US President Donald Trump has listed the nations identified by his administration as being “major drug transit or major illicit drug producing countries”.
In a presidential memorandum for the Secretary of State, published on September 11, Trump announced that 22 countries were failing to prevent illegal drug production and trafficking: Afghanistan, The Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Myanmar (Burma), Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela.
Every year, the US President publishes a list of the countries identified to be failing in this regard. This year, the listed countries match those designated as such in 2017, although Trump’s rhetoric in the document has been ramped up towards certain countries.
This year’s memorandum, purported to be written by Trump, makes specific mention of Afghanistan, stating that “Afghanistan’s illicit opium economy promotes corruption, funds the Taliban, and undermines that country’s security, which thousands of United States service men and women help defend”.
This reference is significant, as it comes months after the US began an unprecedented and controversial approach to opium trafficking in Afghanistan. As TalkingDrugs has reported, US forces have conducted numerous airstrikes on opium processing laboratories the country over the past year. Unlike ground raids, this approach intends to kill anyone who happens to be in the vicinity of such a lab at any time, even if they are entirely uninvolved with the drug trade.
Trump’s portrayal of Afghan opium trafficking as a security issue for US military personnel may be a sign of continued laboratory bombing.
Trump’s memorandum also warns that “heroin originating from Mexico and cocaine from Colombia are claiming thousands of lives annually in the United States”. Indeed, heroin production in Mexico, and cocaine production in Colombia, have both significantly increased in recent years. US government data suggests that over 30,000 deaths in 2017 were attributed to these two drugs.
The most significant rise in drug-related deaths in the US in recent years relates to non-heroin opioids, including pain relief medication and other synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. Trump’s memorandum vows to counter this opioid overdose crisis taking steps to “curb over-prescription, expand access to treatment and recovery programs, improve public education programs to prevent illicit drug use before it begins, and to strengthening domestic drug enforcement at our borders and throughout our Nation”.
Such “enforcement” has been under way since President Trump was inaugurated in 2017, including intensified border policing and stricter immigration rules. However such policies seem to have had no effect on drug-related deaths in the country.