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Hutchinson: ‘I’ll declare cartels as terrorist groups’

(NewsNation) — Republican presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson said his first step in fighting the opioid epidemic would be to declare drug cartels responsible for bringing in fentanyl as foreign terrorist organizations.

Hutchinson told NewsNation’s Adrienne Bankert on “Morning in America” that the fentanyl crisis is one of the most extraordinary challenges that Americans face in the U.S. He explained that he personally knows people who have been affected by the epidemic.

Fentanyl has become the deadliest drug among Americans. It is a synthetic opioid as much as 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Illicitly manufactured fentanyl can be used to lace other pills without users’ knowledge and was responsible for more than 100,000 fatal overdoses in 2021, according to the CDC.

The White House announced plans Tuesday to expand efforts to disrupt illicit financial activities by drug traffickers involved in the fentanyl trade by increasing the use of sanctions.

The White House said the “strengthened approach” builds on President Joe Biden’s National Drug Control Strategy, aiming to target production, sale and trafficking by not only strengthening the response at the border but also building a global alliance to fight the spread of the deadly opioid.

The plan calls for improved tracking of equipment like pill-pressing machines, increased seizures of cash at the southwest border, more cooperation with carriers handling international goods and shipments and more accountability measures and financial sanctions targeting drug traffickers’ access to the U.S. financial system. 

But Hutchinson said Biden’s strategy doesn’t characterize cartels as terrorist organizations, which in his opinion would allow more of the government to be engaged in more serious sanctions, more stringent controls and the ability to go after the cartels.

He also said the government has to put pressure on Mexico to be a partner with the U.S. in fighting the opioid epidemic.

“I would put economic pressure. I would tell the president of Mexico, that I will be — as president — calling up industry and saying, ‘Don’t relocate in Mexico until they start cooperating with us on going after the cartels and controlling the fentanyl coming in.’ You’ve got to use the leverage of the White House,” Hutchinson said.

The presidential candidate admitted that there are some good things that President Joe Biden included in his strategy, including education.

“We have to continue to invest in that for our young people, for our young adults, that they know the risk and the danger of using drugs because it could be laced with fentanyl,” he said.

Hutchinson also said he would encourage Mexico to allow more DEA agents in Mexico to work in cooperation with local law enforcement to go after the cartel again, go after the precursors coming in from China and help reduce the flow of drugs crossing the border.

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