Thursday, December 7

Adulterated cocaine kills at least 23 people in Argentina

The Argentine neighborhood Puerta 8, a precarious urban settlement in the west of the province of Buenos Aires, has been the starting point for the adulterated cocaine that caused the death of at least 23 people and 84 hospitalizationsof which 20 remain hospitalized.

In the Some 200 families live in a situation of poverty in the area., on land occupied by a public waste collection company. Last Wednesday, this neighborhood came to occupy the center of attention of Argentine society after almost a hundred people entered the emergency rooms in a state of shock, with respiratory distress and psychomotor excitement.

That same day the local health authorities declared the epidemiological alert for opiate intoxication in the country. “If any person has used cocaine in the last 48 hours and needs clinical attention, they should go immediately to the nearest health center or general hospital guard,” the Ministry of Health reported on Wednesday.

The dramatic episode is, for some specialists, yet another example of the defeat of the war on drugs and prohibition. “The war on drugs is a total failure. It has been going on for 50 years and without any success. They kill a drug boss, arrest another and yet the illegal business of selling drugs, the consumers and the cultivation territories grow year by year. year,” Argentine journalist Fernando Soriano, author of the book marijuana.

The tragedy opened the debate in Argentine society about alternatives to the fight against drugs that could improve the scenario. “Decriminalization is the way to get the user out of criminalization,” says Soriano.

Reasons for poisoning

Of a settlement of scores between different drug gangs even simple imprudence in the handling of the psychoactive substance are some of the many hypotheses that circulated these days in Argentina.

Until now, The Argentine Ministry of Health informed that “due to the characteristics of the clinical presentation, it could be substances that contain opioids within their components”. Between the substances suspected of having contaminated cocaine is fentanyl.

just with the arrest of Joaquín Aquino, nicknamed “Paisa”, along with seven other people in the early hours of Thursday, could begin to clarify the panorama of what happened and what the causes were. The “Paisa” had been wanted by the Police since June 2020, when the justice revoked his release.

Substantive debates in Argentina

From Wednesday to Friday, the records of the security forces in the area managed to seize between 12,600 and 13,600 ready-to-use doses, which were packaged in small pink bags, but the tragedy is not an exception; it highlights the flaws of the fight against drug trafficking in Argentina.

“What always happens is happening and what is going to happen again. There is an architecture that generates a predictable and preventable tragedy every few years. We have a system that by prohibiting generates a completely illegal and therefore deregulated market, provides to users of a substance that is not the one they are looking for and that they do not have the opportunity to try because the State tells them they are criminals,” says Argentine biologist Pablo González, one of the authors of A book about drugs.

At the center of the debate is the inability of States to protect citizens. For González what it is about is that there is political will to change the situation. “Portugal implemented a drastic policy 20 years ago to prevent the criminalization of consumers. Today it has the lowest number of deaths from substance use in the world, with a sustained decline since that implementation.”

This case also makes it clear how drug trafficking hits the poorest sectors of Argentine society. “The poorest have access to the worst quality cocaine, they are sectors where state assistance does not reach, nor health care, there are no harm reduction policies and they are the most exposed to distribution chains as soldiers of drug trafficking. The majority of those detained in Argentine prisons are under the drug law and are poor,” says Soriano.