Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly has largely blamed Latin American drug cartels for the unprecedented 52,000-plus drug overdose deaths in America during 2015 alone, the latest year for which data is available.
During a discussion that George Washington University (GWU) hosted about the threats facing the United States, retired Gen. Kelly noted in his prepared remarks:
It’s the highest number of drug-related deaths our country has ever seen. It’s more deaths than the peak of the AIDS epidemic in 1995. In a single year, we’ve lost nearly as many Americans to drug overdose as we lost in battle in World War I. Almost as many as was lost in 12 years in Vietnam.
And that’s just overdose deaths. That number—as high as it is—says nothing about the long-term health damage to our citizens who survive, to say nothing about the human misery, the families ripped apart, and the extremes of crime and violence inherent in the illegal-drug enterprise.
Kelly identified transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) in the form of Latin American drug cartels and violent international gangs like MS-13 as “one of the greatest” threats against the American public.