Tijuana student jailed for seven years for drug smuggling

A twenty-year-old Mexican student has been charged by the United States for smuggling nearly 36 kg of fentanyl across the border into the USA. According to a statement from the Southern District of California Attorneys Office, Flavio Diego Rivera Davalos pled guilty to the charge earlier this week and will face 87 months (over seven years) in federal prison.  

According to the statement, Rivera was a teenager at the time of the incident and was arrested at San Ysidro Entry Port in early December last year. The teenager was driving a Ford Focus alone when a narcotics dog signalled that there were drugs inside the vehicle. The seizure from the vehicle, found in various hidden panels in the car, was one of the largest quantities of fentanyl discovered by border security and should it have reached the American market would have been valued at over $2 million, stated U.S Attorney Sherri Walker Hobson.

The accused, originally from Tijuana, claims that traffickers had given him money as well as a vehicle, which he had been using to travel to work and college.

Judge Burns, who was overseeing the trial, stated that it was troubling that the student had also been a teacher and was setting far from a good example. As a result, the court statement continues, the judge rejected a 30-month plea deal and instead imposed the much harsher charge upon the twenty-year-old.

Fentanyl is now one of the world’s most deadly drugs and usually starts its life in China where the finished product or the ingredients are usually shipped to Mexico. According to the San Diego Tribune, 80% of shipments are funnelled from Mexico through the San Diego area before being dispersed around the United States.

In 2016, over 64,000 people died of drug overdose in the United States and a large contributing factor to this amount was fentanyl. Although originally created as a powerful pain reliever, the strength of the drug has led drug dealers to mix the fentanyl with substances such as cocaine and heroin, and fentanyl-related deaths have skyrocketed. Considered a synthetic heroin, less is needed to receive the same high as heroin and some strains of the product can be almost fifty times stronger than morphine.

According to AJC the strains can be so deadly, for example furanyl fentanyl, that even touching the powder can lead to death. This was the case that occurred in Georgia, USA when 19 people died of contact with the drug.

There is currently a huge opioid problem in the United States and despite the crackdown on illicit use of drugs throughout the country, users continue to abuse painkillers before reaching for stronger drugs such as heroin and now fentanyl. The smuggling attempt by Rivera that was settled in court this week had over 800,000 deadly doses of the drug within the car at the time and should he have made it across the border, the drugs  could have contributed to a number of deaths.

Although the cartels behind the smuggling are facing increasing challenges from authorities, although no-one else was implicated in the recent case, the relentless nature of drug trafficking is not going to stop until the nature of drug abuse is addressed by the globe. Should people stop demanding illegal drugs, then the booming industry that produces it would have to look for other methods of profit.

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