Argentina reels as toxic batch of cocaine kills at least 23

Feb 3, 2022, 12:24 PM | Updated: Feb 4, 2022, 12:49 am
Burning barricades set up by residents protesting the arrest of fellow neighbors block streets in t...

Burning barricades set up by residents protesting the arrest of fellow neighbors block streets in the “Puerta 8” neighborhood, a suburb north of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022, where police say contaminated cocaine may have been sold. A batch of cocaine that has killed at least 20 people and seriously sickened dozens in Argentina appears to have been laced with a synthetic opioid, and police are scrambling to get as much of it off the streets as they can. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

(AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — A batch of cocaine that has killed at least 23 people in Argentina appears to have been laced with a synthetic opioid, and police are scrambling to get as much of it off the streets as they can.

Health authorities say at least 84 people have been hospitalized after using the contaminated cocaine, some of whom remain on life-saving respiratory support. The victims were mostly young Argentines from poor neighborhoods around the nation’s capital, Buenos Aires.

Police and public officials said that Argentina has never before suffered a drug-poisoning tragedy of this scale. Coverage of the deadly cocaine led national television broadcasts and was atop every newspaper.

Allan Santillán, 19, smoked the cocaine Tuesday night before going to sleep and his mother, a nurse, rushed him to a public hospital early the next morning.

“I woke up with my liver shot to hell, vomiting, and with stomach pains,” Santillán told The Associated Press in an interview at the hospital. His mother, Natalia Santillán, said she was relieved her son had survived, but lamented others´ deaths.

“A lot of dead kids, it’s all so sad,” she said. “Something needs to be done, urgently.”

Police had confiscated 15,000 small bags of the contaminated drug as of Thursday, and arrested seven people, Buenos Aires province’s federal crimes unit said in a statement.

Toxicology tests to determine which substance was mixed with the cocaine haven’t yet been completed. However, it appears to be a synthetic opioid used to intensify the effects of cocaine, according to Sergio Berni, security minister for the Buenos Aires province.

“Indirectly, we know it is an opioid, because the antidote is administered (to patients) and they react,” Berni told reporters in the capital.

One of the people arrested was Joaquín Aquino, known as “El Paisa”, who is the supposed leader of the drug ring that sold the cocaine, Berni told reporters. Authorities are investigating whether its toxic composition was accidental, or an attempt at score settling between rival gangs.

Aldo Saracco, president of Argentina’s toxicology association, told local television station Todo Noticias that — unlike in Europe and the U.S. — poisoning from synthetic opioids hadn’t previously been witnessed in Argentina.

The number of deaths from drug poisoning involving cocaine in the U.S. has more than tripled from roughly 4,500 per year a decade ago, according to the 2020 national drug threat assessment report from the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Some Argentine lawmakers and television pundits made statements on Thursday questioning whether, in light of the incident, Argentina should consider legalizing some drugs.

The Center for Legal and Social Studies, a non-governmental research organization that advocates for legalization, said a change in approach toward personal consumption would enable greater oversight and inspection.

“Although prohibition is the rule almost everywhere in the world, alternative models that emerged several years ago address consumption from a rights perspective, leaving aside the criminal system,” the group said in a statement.

The deaths and hospitalizations also shed light on the vulnerability of the nation’s poor, said Berni, the security minister.

“We Argentines cannot let this situation pass us by without starting to understand, on one hand, the phenomenon of narco-trafficking and, on the other, addiction,” he said. “Often they go unnoticed, often they hide beneath the rug. They must be made visible in order to deal with them in a more efficient way.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

This Week: Fed minutes, Levi Strauss earns, jobs report

A look at some of the key business events and economic indicators upcoming this week: CLOSE-UP ON THE FED The Federal Reserve serves up the minutes from its most recent interest rate policy meeting Wednesday. At the meeting last month, the central bank intensified its fight against high inflation, raising its key interest rate by […]
23 hours ago
A person wearing a protective mask watches an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 ind...
Associated Press

Asian shares mixed, oil steady ahead of July 4 holiday in US

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares were mixed in Asia on Monday while U.S. futures fell ahead of the July 4 holiday in the U.S. Benchmarks rose in Tokyo, Shanghai and Sydney but fell in Hong Kong and Seoul. Oil prices were steady after surging on Friday. Last week was the fourth losing week in the last […]
23 hours ago
FILE - Fireworks explode over Baltimore's Inner Harbor during the Ports America Chesapeake 4th of J...
Associated Press

A turbulent US this July 4, but many see cause to celebrate

Independence Day arrives at a time when the United States is roiled by hearings over the Jan. 6 insurrection, awash in turmoil over high court rulings on abortion and guns and struggling to maintain the common bonds that keep it together. Yet many also see cause to celebrate: The pandemic continues to be on the […]
23 hours ago
Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, testifies about h...
Associated Press

Jan 6 panel: More people turn up with evidence against Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — More witnesses are coming forward with new details on the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot following former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s devastating testimony last week against former President Donald Trump, says a member of a House committee investigating the insurrection. The panel already has subpoenaed former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, […]
23 hours ago
Associated Press

Today in History: July 4, Declaration of Independence

Today in History Today is Monday, July 4, the 185th day of 2022. There are 180 days left in the year. This is Independence Day. Today’s Highlight in History: On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted by delegates to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia. On this date: In 1802, the United […]
23 hours ago
This image released by Bleecker Street shows Freida Pinto, left, and Zawe Ashton in a scene from "M...
Associated Press

‘Minions’ set box office on fire with $108.5 million debut

Families went bananas for Minions this weekend at the movie theater. ” Minions: The Rise of Gru ” brought in an estimated $108.5 million in ticket sales from 4,391 screens in North America, Universal Pictures said Sunday. By the end of the Monday’s July Fourth holiday, it will likely have earned over $127.9 million. The […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
Argentina reels as toxic batch of cocaine kills at least 23