Tainted Cocaine Kills 20, Sickens 74

Authorities in Argentina suspect batch was deliberately poisoned
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 3, 2022 4:08 AM CST
Tainted Cocaine Kills 20, Sickens 74
Relatives and friends of people who were poisoned with adulterated cocaine cry after talking to doctors outside the emergency room of a hospital in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022.   (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

Apparently adulterated cocaine killed 20 people and seriously sickened 74 others in Buenos Aires, health officials said early Thursday as authorities searched frantically for the remainder of the deadly batch to get it off the streets before it is consumed. Experts are still analyzing the drug to determine what was in it that caused the deaths. Judicial officials said one hypothesis being considered is that the cocaine was intentionally adulterated as part of a settling of scores between traffickers. Police said the cocaine was sold in the poor neighborhood "Puerta 8" in San Martín—a suburb to the north of Argentina’s capital—and a dozen people have been arrested, the AP reports.

"This event is absolutely exceptional. We have no precedent," San Martín Attorney General Marcelo Lapargo told cable channel Todo Noticias. "If the situation has escalated and the nature of trafficking has changed to the point where this becomes commonplace, I hope I never see it again." Argentine authorities initially reported that eight members of the same group had died after buying the drug Tuesday. But as time passed, the number of deaths grew. The province's health ministry said early Thursday that 20 people had died and 74 more were in the hospital, with 18 of those requiring mechanical respiration.

"The urgency is to remove the poison from the market, to stop it from being sold,“ Lapargo said. "There must be a lot of people with a bag in their pocket and the number of people hospitalized shows that the most important thing is to stop this extremely high risk.” Authorities urged anyone who might have bought the deadly drug not to use it. Sergio Berni, the security minister for Buenos Aires province, called on "those who have bought drugs in the last 24 hours to discard what they bought."

(More cocaine stories.)

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