U.S. Announces Major Operation against Synthetic Drugs in Five Countries

By Dialogo
June 28, 2013


On June 26, U.S. authorities announced an international effort against synthetic drug trafficking with Australia, Barbados, Canada, and Panama, resulting in over 150 arrests.



“It represents the largest operation against synthetic drugs in the history of the war on drug trafficking,” Rusty Payne, spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) stated.



Project Synergy started in December 2012 with 75 arrests and intensified in the last three days, with raids and arrests in 49 cities, DEA chief of operations James Capra told the press.



Authorities have since seized over 1,500 kilos of synthetic drugs, out of which 550 kilos were captured only on June 26.



According to Capra, synthetic drugs represent a “new boundary” for the fight against drug trafficking, because as soon as authorities declare certain substances illegal, traffickers may transform them into legal products only by modifying a molecule.



Authorities highlighted the collaboration of the Panamanian government in the investigation, a country where traffickers kept assets, although the investigation is still tracking the financing of these groups to the Middle East and other parts of the world.



Capra added that “now more than ever” terrorists are funding their operations through international drug trafficking, even though the official did not specify if this was the case for this investigation.



In recent years, the United States suffered a considerable increase in the use of “designer drugs,” manufactured with chemical precursors and packed in envelopes, as if they were bath salts, incense or even fertilizer.



The drugs come mainly from Asian countries, such as China and India, and enter U.S. ports illegally.



They are sold in small packages with warnings against being consumed by people, but they come with colorful labels (alluding to cartoons, for example) that attract young people, according to authorities.



The majority of victims who died from the use of these drugs are between 12 and 29 years old, Tracy Lembke, Homeland Security’s Deputy Assistant Director in charge of operations, stated.



In February 2012, the U.S. Drug Czar’s office issued a special warning due to the sudden deaths of about 30 young people who had used envelopes containing substances that quickly provoked dizziness, nausea, and hallucinations that can last for days.



Synthetic drug trafficking causes the loss of “millions of dollars from the loss of lives of young people. It is a level of evil that is not fully understood by many people,” Capra stated.

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