Secretary Antony J. Blinken Following a Meeting with Mayors from the Western Hemisphere To Discuss Efforts to Combat Fentanyl

Secretary Antony J. Blinken Following a Meeting with Mayors from the Western Hemisphere To Discuss Efforts to Combat Fentanyl

MAYOR HANCOCK:  We are so honored to first host our Secretary of State, Secretary Blinken, to Denver and of course, the 250 mayors from around the Western Hemisphere and over 3,000 other leaders from around the hemisphere who have come to Denver to be a part of the Cities Summit of the Americas.  What a tremendous honor it is for Denver to host it.

One might ask why the Secretary of State would be interested in the issue of fentanyl.  And he’ll share with you we just had a phenomenal conversation with mayors from Ecuador, Canada, and a couple of us from here in the U.S. about the scourge of fentanyl in our communities.  Here in Denver, we have seen, as we have tested fentanyl or drugs that have come in, a 4,500 percent increase of the presence of fentanyl and these drugs over the last – since 2019?

PARTICIPANT:  I think 2018.

MAYOR HANCOCK:  2018.  And today we are talking about over 400 overdoses in Denver occurred last year.  More than 50 percent them had fentanyl as part of the drug that took the lives of people in our city.  So this is a major, major issue not only in Denver.  But as the Secretary will talk about, this is an international problem and one in which it’s going to – Denver can’t do it by itself.  The city from Canada couldn’t do it by itself or Ecuador.  It’s going to take an international effort to make it happen.

So we’ve had a wonderful conversation with the Secretary.  I’m excited that he is putting the full weight of the Department of State – State Department, excuse me, behind this issue as we combat it.

And I’ll just finish with this, Mr. Secretary, we talked briefly about many mayors in Colorado had come together to really try to convince our state legislature last year to felonize four grams of – less than four grams of fentanyl.  And it was a battle, but the numbers that you talked about that in 2022 the U.S. seized more – enough fentanyl to kill every American in the United States.


MAYOR HANCOCK:  It’s a scary proposition.  And the one word that was used by just about every mayor upstairs, this is a scary situation.  And so I am grateful that you have put the full weight of the State Department behind this issue.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you, Mr. Mayor.

MAYOR HANCOCK:  Thank you for choosing Denver and for being here.  I’ll turn it over to our Secretary of State, Antony Blinken.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, Mr. Mayor, thank you so much.  And first of all, we’re so grateful to be here in Denver for this Cities Summit of the Americas.  We’re connecting cities across our hemisphere, and it’s an incredibly powerful thing because what we’re finding – and Denver is a great example of this – so many of the problems that different communities are trying to solve are shared problems, common problems.  And to the extent we can find best practices and see what’s working in one place and share that in another, we’re going to be able to get ahead of the game on challenges that are actually even global in nature, not simply local, but they start and are addressed at the local level.

What we’re talking about here today is unfortunately one of the most powerful examples of that.  As the mayor said, last year in the United States, we seized enough fentanyl to kill every single American.  And that’s the fentanyl we seized; the sea is much larger.  The number one killer of Americans aged 18 to 49 is synthetic opioids, notably fentanyl.  And by its very nature, this is a problem that requires us to work at a local level, at a national level, and at an international level.

As the mayor said, you might ask why someone in my job focusing in on this here in Denver, and it’s precisely because of that.  Just to give you a couple of quick examples, what Denver is doing so remarkably well both on dealing with prevention, with treatment, with recovery, with detection, with law enforcement, all of that is a powerful example for other communities that may be affected down the road if they’re not already affected by synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

And what we’ve seen here is the United States has been something of the canary in the coal mine.  It hit us here before it’s hit many other places, but now we see it picking up in Mexico, in Canada.  We heard from our colleague from Vancouver the numbers in Canada are dramatic, and we know it’s going to spread to other places in the world.  Our market is increasingly saturated.  The criminal enterprises that are engaged in producing and distributing synthetic opioids like fentanyl are trying to make markets elsewhere.

So the more we can learn about how a city like Denver is being affected in dealing with the problems at a local level, the better we’ll be able to share that with countries around the world.  But we also need their help.  Much of the fentanyl that’s coming into the United States starts halfway around the world with perfectly legal chemicals that may be produced in one country then sent somewhere else, including to Mexico, and diverted into illegal use and used to manufacture fentanyl.

So having the cooperation and collaboration of countries around the world to prevent that diversion is critical.  And we’ve got to get countries involved, we have to get the private sector involved because these chemicals are made, manufactured, and shipped.  And all of us together can do a much better job in making sure that these chemicals are not diverted into illegal use and fabrication of fentanyl.

It’s one of the reasons why President Biden is building an international coalition of concerned countries to work together to get ahead of this around the world.  But at the same time, when I’m going around the world and people are asking, well okay, what is the United States doing about this at home, I’m able to point to a city like Denver that’s leading on this effort in trying to reduce demand, in dealing with prevention, in dealing with treatment, in dealing effectively with law enforcement.  It’s an incredibly powerful example that I can share.

And then finally, there’s a big law enforcement component to this at a local level but also at an international level.  Much of this is driven by large transnational criminal enterprises that we’re working every single day to break up, to break down, to break down the financing, the production, the distribution.  But if we’re not working at every single one of these levels – at the local level, at the national level, the international level – we’re not going to solve the problem.

So being here, having so many of our colleagues from around the hemisphere here in Denver, to see what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, and then being able to share their own experiences and for us to be able to then build partnerships, that’s the way we’re ultimately going to get ahead of this problem.  So I’m really grateful — Mr. Mayor, to you; Mr. Director to you – for sharing everything that you’re doing here in Denver, and we’re determined together to get ahead of it.  Thanks, everyone.

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