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ArticleNEW YORK (AP) - Coronavirus is dealing a gut punch to the illegal drug trade, paralyzing economies, closing borders and severing supply chains in China that traffickers rely on for the chemicals to make such profitable drugs as methamphetamine and fentanyl. One of the main suppliers that shut down is in Wuhan, the epicenter of the global outbreak. Associated Press interviews with nearly two dozen law enforcement officials and trafficking experts found Mexican and Colombian cartels are still plying their trade as evidenced by recent drug seizures but the lockdowns that have turned cities into ghost towns are disrupting everything from production to transport to sales. Along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border through which the vast majority of illegal drugs cross, the normally bustling vehicle traffic that smugglers use for cover has slowed to a trickle. Bars, nightclubs and motels across the country that are ordinarily fertile marketplaces for drug dealers have shuttered. And prices for drugs in short supply have soared to gouging levels. "They are facing a supply problem and a demand problem," said Alejandro Hope, a security analyst and former official with CISEN, the Mexican intelligence agency. "Once you get them to the market, who are you going to sell to?" Virtually every illicit drug has been impacted, with supply chain disruptions at both the wholesale and retail level. Traffickers are stockpiling narcotics and cash along the border, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration even reports a decrease in money laundering and online drug sales on the so-called dark web. "The godfathers of the cartels are scrambling," said Phil Jordan, a former director of the DEA's El Paso Intelligence Center. Cocaine prices are up 20 percent or more in some...
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