The U.S. has announced sanctions and indictments against 14 Chinese and Canadian firms for importing fentanyl, in an effort to target trafficking of the powerful synthetic opiate, according to the Guardian. Officials from the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies announced the actions on Tuesday. “We are here today to deliver a message on behalf of the United States government. We know who is responsible for poisoning the American people with fentanyl,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland. Among those targeted is a Chinese pharmaceutical company that shipped xylazine, a horse tranquilizer often cut into fentanyl, to the U.S. and Mexico. The Treasury Department also sanctioned 28 people and firms that helped ship illicit drugs, including fentanyl. Those indicted are alleged to have been involved in the trafficking of methamphetamine and MDMA too.
As overdose deaths increase, federal agencies have sought to crack down on the flow of fentanyl and other drugs into the country. In May, DOJ brought indictments against individuals involved with the Mexico-based Sinaloa cartel. Garland described the cartel as “the largest, most violent and most prolific fentanyl trafficking operation in the world”. The Treasury Department ordered sanctions against Sinaloa cartel members including Joaquín Guzmán López, 36, the son of former cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera. Biden administration's attempts to curtail the opioid epidemic and hold traffickers accountable have met with frustration among Republicans, who argue that Democrats are not doing enough. In February, Republican state attorneys general requested that Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken designate Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations. They also asked Biden to categorize fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction. Since 2020, more than 100,000 people have died from drug overdoses in the U.S, with a majority of deaths linked to fentanyl. Counterfeit prescription pills have contributed to increasing overdoses: 90% of fake pills contain the powerful opiate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.