Monday I linked to the LA Times story on Mexican black tar heroin,
The LA Times report continues,
Part two: Black tar moves in, and death follows
Dealers work systematically, pushing heroin in areas where users are unprepared for its potency.
Immigrants from Xalisco, in the Pacific coast state of Nayarit, Mexico, have brought the heroin north over the last decade, and with it a highly effective business model featuring deep discounts and convenient delivery by car. Their success is a major reason why Mexican black tar has seized a growing share of the U.S. heroin market, according to government estimates.
Xalisco networks are decentralized, with no all-powerful boss, and they largely avoid guns and violence. Staying clear of the nation’s largest cities, where established organizations control the heroin trade, Xalisco dealers have cultivated markets in the mountain states and parts of the Midwest and Appalachia, often creating demand for heroin in cities and towns where there had been little or none. In many of those places, authorities report a sharp rise in heroin overdoses and deaths.
Before the string of fatal overdoses in 2007, “we didn’t even consider heroin an issue,” said Huntington Police Chief Skip Holbrook.
Xalisco dealers have been particularly successful in areas where addiction to prescription painkillers like OxyContin was widespread. Many of those addicts, mainly young middle- and working-class whites, switched to black tar, which is cheaper and more powerful.
University towns have been especially fertile markets for Xalisco heroin.
Competition among Xalisco networks kept prices low. OxyContin pills cost $80 apiece and addicts needed five or six a day. Black-tar heroin was stronger and cost less than $50 for a day’s fix.
In the mid-1990s, men from Xalisco began selling black-tar heroin across America. A friend who ran a heroin network recruited Avila to work as a driver in Phoenix.
Avila, then 19, accepted. Every day, he drove around the city, his mouth full of tiny, uninflated balloons, each filled with a tenth of a gram of heroin. Addicts phoned in orders. A dispatcher relayed them to Avila, who delivered the drugs to customers and collected payment.
Five months later, he took a bus back to Xalisco with $15,000 in his pocket. He was wearing new Levi’s 501s — a prized garment in many Mexican villages.
“That night was the first time we had more than enough to eat,” Avila said.
His parents never asked how he made the money.
In the Xalisco system, drivers commonly strike out on their own after a few years and set up delivery operations. In 1997, Avila told his boss that he was going to seek his own heroin market in New Mexico.
A friend told Avila about addicts in Santa Fe, so he went there. He found those addicts and through them many more, including dozens in Taos, Xalisco’s sister city. A half hour away, he discovered the town of Chimayo, in the verdant Espanola Valley, with one of the highest rates of heroin addiction in the country. Soon, Avila’s cheap, powerful black tar drove out the powder heroin that addicts had been using.
Avila declined to reveal where he got his heroin, other than to say that Nayarit’s mountains are filled with small poppy farms and that black tar is easily made.
In Albuquerque, he bought a counterfeit birth certificate and driver’s license; he crossed the border posing as an American from then on. Back in Xalisco, he hired drivers from villages near his own, paying smugglers to bring them across the border.
“Some drivers just wanted enough to build a decent house or buy a new truck. Then they were coming back home,” he said. “Some wanted to fly, like I did.”
He returned to Emiliano Zapata and for three years managed the business from Mexico, returning to the United States only occasionally. At home, families asked him for loans; some paid him back. Poor young men asked him for work up north.
He took his family to fine restaurants in Tepic, where they nervously rubbed elbows with the city’s middle class.
“Our life changed entirely,” he said. “It gave me more self-assuredness. If you have a peso in your pocket, you feel lighter of spirit. The weight of life is easier to carry.”
Heroin opened vistas for other sugar cane cutters’ sons as well. The village’s moneyed classes no longer could talk down to farmers.
Slide show: Living on black tar heroin.
I’ll be talking about this in today’s podcast at 11AM Eastern.