Proof of Mexico’s Internal Fentanyl Manufacturing Grows
By KELIN DILLON
While Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has been staunch in his stance that fentanyl – the illicit and often deadly drug exacerbating the ongoing U.S. opioid crisis – is not produced in Mexico, experts say mounting evidence to the contrary may inflame the already heightened tensions over fentanyl between the United States and Mexico.
On Sunday, May 14, an exposé conducted by Mexican daily newspaper El Universal and journalist Miguel Angel Vega revealed details behind the production of fentanyl in Mexico, particularly manufacturing conducted by the notorious drug-trafficking group Sinaloa Cartel.
According to Vega’s report, the chemicals used to produce fentanyl are allegedly shipped out to Mexico via Shanghai, China, inside drums on commercial cargo ships, which are later dumped overboard into the ocean off Mexico’s Pacific coast with a GPS device attached. The material-filled drums are then purportedly retrieved from the sea by local fisherman, who go on to move the drums to nearby islands to ultimately be trafficked into Mexico by the cartel’s fleet of small planes and then produced into fentanyl, a Sinaloa Cartel member told Vega.
The exposé, which also included photographic proof of the fentanyl-production process inside Mexico, went on to reveal the cartel’s clear financial motivations behind the substance’s manufacturing: While a kilo of fentanyl only costs the drug-trafficking organization approximately $2,000 to make, the cartel can go on to flip that very same kilo of fentanyl for $12,000 in Los Angeles or $35,000 in New York City.
“The chemicals required to make fentanyl aren’t manufactured in Mexico, but everything else is,” a Sinaloa fentanyl cook told Vega. “Maybe the people who report to the president aren’t telling the truth.”
Security experts such as National Autonomous University of Mexico Center for Research on North America (Cisan) member Raúl Benítez Manaut have pointed to López Obrador’s continued denial of Mexico’s role as a primary fentanyl producer as a key issue behind the drug’s continued cross-border dominance, with Benítez Manaut saying that AMLO brushing off the issue instead of addressing it head-on allows fentanyl production and trafficking to flourish in Mexico.
“More efficiency is needed, more forcefulness, as Mexico’s criminal organizations have a lot of social and business support, and they launder their money,” said Benítez Manaut, while confirming his belief that fentanyl is in fact proven to be produced in Mexico. “It’s true that the government has made important efforts, but more is needed.”
National Institute of Criminal Sciences Professor Elba Jiménez Solares agreed with Benítez Manaut’s assessment, recalling the recent bust of a fentanyl-production laboratory in Culiacán, Sinaloa, by the Mexican Navy – additional evidence that fentanyl is in fact manufactured in Mexico.
“We have international treaties and a legal framework on drug trafficking, but they are not applied, as there is also a lack of coordination that occurs between the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Federal Bureau of Invistigation (FBI) because of internal conflict,” said Jiménez Solares.
“Besides, there is a barrier that Mexico has imposed in the sense that it is not allowing information to be shared with the DEA due to the current government’s policies,” concluded the professor.
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