“Socalj” for Borderland Beat
|Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law HB 95, which enhances penalties for the sale and distribution of opioids in Florida, including fentanyl.
“Earlier today, I held an assembly at a school in Kissimmee to heighten students’ understanding of the dangerous and life-altering effects of substance use and abuse,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “Our initiative, The Facts. Your Future., not only tells our youth to say no to drugs but also teaches them why. I am proud of Governor DeSantis for signing into law enhanced penalties for the sale and distribution of opioids today. We’re committed to tackling this problem from all angles and striving for a drug-free Florida.”
“There is a reason why Florida is safe,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. “It is safe because of our Legislature and because of our Governor leading the way. 116 people in Polk County alone last year died from just a small amount of fentanyl. We have a Governor that cares for you and wants to make sure that the sellers pay a price. When we have these pieces of legislation and you agree to sign them into law, you personally are saving the lives of hundreds or thousands of people across the state and we appreciate it.”
“From day one, Governor, you have been steadfast in your commitment to looking at this opioid epidemic from a very holistic approach,” said Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma. “You cannot address this problem without holding the drug dealers accountable to the fullest extent of the law. I want to thank the leaders and sponsors of this bill and the Florida Sheriffs. This bill and this effort will save lives and I thank the Governor for you and your team and the work that you do.”
“When we think of fentanyl, we think of the addicts and the dealers, but what we forget sometimes are the other victims in this crisis: the families and the children,” said Polk County Fire Rescue Paramedic Tom Konze. “As a first responder, with the signing of this bill today, I believe we are one step closer to solving this crisis.”
“I lost my 23-year-old son to a fentanyl overdose in July 2018,” said Mike Itani, a parent who lost his son to fentanyl. “He was a normal kid, involved in sports, nothing abnormal. A lot of people think of people that have passed away from an overdose, they think of them as junkies, but they are everyday normal people just like us. I truly believe that if you are intentionally giving somebody something that you know is going to kill them, it is murder. Hopefully, this will help other families in the future and get some of these guys off the street.”
HB 95 implements recommendations of the Statewide Task Force on Opioid Abuse, which was created by Governor DeSantis in 2019 to develop a statewide strategy and identify best practices to combat the opioid epidemic through education, treatment, prevention, recovery, and law enforcement. Specifically, the bill:
- Adds methamphetamine to the list of specified controlled substances which, if the substance causes the death of a person, can subject the person who distributed the controlled substance to a conviction for first-degree felony murder.
- Enhances the penalties for the sale of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of substance abuse treatment facilities.
- Increases the mandatory minimum sentence for trafficking fentanyl from 3 years to 7 years for 4-14 grams, and from 15 to 20 years for 14-28 grams.
DeSantis’ Criticism of President Biden’s Administration
“Biden should be given an honorary membership in the Mexican drug cartels,” he said. “Because nobody has done more to help the cartels than Biden with his open border policies.”
“He is violating his own oath of office by allowing massive numbers of people to come across the border illegally,” DeSantis said. “Those border communities are just getting killed down in southern Texas with everything coming in.” DeSantis said porous borders are accelerating America’s fentanyl crisis and that narcotics are flowing over the border unchecked.
|U.S. Rep. Mike Waltz
Florida Congressman Mike Waltz Wants to Treat Cartels as Terrorists
Earlier this month, the D.C.-based foreign policy establishment seemed to be aghast by allegations from former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s new memoir that former President Donald Trump asked about launching missiles into Mexico to “destroy the drug labs” and take out cartels.
My reaction: We shouldn’t dismiss President Trump’s idea that the time for these drug cartels’ reckoning has come. These cartels have been terrorizing our country for years by importing drugs and violence, as well as playing a part in destabilizing our southern border.
The threats emanating from cartels in Mexico have brought chaos to our overwhelmed border, destabilized our neighbor Mexico, and unleashed a dire drug epidemic here at home. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 107,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in the United States last year. A report from Families Against Fentanyl assesses the deadly imported drug is the leading cause of death among Americans between the ages of 18 to 45. The killing of thousands of Americans by a foreign substance is a serious national security crisis.
Drug Enforcement Agency Administrator Anne Milgram recently linked Chinese chemical companies who make fentanyl with Mexican drug cartels and asserted “I can say with 100 percent assurance that the criminal drug cartels in Mexico will stop at nothing to get fentanyl into the United States.”
Just accepting the status quo will only lead to hundreds of thousands of more dead Americans. It’s time to establish deterrence against the cartels who are terrorizing our communities.
We can do the same with cartels in Mexico just as we did in Colombia with direct U.S. involvement. Beginning in the 1970s, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) began trafficking cocaine to the U.S. to finance its guerilla war against the Colombian government. What did we do? We helped the Colombian army launch some of the most successful counter-insurgency operations to diminish FARC and other cartel operations to establish more regional stability and stem the flow of drugs. For years U.S. Army special forces “Green Berets” trained government forces in keeping these narco-guerrillas at bay.
With a small presence of U.S. special forces on the ground in Colombia and in other regional neighbors, we advised government forces in patrolling, marksmanship, land navigation, and much more. We need to invest a similar if not more aggressive vigor when it comes to taking on the cartels in Mexico. Colombia is far from the only example of this precedence in U.S. foreign policy. Nearly 20 years ago, I helped serve in the Pentagon’s counter-narcotics office where I primarily assisted Afghans in taking down drug operations in Afghanistan as the opium trade fueled the rise of the Taliban.
The drug lords of Afghanistan were (and still are) linked to terrorist groups as a financial backbone. It was essential to crack down on these groups as they helped finance terror activities both in the region and around the world in return for regional security to continue drug operations. In 2017, then-President Trump expanded targeted air attacks on Taliban drug labs in an attempt to hurt their revenue from the narcotics trade.
We should apply similar tactics against Mexican cartels to disable their cash flow and operations. Just last March, American personnel at the U.S. consulate in Nuevo Laredo and their families were forced to evacuate due to an outbreak of cartel violence. This isn’t a far and away location – this is a city just south of the Texas border.
The Mexican military and police forces have been unable to contain the cartels, and we should help them. The Biden administration should press Mexico’s government to allow military advisors into their country to help establish counter-insurgency operations to address the areas of Mexico that have descended into anarchy under the control of paramilitary cartels.
Proximity to Mexico allows us the capabilities to use our airborne surveillance assets to strike fear into the heart of the cartels. As we demonstrated in the 2020 operation to take out Soleimani, we can carry out strikes on high-profile terror leaders with minimal collateral damage. We need to engrain that fear into the minds of drug traffickers. Americans, especially those in border states, have suffered too long as our border is overwhelmed with human and drug traffickers. We shouldn’t stand for over 100,000 deaths in a year due to drug overdose.
Prior to the September 11th terrorist attacks, we treated Al-Qaeda as a law enforcement issue rather than a military threat. We shouldn’t make the same mistakes with Mexican drug cartels. It’s time to think outside the box in assessing how we take on this national security crisis. Maybe it’s time we take the fight to the cartels’ home turf.
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