KEY POINTS

  • President Trump has announced a campaign to crackdown on international drug trafficking
  • The announcement comes days after the U.S. indicted Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro on drug charges
  • Many are questioning the use of the COVID-19 briefing to make the announcement 

In what was supposed to be a daily briefing about developments in the COVID-19 pandemic, President Trump took the opportunity to discuss a major administration crackdown on drug trafficking, claiming that cartels are exploiting the virus to push and leverage product.

The President stood flanked by members of his cabinet, as he unveiled the plan, which involves deploying additional Navy warships, surveillance aircraft and special forces teams to dramatically increase the U.S. counter-narcotics resources in the Western Hemisphere. The mission will be aided by 22 other nations, according to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and will cover the Caribbean and eastern Pacific.

KTLA 5 reports that the initiative comes on the heels of the U.S. indictment of Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro. "As governments and nations focus on the coronavirus, there's a growing threat that cartels, criminals, terrorists and other malign actors will try to exploit the situation for their own gain," Trump said. "We must not let that happen."

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley indicated credible intelligence that foreign drug traffickers were going to try to take advantage of the situation and try to smuggle additional drugs into the United States. Attorney General William Barr added that the United States must remain committed to fighting drug cartels in Mexico.

Although the policy has been largely embraced, the timing and context of the President’s announcement came under instant fire from many who have been critical of his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.  As the fatality forecast continues to increase from experts, like National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, many are questioning the relevance and appropriateness of using the COVID briefing to announce separate agenda points, particularly from an administration that offers conflicting messaging on all aspects of the pandemic.

The Trump administration and Maduro have had a bitter and contentious relationship since he assumed office.