• Portland declares 90-day state of emergency to tackle fentanyl use

    A 90-day state of emergency has been declared by officials in Portland as part of an effort to tackle the use of fentanyl in Oregon’s largest city.

    A synthetic painkiller 50 times more powerful than heroin, fentanyl has been blamed for a rise in US drug deaths.

    In Oregon, the rise coincided with a move to decriminalise the use of most drugs, including fentanyl.

    But on Tuesday, senior state and city officials said Portland was being damaged by open use of the drug.

    The city has been struggling from homelessness and drug use in recent years, causing several major businesses and some residents to move out of the city.

    According to Multnomah County – where Portland is located – the number of overdose deaths involving fentanyl increased by 533% between 2018 and 2022.

    Governor Tina Kotek, announcing the state of emergency, conceded that the city was suffering “economic and reputational harm” from the ongoing fentanyl problem.

    “Our country and our state have never seen a drug this deadly addictive, and all are grappling with how to respond,” she said in a statement.

    Accompanied by Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson on Tuesday, Gov Kotek announced a new “tri-government” action to tackle the issue.

    The order establishes a temporary “command centre… where state, county and city employees will convene to coordinate strategies and response efforts,” the officials said in a joint statement.

    The plan also calls for the state health department to launch an advertising campaign on billboards, public transit and online which will promote drug prevention and treatment.

    It also calls for more peer outreach and resources for addicts, and for police to crackdown on open drug dealing.

    Gov Kotek said the three leaders will act with “urgency and unity across our public health and community safety systems to make a dent in this crisis”.

    “The next 90 days will yield unprecedented collaboration and focused resources targeting fentanyl and provide a roadmap for next steps,” she added.

    In 2020, residents of Oregon passed Measure 110, which decriminalised most drug use. Under the law, police encountering fentanyl users are meant to refer addicts to treatment centres, however many ignore the referral.

    Opioid deaths in the state jumped from 738 in 2021, the first year the law was in effect, to 956 in 2022, according to state data.

    Ms Kotek has previously called on state lawmakers to pass legislation that criminalises public drug use, similar to “open container” alcohol laws in the US.

    But moves to roll back the state’s liberal drug laws could face opposition from addiction-treatment groups, who say re-criminalisation will drive people to take fentanyl in private, possibly increasing overdose rates.

  • Chiapas violence: Hundreds flee cartel battles in southern Mexico

    Hundreds of people have fled their homes in southern Mexico as rival cartels fight for control of routes used to smuggle drugs and migrants.

    Locals described cowering in their homes while bullets flew through their homes during a seven-hour gun fight.

    More than 700 residents had been displaced from their communities near the Guatemala border, an official said.

    The Jalisco New Generation cartel (CJNG) is trying to wrest the area from the grip of the Sinaloa cartel.

    Criminal organisations like the CJNG and the Sinaloa cartel have been infiltrating the region because of its proximity to the border with Guatemala and important transit routes for migrants, whom they extort.

    The worst-hit communities are Chicomuselo and La Concordia in Chiapas state. Residents of Chicomuselo said 20 people – 18 gang members and two locals – were killed in a cartel battle on 4 January.

    In a statement, the community described “the pain at seeing children and youths trembling in fear and getting sick from having to live through these traumatic experiences”. They also accused the state of failing to protect them.

    However, the Chiapas state prosecutor’s office released a statement five days later saying that it had not received any reports of any killings in the area.

    The military has been deployed to the region but locals say they are now getting caught in the crossfire when the security forces confront the cartels.

    Entire families have left their homes and crossed the nearby Angostura lake by boat to escape the violence over the past days.

    Local journalists said that their villages now resembled ghost towns.

    Chiapas civil protection official Luis Manuel García Moreno told Radio Fórmula that 701 people had fled to the city of Comitán, most of them women and children.

  • La Commissaria Johansson e il Commissario Gentiloni lanciano il partenariato pubblico-privato “Alleanza europea dei porti”

    La Commissione, insieme alla presidenza belga, ha lanciato l’Alleanza europea dei porti – un partenariato pubblico-privato per contrastare il traffico di droga e le infiltrazioni criminali. Ylva Johansson, Commissaria per gli Affari interni e Paolo Gentiloni, Commissario per l’Economia, hanno visitato Anversa insieme al ministro dell’Interno belga Annelies Verlinden, al vice primo ministro e ministro delle Finanze Vincent Van Peteghem e al vice primo ministro e ministro della Giustizia e del Mare del Nord Paul Van Tigchelt.

    Il partenariato mira a riunire tutte le parti interessate al fine di trovare soluzioni per proteggere i porti dal traffico di droga e dalle infiltrazioni criminali.

  • Piacenza snodo dei traffici cinesi di sostanze tossiche, denaro contraffatto e prodotti non a norma

    Un 51enne piacentino – Giancarlo Miserotti – già arrestato tempo fa dai carabinieri del Nucleo Investigativo di Piacenza per falsificazione di moneta si occupava di smistare la droga, Fentanyl, dalla Cina verso l’America mentre metteva in circolo anche euro e franchi svizzeri fasulli.

    Arrestato dalla Finanza insieme ad agenti americani della Dea e della Dcsa italiana, l’uomo, come affermato dal sostituto procuratore Matteo Centini, «usava il darkweb per dialogare con persone in oriente e farsi fornire per posta elementi che riproducevano pezzi di banconote. Poi da casa sua provvedeva a spedire in America il Fentanyl tagliato con Xylazina, un anestetico veterinario che ne protrae gli effetti. Il costo delle materie prime si aggira tra i 3mila e 4mila euro al chilo, ma poi si può produrre un quantitativo enorme di dosi da immettere sul mercato».

    Le attività di indagine, coordinate dal sostituto procuratore Matteo Centini, sono scaturite da una segnalazione pervenuta dall’ufficiale di collegamento della Drug Enforcement Administration (Dea) presso l’Ambasciata degli Stati Uniti a Roma – per il tramite dalla Direzione Centrale per i Servizi Antidroga (D.C.S.A.), hanno condotto a 7 ordini di arresto a carico di altrettante persone per attività di traffico internazionale di stupefacenti, fabbricazione e immissione, sul mercato, di valuta contraffatta e riciclaggio.
    Gli investigatori hanno scoperto che Miserotti «era anche al vertice di un’organizzazione transnazionale dedita alla fabbricazione e all’immissione sul mercato di valuta (in special modo in franchi svizzeri ed euro sia in monete che in banconote) accuratamente contraffatta, con l’intento di riprodurre anche dollari statunitensi». E hanno appurato altresì che «Piacenza era la sede operativa di questo criminale che grazie alle sue abilità riusciva a mettere in contatto cinesi e americani sul doppio canale della contraffazione e della droga», con riferito dal comandante provinciale della Guardia di finanza di Piacenza, il colonnello Corrado Loero.

    Sempre a Piacenza, i funzionari delle Dogane hanno scoperto un traffico di 6mila scarpe made in China prodotte con sostanze altamente tossiche e cancerogene.

  • Opium production in Myanmar surges to nine-year high

    The production of opium increased sharply in Myanmar, rising to a nine-year high, according to the UN.

    It touched nearly 795 metric tonnes in 2022, nearly double the production in 2021 – 423 metric tonnes – the year of the military coup.

    The UN believes this is driven by economic hardship and insecurity, along with higher global prices for the opium resin that is used to make heroin.

    The coup plunged much of Myanmar into a bloody civil war that still continues.

    “Economic, security and governance disruptions that followed the military takeover of February 2021 have converged, and farmers in remote, often conflict-prone areas in northern Shan and border states, have had little option but to move back to opium,” said Jeremy Douglas, the regional representative for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

    The region, where the borders of Myanmar, Thailand, and Laos meet – the so-called Golden Triangle – has historically been a major source of opium and heroin production.

    The UN report released on Thursday said Myanmar’s economy was confronted by external and domestic shocks in 2022 – such as the Russia-Ukraine war, continued political instability and soaring inflation – which provide “strong incentives” for farmers to take up or expand opium poppy cultivation.

    Myanmar is the world’s second-largest producer of opium, after Afghanistan. The two countries are the source of most of the heroin sold around the world. Myanmar’s opium economy is valued at up to $2bn (£1.6bn), based on UN estimates, while the regional heroin trade is valued at approximately $10bn.

    But over the past decade crop substitution projects and improving economic opportunities in Myanmar have led to a steady fall in cultivation of the opium poppy.

    The annual opium survey conducted by the UN, however, shows that production in Myanmar has risen again. Opium production in 2022 has been the highest since 2013, when the figure stood at 870 metric tonnes.

    Since the coup the UN has also monitored even larger increases in synthetic drug production. In recent years, this has supplanted opium as the source of funding for armed groups operating in the war-torn border areas of Myanmar.

    However, opium requires a lot more labour than synthetic drugs, making it an attractive cash crop in a country where the post-coup economic crisis has dried up many alternative sources of employment.

    Opium farmers’ earnings grew last year to $280/kg, a sign of the attractiveness of opium as a crop and commodity, as well as strong demand. It is a key source of many narcotics, such as heroin, morphine and codeine.

    Opium poppy cultivation areas in 2022 rose by a third to 40,100 hectares, according to the report, which also pointed to increasingly sophisticated farming practices. Average opium yields have also risen to the highest value since the UNODC started tracking the metric in 2002.

    Mr Douglas said Myanmar’s neighbours should assess and address the situation: “They will need to consider some difficult options.”

    He added that these solutions should account for the challenges people in traditional opium-cultivating areas face, including isolation and conflict.

    “At the end of the day, opium cultivation is really about economics, and it cannot be resolved by destroying crops which only escalates vulnerabilities,” said Benedikt Hofmann, UNODC’s country manager for Myanmar.

    He added: “Without alternatives and economic stability, it is likely that opium cultivation and production will continue to expand.”

    According to an earlier UNODC report, prices for opium soared in Afghanistan last spring after the ruling Taliban announced a ban on cultivation.

  • Commando assalta prigione in Messico e fa evadere un leader del narcotraffico

    C’è anche un pericoloso leader narco tra i 24 detenuti fuggiti dal carcere messicano di Ciudad Juarez dopo l’irruzione di un commando armato che ha provocato 17 vittime. Si tratta di Ernesto Alfredo Piñón de la Cruz – alias ‘El Neto’, leader di una cellula di sicari appartenente al cartello de ‘Los Mexicles’, in carcere dal 2009 e condannato a oltre 200 anni di carcere per diversi omicidi e sequestri.

    ‘El Neto’ è considerato uno degli esponenti più crudeli e sanguinari del cartello. Già ad agosto dell’anno scorso, ‘Los Mexicles’ misero a ferro e fuoco la cittadina al confine con gli Stati Uniti per evitare il suo trasferimento a un carcere di massima sicurezza.

    In quell’occasione furono 11 i morti che si contarono per le strade e nello stesso carcere di Ciudad Juarez al termine del raid narcos. Un’azione quest’ultima che, a detta delle autorità, sancì la rottura dell’alleanza de ‘Los Mexicles’ con il cartello di Sinaloa e l’avvicinamento al cartello di Suarez.

    Secondo l’ultimo bilancio diramato dalla Procura di Chihuahua, sono salite a 17 le vittime. Tra questi 10 agenti di sicurezza e custodia penitenziaria e 7 detenuti; si registrano inoltre 13 feriti e almeno 27 evasi.

    L’azione, riferisce la Procura, ha avuto inizio quando “un gruppo armato a bordo di mezzi blindati ha fatto irruzione nel Centro Penitenziario sparando contro gli agenti di sicurezza”. Il commando, riferiscono le autorità, ha agito appositamente durante l’orario di visita dei detenuti, approfittando la presenza di numerosi familiari attorno al penitenziario tra i quali si sarebbero mischiati gli evasi.

    Precedentemente un’altra cellula de ‘Los Mexicles’ aveva portato avanti un diversivo attaccando con armi da fuoco una pattuglia della polizia in un altro punto della città e provocando in questo modo una persecuzione che aveva tenuto impegnato un numero significativo di agenti.

    La governatrice dello stato di Chihuahua, María Eugenia Campos Galván, ha definito l’azione come “un atto vigliacco” sottolineando che “nessuno può violare la legge e rimanere impune. Non permetteremo che queste azioni ci facciano perdere la speranza”, ha aggiunto.

  • Mexico violence: Third journalist killed this year

    A Mexican journalist has been shot dead in the northern border city of Tijuana, officials say, the third journalist to be killed in the country this year.

    Lourdes Maldonado López, who had decades of experience, was attacked in her car as she arrived home on Sunday.

    She had previously said she feared for her life, and was enrolled in a scheme to protect journalists, activists said.

    The country is one of the world’s most dangerous for journalists, and dozens have been killed in recent years.

    Many of those targeted covered corruption or powerful drug cartels. Campaigners say the killings are rarely fully investigated, with impunity virtually the norm.

    The motive for Maldonado’s killing was not clear and no-one has been arrested.

    During a news conference in 2019, Maldonado asked President Andrés Manuel López Obrador for his “support, help and labour justice” because, she said, “I fear for my life”.

    She was referring to a labour dispute with Jaime Bonilla, who was elected governor of Baja California state later that year as a candidate from the president’s Morena party. Mr Bonilla, who left office late last year, owns the PSN media outlet, which had employed Maldonado.

    Maldonado had sued the company for unfair dismissal and, last week, said she had won the lawsuit after a nine-year legal battle. Mr Bonilla and PSN have not commented.

    Rights group Article 19 said she had previously been attacked because of her work and was registered in the Mexican government’s programme to protect journalists.

    The campaign group Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said it was “shocked” by the murder.

    The killing came six days after photojournalist Margarito Martínez was shot dead outside his home in Tijuana. He covered crime in the city, with his work appearing in national and foreign media.

    A week earlier, José Luis Gamboa Arenas was found dead with stab wounds in the eastern city of Veracruz. An editor at the Inforegio and La Notícia news websites, he often wrote articles about organised crime and violence.

    Exact numbers of victims are hard to come by as investigations often get nowhere, and different studies apply different criteria in counting the dead.

    According to Article 19, 24 journalists were killed between December 2018, when President López Obrador took office, and the end of 2021.

  • Mexico cartel used explosive drones to attack police

    Suspected criminals in Mexico have used drones to drop explosives on police, injuring two officers.

    Officials think the powerful Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) is behind Tuesday’s attack in the western state of Michoacán.

    In August, two rigged drones were found in the car of suspected CJNG members.

    The drones are thought to be the latest weapons in a deadly war between the drugs cartel and the security forces and vigilantes opposed to them.

    New weapon in a deadly fight

    Not much detail has been released about Tuesday’s attack but local media said two drones had been used.

    It is believed they were rigged in a similar way to the two drones that were found in the car boot of suspected cartel members.

    The drones seized last year had containers taped to them which had been filled with plastic explosives and ball bearings. Experts said they had been set up to be detonated remotely and could have inflicted deadly damage.

    The officers injured on Tuesday had been deployed to clear roads leading to the city of Aguililla, in Michoacán, which had been blocked by the cartel to impede the access of the security forces.

    Over the past weeks, hundreds of residents have been fleeing the city in fear as the CJNG and a rival group calling itself United Cartels (Cárteles Unidos), fight for control of the city.

    Earlier this month, eight mutilated bodies were found in the area after a particularly deadly fight between the two groups.

    Aguililla is the birthplace of CJNG leader Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, also known as “El Mencho”.

    “El Mencho” is one of Mexico’s most wanted men and the US Drug Enforcement Administration is offering a $10m (£7.2m) reward for information leading to his capture.

    His cartel is one of the most powerful in the country and has been behind some of the deadliest attacks on Mexican security forces, such as a 2015 ambush in Jalisco which left 15 officers dead.

    It has spread from his original power base in the state of Jalisco to have an almost nationwide presence.

    Security officials say it was also behind the brazen assassination attempt on Mexico City’s police chief, Omar García Harfuch, last June.

    The cartel is believed to have further stepped up its attacks on the security forces in retaliation for the extradition to the United States of El Mencho’s son, Rubén Oseguera González, known as “Menchito” (Little Mencho), on drug trafficking charges.

  • A New York adesso c’è anche la marijuana legale

    New York dice addio al proibizionismo. Per anni capitale mondiale degli arresti per il possesso e l’uso di marijuana, la Grande Mela ha approvato una delle leggi più progressiste per la legalizzazione della cannabis a uso ricreativo. “Questo è un giorno storico”, ha esultato il governatore Andrew Cuomo dopo aver firmato il provvedimento tramutandolo in legge.

    New York diventa così il 16esimo Stato d’America a legalizzare la marijuana. I primi negozi di cannabis potrebbero aprire già nel 2022, subito dopo l’erogazione delle prime licenze che consentiranno fra l’altro la consegna a domicilio. Agli adulti di New York sopra i 21 anni sarà anche consentito di allevare in casa alcune piante di marijuana per uso personale. Le previsioni indicano possibili vendite record di cannabis: circa 4,2 miliardi di dollari l’anno, dietro solo alla California. Un boom che aiuterà le casse dello Stato: oltre a creare fra i 30.000 e i 60.000 posti di lavoro, l’industria genererà per l’erario statale circa 350 milioni di dollari l’anno grazie a un’imposta del 13% sulle vendite. Il 40% delle entrate sarà destinato all’istruzione, il 40% sarà investito nelle comunità più colpite dal ‘proibizionismo della marijuana’, ovvero quelle con più arresti, mentre il restante 20% andrà al trattamento della tossicodipendenza. “Per troppo tempo il divieto della cannabis ha colpito in modo sproporzionato le comunità di colore con dure sentenze di carcere. Questa legge offre loro giustizia oltre ad abbracciare una nuova industria che aiuterà l’economia a crescere”, ha spiegato Cuomo.

    I precedenti tentativi di legalizzazione della cannabis che si sono succeduti nel corso degli anni sono nella maggior parte dei casi falliti sulla ripartizione delle entrate fiscali. Ma questa è stata la volta buona e per Cuomo è una boccata d’ossigeno, per quanto momentanea. Gli scandali delle accuse di molestie e dei numeri truccati sui morti per Covid nelle case di cura continuano a non dare tregua al governatore, sempre più sotto pressione fra le richieste di dimissioni e le grandi manovre avviate per un suo possibile impeachment. La marijuana consente a Cuomo di distrarre l’attenzione dai suoi guai, anche se il compromesso raggiunto gli è costato molte concessioni. Passi indietro che hanno colpito i deputati e i senatori dello Stato abituati a un Cuomo decisamente più combattivo ma ora costretto a fare marcia indietro per ottenere un’importante vittoria politica da spendere di fronte agli occhi dei suoi elettori e di tutti coloro che lo accusano.

  • Il covid non ferma la produzione e lo spaccio di droghe

    Un po’ di dati sul consumo e diffusione delle droghe nel periodo compreso dal 29/12/2020 al 22/03/2021, forniti da Aduc, Associazione per i Diritti degli Utenti e Consumatori.

    Sequestri: droghe leggere (kg)193.300, droghe pesanti (kg) 100.100, dosi droghe sintetiche 22.500, piante di cannabis 154.600. 6 le vittime, 526 gli arresti per un totale di 1.666 giorni di reclusione.

    Nel corso del 2020, per l’esattezza dal 01/01 al 28/12 i dati sono stati i seguenti: sequestri – droghe leggere Kg 664.100, – pesanti: Kg 321.000, – sintetiche: dosi 88.603, – cannabis: piante 1.064.040; vittime 56; arresti: 2.311 per un totale di 60.970 giorni di reclusione.

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