Earlier this month, a federal jury in New York convicted Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, the former kingpin of Mexico’s powerful Sinaloa Cartel, on ten charges related to drug trafficking. El Chapo was stunned, his wife cried, and U.S. authorities crowed.
Authorities in the United States and Mexico are working together to combat criminal groups capitalizing on growing demand for the deadly and highly lucrative synthetic opioid fentanyl, but the US mailing system is quickly emerging as the key ingredient in that fight.
In Los Angeles, Craigslist has emerged in the last few months as a major new marketplace for illicit fentanyl. The online classified ad service has for several years been a virtual street corner, a place where drugs are sold under lightly veiled pseudonyms: black-tar heroin (“roofing tar”), crystal methamphetamine (“clear sealant”), or generic and most likely counterfeit oxycodone 30 mg pills (“M30”).
While traditional criminal organizations have widened their portfolios dramatically in recent years, drug trafficking remains the most important earner in the region. And with opioid consumption surging and cocaine production at a record high, the underworld is reaping the rewards and reshaping itself to fit the times.
Welcome to InSight Crime’s Criminal GameChangers 2018, where we highlight the most important trends in organized crime in the Americas over the course of the year. From a rise in illicit drug availability and resurgence of monolithic criminal groups to the weakening of anti-corruption efforts and a swell in militarized responses to crime, 2018 was a year in which political issues were still often framed as left or right, but the only ideology that mattered was organized crime.