In a striking detail, blue pills of fentanyl were found sprinkled over the corpses — a grisly announcement from the cartel that people making or smuggling fentanyl within its home turf must stop. No más.
The cartel, which has historically been the biggest driver behind fentanyl being smuggled into the United States, has now put a stop to its lucrative export, a powerful opioid that's caused an international wave of addiction and overdose deaths.
The cartel's crackdown is an effort to deflect American law enforcement, according to the WSJ — but it's still striking, and potentially disruptive, that one of the drug's biggest historical boosters is now putting a kibosh on its manufacture and sale.
The edict is coming from the cartel's powerful Chapitos clan, according to WSJ's reporting, which is headed by four sons of the notorious drug kingpin Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán.
Besides the fentanyl stoppage, the Chapitos have weathered several blows to its organization this year. In January, Mexican law enforcement arrested Ovidio Guzmán, one of El Chapo's sons, after an intense gun battle. He was later extradited to the United States.
And back in April, the Justice Department indicted the four El Chapo heirs, including Ovidio Guzmán, in addition to more than 20 cartel members and business connections, according to WSJ.
Law enforcement had infiltrated the cartel and the Chapitos network, gaining "unprecedented access to the organization’s highest levels," read a statement from the Justice Department.
The crackdown on the synthetic opioid comes as America grapples with a worsening fentanyl crisis and resulting outcry from relatives, who are calling for action from politicians and law enforcement. Last month, the Associated Press reported that the drug is now the number one cause of death for people ages 18 to 49 in America.
Fentanyl, which is more addictive than heroin, is cheap to make and just two milligrams is enough to kill somebody, AP reports. Most of the fentanyl in America was coming from underground labs located in territory controlled by the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels in Mexico.
Fentanyl is typically mixed with other drugs and sold to unsuspecting people who don't know they are taking fentanyl, according to the AP. They are also sold as counterfeit oxycodone prescription pills.
In addition to education and expanding access to fentanyl overdose medication naloxone, brand name Narcan, medical researchers are also gearing up for the first human trial of vaccines that are supposed to blunts the highs from fentanyl and heroin — bringing a glimmer of hope to this ongoing drug crisis.
More on fentanyl: New Vaccine Blocks Fentanyl in Brains of Rats
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