in the american dream.

      Delete
    6. Mexicans ain't asking for shit, we've got what we've got and we'll get what we'll get, fuck the naysayers...

      Delete
  5. No nomas en Tijuas en Chicali es lo mismo. Ya la estan empezando a batallar algunos tecles que no saben para conseguir chivita. The Fenny is big all over .

    ReplyDelete
  6. Y'all being doing the grunt work on land once owned by your forefathers work centuries for dirt-cheap wages while America has gotten rich from your sweat and blood! Time for political action and demand your fair share!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your ūüíĮ truther

      Delete
    2. Brains over Braun.

      Delete
    3. 4:44 America owes its ass to the Chinese, while "some select americans" got rich, beleeme.there is not much special to them, they just knew who to buy, rent or steal from in a timely basis, especially the gates or musk's, the owners of Fawx News, tucker and sean, and judge Jemima pinches g√ľebones oportunistas.

      Delete
  7. Former heroin addict. Fent sucks. Real heroin is so much better...more euphoria and longer lasting. I see why froma business sense they switched. It really is the devil in powder form though. Fuck that shit.

    ReplyDelete
  8. TJ about to become another Zombie land like Sonora and Durango

    ReplyDelete
  9. Mexico has become a shithole!!! Too arrogant and proud to recieve help from Europe or the USA!! Why would they get help , it interferes with the corrupt politicians pockets!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hahahahahaha shithole? and why is the main destination for expats and american tourists?... arrogant?, Europe and USA have nothing to offer.

      Cut that endless flow of weapons, cash and bullets.

      Crying about Mexico make you look dumb.

      Delete
    2. 11:19
      He got the Mr T. Mentality being a copycat at was vocabulary Mr T constantly using shit hole alot.
      10:20 is a copycat

      Delete
    3. *Parts* of Mexico are shitholes, just as *parts* of the USA are shitholes. Some pretty stunning poverty exists in both countries. Painting with such a broad brush serves no purpose.

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    4. 10:20 your mouth IS the SHITHOLE, FED BULLSHIT 24/7 with gallons of Koolaid on the side

      Delete
    5. 4:41 SIR always with pertinent comments.

      Delete
  10. Tijuana has always been a drug and contraband haven for the US especially since prohibition when people from California and Us military would go party and buy anything .

    ReplyDelete
  11. Good article. FYI , for anyone who isn't aware Loan Grillo is a journalist from England who has been living in Mexico and studying/ reporting on the Narco War for over 20 years. He's a great reporter and from what I have read in his books he never sensationalizes things.
    I was reading something he wrote about how when he lived in Tijuana and he would be working with the kids on the street, the ones that were entrenched in the life had the '20 yard stare' that old men who have seen much war and trauma possess.
    He has also talked with hundreds of sicarios in depth about their life/childhood. He isn't dumb enough to say that their lives are shit solely based on their childhood trauma but he said he hasn't met one LOW level, young street grunt that didn't face heavy abuse and abandonment. A lot of these guys have literally a third or fourth grade education , if that . We have to remember Mexico does not have the social service systems that America does, (primarily due to the great corruption, funding theft etc etc) The gangs are cartels look out for those homeless kids that live under the bridges. These kids are hungry and sniff glue to alleviate the hunger and keep them warm. These kids are looking for something, they're completely lost so of course like human nature we form family structures no matter how dysfunctional they may be they served their purpose of protection, self validation. Before anyone Chimes in, I am fully aware of the ability of a human being to choose their course in life For Better or Worse but in a percentage of cases these kids were fucked from the start.
    Anyhow if anyone's looking for a good podcast subject just look him up and he's done some good ones but he's been writing great books on this topic for two decades.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Miss H
      I am surprised, flabbergasted that he has not been killed for reporting the truth.

      Delete
    2. Thank you for what sounds to be a solid recommend for reading / listening / author

      Delete
    3. Lady H
      I want to go see a Donkey Show in Tijuana, will it be safe or will I get my head cut off.?

      Delete
    4. 4:37 if the donkey's dong is not too long, you'll be safe, still may need a doctor to put your eyeballs back in their sockets

      Delete
    5. Ioan Grillo is a propagandista that nurtures special relationships with military and politicos to throw shit on the "almighty cartels", never throws shit on his paymasters...
      You are welcome.

      Delete
    6. Yeahhhhhh!
      SIR for president of Mexico, he can do a better job, than the current president of Mexico.

      Delete
    7. 9:36 Ok AMLO hater.

      Delete
    8. 8:43 "We have to remember Mexico does not have the social service systems that America does, (primarily due to the great corruption, funding theft etc etc)"

      United States do not have health system that Mexico have. You probably never been to Mexico. And corruption have NOTHING to do with Social Security.

      Update your facts.

      Delete

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