Crime Methamphetamine Traffickers in Mexico Become Global Wholesalers


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Jan 17, 2010
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by Victoria Dittmar

After a long day of work in the highlands, a coordinator for several clandestine methamphetamine and fentanyl laboratories in the Mexican state of Sinaloa climbed to the top of a mountain to get a cell phone signal.

It was around nine o’clock at night, in early March. A few minutes after arriving, the coordinator received a call from an acquaintance in the city of Culiacán, the state capital. Also on the call was an InSight Crime team member.

This was the second time InSight Crime had spoken to this coordinator. Previously, he had explained that he worked for various drug production and trafficking networks associated with the Chapitos and Ismael Zambada García, alias “El Mayo,” two of the main factions of the Sinaloa Cartel. In addition to his administrative duties, the coordinator’s role involves maintaining contact with synthetic drug buyers abroad.

Amid interruptions due to a bad signal and motorcycle noises, he explained his take on trends in the international methamphetamine trafficking scene.

“The goal is to send crystal [methamphetamine] all over the world. That’s what’s happening,” he said.

He was referring to Mexican trafficking networks’ ambitions to expand their circle of clients beyond the United States in search of better prices. Several methamphetamine producers and wholesalers interviewed by InSight Crime over the past two years have also alluded to this aim.

Their efforts to try to get Mexican methamphetamine into new markets have attracted the attention of international authorities, particularly over the last decade. And in the last seven months, there have been record seizures in Europe and Asia.

In early February, for example, Irish police seized half a ton of the drug in the port of Cork and linked the shipment to networks associated with the Sinaloa Cartel, according to press reports. Four months earlier, in October 2023, Hong Kong customs authorities made the largest seizure of solid methamphetamine in the island’s history, finding 1.1 tons from Mexico.

In Search of More Profitable Markets


Expanding into new markets is a strategic financial move. Production costs per kilogram of methamphetamine can be as high as $1,000, to which must be added transportation costs, bribes, and the occasional fees paid to criminal groups along the route, according to the coordinator and other methamphetamine producers interviewed by InSight Crime in Sinaloa and Michoacán.

Profits in Mexico and the United States are barely enough to cover this investment. On average, a kilogram of wholesale methamphetamine sells for $600 in Mexico and $5,000 in the United States, according to the same sources.

“We need to look for new markets to offset all the costs,” a methamphetamine producer in Michoacán told InSight Crime in December 2022.

Europe and Oceania offer an opportunity for higher profits. Although transport costs increase, the same amount of methamphetamine can be worth an average of $20,000 in European countries and up to $190,000 in Australia and New Zealand, according to data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).

With the potential for such huge profits, Australian and New Zealand authorities have begun to see a significant flow of methamphetamine from Mexico since 2018.

“These [Mexican] organized crime groups are constantly targeting New Zealand … They are importing illicit drugs, establishing supply lines to domestic markets, and then moving their profits out of the country,” Greg Williams, director of the New Zealand Police’s national organized crime task force, said in a press release on February 13.



“Drugs in Australia get very high prices when compared to other markets … there’s a very clear incentive for these groups to take a more interested look,” Anthea McCarthy-Jones, an organized crime expert and senior lecturer at the University of New South Wales, told InSight Crime.

Methamphetamine Moves Through Major Ports Worldwide

The Sinaloa lab coordinator explained that methamphetamine shipments to Europe and Oceania are often sent via maritime or air trade routes, camouflaged among widely traded legal products.

In recent seizures, for example, Mexican traffickers have hidden methamphetamine in boxes of coconut water, steel, seashells, hydraulic presses, and even in boxes with Mexican government seals.

To minimize the risk of detection, traffickers often use ports and airports with a high flow of cargo. It is therefore not surprising that the European ports of Rotterdam, Valencia, Hamburg, and Cork, as well as the international airport of Amsterdam-Schipol, have detected large quantities of methamphetamine of Mexican origin in the past.

The port of Hong Kong has also become a key point on the route to Asia and Oceania. It receives products from around the world, and almost all the shipping companies that connect the Mexican ports of Manzanillo and Lázaro Cárdenas — which are close to drug production zones — with Asia pass through that territory.

Since at least 2020, Hong Kong authorities have seen an increase in methamphetamine seizures. Mexico has been the most common source country for these shipments.

But routes are not always direct. The lab coordinator said that long and complicated routes can be useful to distract the authorities.

Recent journalistic investigations have supported this. In January 2024, for example, the Canadian media outlet the Vancouver Sun found that the port of Vancouver was used as a transshipment point to send methamphetamine from Mexico to Australia, via Canada.


Criminal Competition


Although they are expanding their international trade, the involvement of Mexican traffickers in the European and Oceanian drug markets is still in its early stages.

Unlike in the United States, where they have access to most of the market, in Europe and Oceania Mexican groups must collaborate and compete with various organizations from different countries that have established strong supply lines and customer relationships over the years.

Towards the end of the call, the Sinaloa lab coordinator explained that Mexican networks simply sell the drugs wholesale to various family clans or gangs on these continents, who then take care of regional distribution. He declined to name specific criminal organizations he was working with abroad.

This idea is in line with McCarthy-Jones’ research in Australia. She said that criminal organizations in the Golden Triangle, a center of drug production in Southeast Asia, continue to be the main suppliers of methamphetamine there.

“[Mexican criminal groups] are wholesalers,” she explained. “I think they probably are competing against each other. And I would imagine that the Mexicans are looking to increase their market share.”

According to McCarthy-Jones, Mexican traffickers have so far relied on brokers to make the connections with Australian and New Zealand distributors, meaning they maintain a certain distance. The brokers are often knowledgeable about the local scene and are responsible for navigating the logistics and making the right contacts on behalf of the Mexicans.

“They are essential in a protection and security sense … to protect your own organization against law enforcement efforts,” she added.

The situation is similar in Europe. While authorities have detected large seizures of Mexican methamphetamine, connections to European organizations also appear limited to the use of intermediaries or emissaries.

“There is a huge supply of methamphetamine directly from Mexico to Europe. We haven’t seen any big cases for a while,” Andrew Cunningham, director of drug markets, crime and supply reduction at EMCDDA told InSight Crime.

Cunningham added that the participation of Mexican organizations in European markets may vary by country. The greatest involvement has been seen in Spain, where the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) was associated with a 1.6 ton shipment of methamphetamine in 2019.

However, most of the shipments intercepted in Europe are presumably en route to other non-European countries, rather than destined for local consumption, according to a 2022 report by the EMCDDA and a joint report of the same year by Europol and the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Meanwhile, local methamphetamine production and distribution appears to remain dominated by local criminal groups.

*Parker Asmann, Peter Appleby, and Douwe Den Held contributed to this article. Miguel Angel Vega contributed with field work.

Beyond China: How Other Countries Provide Precursor Chemicals to Mexico​

by Sara Garcia

On September 21, 2021, Javier Algredo Vázquez was on his way to a US law enforcement office to reclaim chemical substances authorities had seized from him days earlier. In some respects, his trip that day was a remarkable act of hubris. But in other respects, it could be seen as business as usual.
The 50-year-old was born in Mexico and had lived with his family for decades in Queens County, New York, where he had worked at a prestigious hotel chain for over 15 years. But Algredo was also an entrepreneur. In the decade prior, he’d created a company that did regular business with chemical distributors in various countries. His brother, Carlos, was also a businessman with a seemingly prominent chemical import company in Mexico.

Their businesses, however, were under scrutiny. Unbeknownst to both at the time, Carlos had been indicted by US justice officials for charges related to precursor chemical distribution and methamphetamine production and trafficking. More importantly, his clandestine business partners in Mexico had already been designated in the United States as one of the main purveyors of fentanyl, the deadly synthetic opioid that was responsible for tens of thousands of overdose deaths in the country each year.

In spite of the network’s nefarious ties, the brothers could also claim to be following international standards and global regulatory conventions. Although some of the chemicals they sold were heavily regulated in the United States, Mexico, and China, they were not in India, Germany, and Turkey. What’s more, Javier had legitimate paperwork to back up his commercial transactions.

In this context, it’s not clear if Javier ever expected to be in the crosshairs of the authorities. But as soon as he arrived at the office, he was arrested and accused of providing chemical substances from various countries to criminal groups in Mexico for the production of synthetic drugs. Among his clients, prosecutors said, was the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación – CJNG), one of the world’s most powerful drug trafficking organizations and one of two major suppliers of fentanyl to the United States.

Using various front companies, prosecutors alleged that the Algredo brothers made regular chemical purchases, primarily from Chinese chemical suppliers, that were later used to produce synthetic drugs. China is one of the world’s largest chemical production hubs and the primary source of precursor chemicals used in fentanyl and methamphetamine production in Mexico, as InSight Crime has previously reported.

However, the Algredo brothers’ operation extended well beyond China. US prosecutors claimed the brothers had also established a vast network of chemical suppliers in India and Turkey. And an InSight Crime analysis of shipping data revealed numerous other transactions with companies in Germany and the United States. The chemicals the brothers purchased left major seaports in shipping containers that crossed both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

The Algredo brothers’ diverse supply chain is typical for these underworld markets. While China remains a key hub, brokers who supply synthetic drug producers in Mexico rely on chemical industries in several countries across Europe, Asia, and the Americas, according to dozens of interviews InSight Crime conducted over two years with synthetic drug producers in the Mexican states of Sinaloa and Michoacán, law enforcement agents and government officials from various countries, and academics and representatives of multilateral organizations.

The availability of these chemicals globally is one of the principal challenges law enforcement faces in curbing the synthetic drug trade. While China has cracked down on the production and sale of certain chemicals over the last decade, regulations and laws of other chemical-producing countries are often far less strict, and have numerous loopholes and gaps in enforcement. In fact, many of the substances needed to produce synthetic drugs are legally produced and marketed for numerous industries, making it easier to divert them for illicit purposes without being detected by authorities and the chemical companies that are supposed to be monitoring their own supply chains.

The result is a seemingly endless supply of the raw ingredients needed to make the deadliest drugs the world has ever seen.

Different Countries, Different Laws

In Javier’s indictment and in other court documents related to the case, prosecutors in the District of Columbia said he had used Pro Chemie New York Inc., a company he owned and had registered in the state of New York, to acquire these chemical products. His brother, Carlos, allegedly received the shipments in Mexico through another company, MB Barter & Trading S.A. de C.V., which was based in Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl in the State of Mexico.

Between 2018 and 2021, the Algredo brothers’ network diverted a total of 1,453 tons of chemical substances for methamphetamine production, 1,848 tons of substances used to enhance the potency of methamphetamine, and 44.1 tons of chemicals for fentanyl production, according to court records. Most of these chemicals came from China.

Nonetheless, the Algredo brothers also dealt with companies in other countries. For example, they obtained acetic acid from Turkey and sodium carbonate from Germany, according to the Altana Atlas, a dynamic map of global supply chains. These substances, which are used in the production of fentanyl and methamphetamine, are strictly regulated in Mexico. But in Turkey and Germany, they are not.

The patterns point to the central weakness of the current global regulatory system. Synthetic drug producers rely on a variety of substances, from precursors that are highly regulated, to essential chemical substances with dual uses. As regulators and law enforcement place controls on precursor chemicals, synthetic drug producers adapt their formulas so that they can use “pre-precursors,” and shift their supply lines in the process.

Although most countries are party to international conventions that provide guidelines for controlling and monitoring the use of these chemicals, regulations and laws vary widely from country to country. These disparities have significant implications.

To begin with, the lack of global agreement on the control of chemicals gives drug producers a wide variety of potential suppliers and transit points. When regulations increase in one country, as they have in Mexico and China, criminal networks find new substances and suppliers in countries with fewer controls.

Expanding the geographic scope of potential suppliers, as well as trafficking routes, also helps traffickers elude detection, several methamphetamine and fentanyl producers told InSight Crime. They use companies and transporters that offer quality products while minimizing risk in transit, they explained.

“We look for the most convenient route, which is not necessarily the most direct. … Wherever it’s possible,” said one coordinator of several clandestine synthetic drug laboratories in Culiacán, Sinaloa.

The result is that India, Germany, the United States, and Guatemala are now among a growing list of countries that play an important role in the supply chain of chemical substances used to produce methamphetamine and fentanyl in Mexico. Aside from China, these were the countries that were most frequently cited in judicial records consulted by InSight Crime, data of chemical shipments documented in the Altana Atlas, interviews we conducted with officials in these countries, and our fieldwork across Mexico’s synthetic drug-production epicenters.

While India serves as a country of origin due to its significant chemical industry and lenient regulations, Germany and the United States serve as both source countries and transit points for pre-precursors and essential chemicals. Meanwhile, Guatemala acts as a key transit point for chemical substances that are diverted before being transported to Mexico.

Using a list developed by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and various government counternarcotics and regulatory agencies’ lists, as well as open-source methods of synthetic drug production, InSight Crime identified 30 key precursors and pre-precursors, and another 43 key essential chemical substances that are currently used in the production of fentanyl and methamphetamine.

Of our bespoke list, Mexico has put 23 of these precursors and pre-precursors, along with 18 essential chemical substances on its controlled-substances list; the United States has 22 precursors and pre-precursors, along with 4 essential chemicals on its controlled-substances lists; Guatemala has 19 precursors and pre-precursors, and 12 essential chemicals on its watch list; Germany has 17 precursors and pre-precursors and 3 essential chemicals on its watch list; and India has 13 precursors and pre-precursors and none of the essential chemicals on its watch list.

The lack of uniformity even applies to the most important chemicals for synthetic drug production. For example, methylamine is used in the chemical, agrochemical, and pharmaceutical industries, but it is also an oft-used precursor for the production of methamphetamine and was one of the chemicals the Algredo brothers were trafficking to the CJNG in large quantities. It is included in Mexico’s federal law on precursors and is on the US list of controlled chemical substances. However, it is not considered in any regulations in India, and it is only monitored on a voluntary basis in Germany. Similarly, benzylfentanyl, a fentanyl pre-precursor, is on watch lists in Mexico and the United States but is not strictly regulated in India, Germany, or Guatemala.
These disparities mean that a large part of the precursor chemical supply chain can be sourced legally. For example, the Algredo network’s shipments to Pro Chemie New York and MB Barter & Trading may have met regulations. They made purchases from chemical companies in India, Germany, and the United States, some of which have operated for decades and supplied chemical substances to several billion-dollar industries. This was what may have given Javier Algredo the confidence to try and reclaim his lost merchandise that fateful September 2021 day.

His suppliers were also not necessarily transporting controlled substances. And they could have formed part of the precursor distribution chain without being aware that the chemical products they were selling were being diverted to produce illegal synthetic drugs in Mexico. What’s more, while regulations on the companies producing and trading chemical products may be comprehensive, they may not require the companies to do much due diligence in terms of collecting comprehensive data on the end-users acquiring these substances.

In terms of a lack of due diligence, the Algredo network is a case in point. Neither the company addresses for Pro Chemie New York and MB Barter & Trading registered with US and Mexican authorities, nor where they reportedly received the multi-ton chemical shipments, reflected a company that handled these types of products. In fact, a Google Maps search of both locations revealed they were homes located in residential areas. There was also no evidence to suggest they had the infrastructure in place or that other chemical distribution companies were operating in the area.

India: Large Production, Few Controls

On December 19, 2020, a ship departed the port of Mundra in northwest India and entered the Arabian Sea loaded with 22.6 tons of oxalic acid. The chemical is mostly used as a cleaning product, but it is also an essential chemical used to synthesize methamphetamine. The cargo’s final destination was the Port of Veracruz, on Mexico’s Gulf Coast. Just six months later, two more shipments containing several tons of oxalic acid departed from Mundra en route to the Mexican ports of Veracruz and Manzanillo, on the Pacific coast.

While Pro Chemie New York purchased the chemicals, it was MB Barter & Trading that was listed as the “notify party” on the bill of lading. The supplier was Punjab Chemicals & Crop Protection, a chemical producer with decades of experience distributing over 220 products from its base in Dera Bassi, Punjab, in northern India.

US court documents in the Algredo case mention Punjab Chemicals, but they do not say whether the company was aware that the chemicals would be diverted for illicit drug production in Mexico. InSight Crime contacted representatives of the company but did not receive a response by the time of this report’s publication.

However, with the assistance of Altana, InSight Crime found other suspicious transactions by the company. Between 2016 and 2020, Punjab Chemicals conducted six other transactions with Pro Chemie New York, shipping a total of 154 tons of oxalic acid to the ports of Veracruz and Manzanillo, according to shipping data. During that same time, it also sent 40 shipments of oxalic acid to three other chemical companies in Mexico. Two of the companies they traded with are frequent buyers of chemicals on the US government’s lists of controlled substances, according to Altana.

The Altana Atlas also showed that between 2017 and 2020, at least one other company based in Mumbai, India, sent nearly 177 tons of oxalic acid in eight shipments to MB Barter & Trading. These were all sent from the port of Mundra to the ports of Altamira, Veracruz, and Manzanillo in Mexico.

All these shipments are small compared to the total amount of oxalic acid imported by Mexico in any given year, but they are still significant. For instance, in 2020, the total amount of oxalic acid imported by Mexico was at least 2,324 tons, according to the Altana Atlas. The December 2020 shipment from Punjab Chemicals that departed from the port of Mundra would therefore account for 1% of that yearly amount.

Oxalic acid is not on any watch lists in India, Mexico, or the United States, so the transactions documented in the case against Javier Algredo were legal, and neither the Punjab-based company nor anyone from the company have faced charges. But it is this combination of lax regulations and a vibrant chemical industry that makes India increasingly important in the flow of precursor chemicals to Mexico.


Globally, India ranks as the seventh-largest producer of chemical substances and the third-largest in Asia. The chemical industry accounts for 7% of its gross domestic product (GDP). Additionally, India’s pharmaceutical industry supplies 50% of the global demand for vaccines, 40% of generic drugs consumed in the United States, and 25% of all medicines required in the United Kingdom.

Some of these chemicals are potent. In 2022, for example, data collected by the INCB showed that India emerged as the leading exporter of N-phenethyl-4-piperidone (NPP), a pre-precursor used to produce medical-grade fentanyl, which is heavily regulated in India. The country is also an important source of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, two pharmaceuticals that are commonly used as precursors for methamphetamine synthesis in various parts of the world — although not in Mexico — according to the INCB’s 2022 annual report.

Trade between India and Mexico is also significant. In 2021, India exported products worth $4.44 billion to Mexico, $603 million of which corresponded to the chemical industry. Moreover, in 2023, India was the third-most common country of origin, after China and the United States, for shipments of pre-precursors and essential chemical substances to Mexico, according to the Altana Atlas. This included over 370 tons of acetic acid derivatives, 34 tons of benzyl alcohol, over 330 tons of acetone, and 8.1 tons of benzaldehyde derivatives, none of which are heavily regulated in India.

To some extent, the data tracks with previous reports by organizations like the Brookings Institution and the Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking, as well as European drug-market analysts interviewed by InSight Crime. They have argued that India developed a greater role in the flow of precursor chemicals to Mexico after China imposed stricter controls over fentanyl, its analogues, and methamphetamine and fentanyl precursors over the last decade.

However, rather than coinciding with changes in regulatory regimes and laws in other countries like China, the data suggests that India has long been an important source for these types of products for Mexican buyers. While the total value of chemical exports from India to Mexico did grow from $470 million in 2019 to $600 million in 2021, there has not been any significant increase in the shipments of substances that InSight Crime identified as potentially being used for drug production since 2016, according to the Altana Atlas.

The companies that send precursors, pre-precursors, and essential chemicals to Mexico tend to be large firms with decades of experience in both domestic and international markets. They typically engage in the production, distribution, and export of pharmaceutical and chemical products, some of which are marketed for the food industry, veterinary care, and petrochemicals. Most of these companies are located near major cities, such as Mumbai, Hyderabad, Vadodara, Ahmedabad, and Mohali.

The Indian government has various requirements for chemical companies to export chemicals. In addition to issuing a permit, they request that exporters fill out a form with their personal information and that of the importer, as well as details of the chemical substances, their intended use, and the company’s form of payment.

However, Indian regulations on precursors, pre-precursors, and essential chemical substances are less stringent than in other countries. Some precursors and pre-precursors for methamphetamine production, such as toluene, methylamine, nitroethane, and hydrochloric acid, which are heavily regulated in China, the United States, and Mexico, are not subject to any special regulatory controls in India. Fentanyl pre-precursors like piperidine are also not subject to any strict regulations.

This means that companies in the country are not obligated to report trade data of these less regulated substances to authorities. In turn, this impacts the notification process to the INCB or to any government who does have these chemicals on their lists of controlled chemicals. This creates a loophole, which provides an opportunity for diversion.

What’s more, the capacity of Indian companies and authorities to identify diversion strategies, such as the use of shell companies, is limited. In its 2021 report, the INCB noted that chemical and pharmaceutical companies in India were at risk of diverting substances to the illegal market and recommended the country strengthen its internal surveillance and voluntary cooperation with companies to address precursor chemical trafficking.

“The chemical industry in India is large and very poorly regulated,” Vanda Felbab-Brown, researcher and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told InSight Crime. She added that authorities have limited capacity to monitor and supervise the chemical industry, which has also become an important interest group in the country’s political arena.

Judicial cases have also shown how these gaps can facilitate the flow of chemical substances used for synthetic drug production in Mexico. In December 2018, for example, three Indian citizens were arrested in possession of 100 kilograms of NPP. This shipment was falsely marketed as flour and intended to be sent by air to Mexico. One of those arrested, Salim Dola, was later accused of working with an alleged Indian drug trafficker known as Dawood Ibrahim.

At the end of September 2018, three other people were captured in a fentanyl laboratory, including Manu Gupta, an Indian businessman. He allegedly used his company, Mondiale Mercantile, to establish commercial relationships with companies in Mexico to ship fentanyl precursors, according to a report by Forbidden Stories. Gupta is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence, according to Indian judicial documents.

The type of chemicals Gupta’s company shipped were not made public. But according to the Altana Atlas, Mondiale Mercantile made at least one shipment to Mexico of thioglycolic acid, an essential chemical used to produce methamphetamine, which is not on any Indian government watch list. This shipment was sent to a company called Corporativo y Enlace RAM, which is based in the Mexican state of Jalisco.

Corporativo y Enlace RAM faced scrutiny for its commercial transactions as well. According to a report in Milenio, Mexico’s National Intelligence Center (Centro Nacional de Inteligencia – CNI) investigated the company for allegedly diverting precursor chemicals to drug production networks associated with the Sinaloa Cartel and CJNG. In response to an InSight Crime query about the case, Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office declined to comment.

InSight Crime also made several attempts to interview officials from the Indian Narcotics Control Bureau, the Ministry of Health and Family, and the Indian Embassy in Mexico, but did not receive a response.

1.8 tonnes of methamphetamine seized from major Mexican drugs cartel​

Police believe they may have eradicated the Sinaloa cartel from Spain after raiding six properties and making five arrests.
Thursday 16 May 2024 19:23, UK

Spanish police say they have dismantled a drug distribution network run by a major South American cartel after seizing 1.8 tonnes of methamphetamine.

The Sinaloa cartel was using vehicles with false bottoms to send illegal drugs on to other European countries, Spain's National Police said.

Officers, who had doubted the cartel was established in Spain, made five arrests after raiding six properties in the Valencia region.

Those detained included a Mexican national thought to be the group's leader, as well as three Spanish people and one Romanian, police said.

Methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth, is a "highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system", according to the US government's National Institute on Drug Abuse.

It "takes the form of a white, odourless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder" and "easily dissolves in water or alcohol", the institute says.

The 1.8 tonne haul is the largest confiscation of methamphetamine ever made in Spain, police said.


Officer Antonio Martínez said it signalled the "eradication of this group".

"We in the National Police thought the Mexican cartels were not established in Spain," he said.

He added: "But it is true that due to the pressure they are under in other parts of Europe, above all against their laboratories, we are seeing how they are trying to start operations or set up illegal laboratories in Spain to produce drugs."

The investigation continues and officers said there could be further arrests.

Mexico’s efforts to seize US-bound fentanyl drop sharply, while seizures of meth soar​


MEXICO CITY (AP) — Even as Mexican-made fentanyl continues to flood into the United States, Mexico’s efforts to seize the drug have declined dramatically, according to figures released Tuesday by the Defense Department.

Figures for the first half of 2024 show that Mexican federal forces seized only 286 pounds (130 kilograms) of fentanyl nationwide between January and June, down 94% from the 5,135 pounds (2,329 kilograms) seized in 2023.

The synthetic opioid has been blamed for about 70,000 overdose deaths annually in the United States, and U.S. officials have tried to step up efforts to seize it as it comes over the border, often in the form of counterfeit pills made in Mexico.

But rather than join in the effort, Mexico’s Army and National Guard appeared to have refocused their attention far more toward seizing methamphetamines, which are much more widely consumed domestically in Mexico than fentanyl.

Mexico seized a record of over 400 tons of meth in 2023, more than 12 times what it seized in 2022. That pace appeared to continue in the first half of 2024, with 168 tons of methamphetamines seized.

While Mexican meth is exported widely to the United States — and also causes huge addiction problems there — unlike fentanyl, a huge amount of meth is also sold inside Mexico.

Mexico’s Defense Department did not explain why seizures of the two drugs have changed so dramatically. Some observers say the uptick in meth seizures may be the result of increasing internal disputes between the “Mayitos” and “Chapitos” factions of the Sinaloa cartel, the largest producer of meth in Mexico.

Because they belonged to the same drug trafficking networks, analysts say the two factions may have become willing and able to “drop a dime” and inform authorities about the location of their rivals’ meth labs and shipments.

But the sharp drop in fentanyl seizures appears to be harder to explain. After all, there is pressure from the United States to stem the smuggling.

The U.S. Embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mexican security analyst David Saucedo said the ongoing battles between the two Sinaloa cartel factions may have also affected fentanyl shipments.

“The war within the Sinaloa cartel between Mayo Zambada and the “Chapitos” may also be playing a role in reducing the number of shipments of fentanyl,” said Saucedo. “The war between those groups is occurring in cities and on routes that are used for shipping drugs to the border. The violence (between the two factions) inhibits shipments, for fear of losing them along the route to the border.”

The government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has always had a somewhat equivocal view on Mexico’s role in fighting fentanyl, which is largely produced by Mexican cartels using precursor chemicals imported from China and India.

López Obrador has long denied, for example, that fentanyl is even produced in Mexico, though experts — and even members of his own administration — acknowledge that it is.

I blame bald four eyed chemistry teacher and his whiny bitch of a side kick
i am so happy mexico is taking this on board properly.

australia used to rely heavily on the south east asian countries like indonesia and malaysia to get drugs from but they were easily intercepted and so many of the users were being left high and dry for ages. but im sure mexico will have a better grasp on things and be able to improve operations of being undetectable upon landing their deliveries to australia. so now i cant wait to deal with so many more drug users having gear from mexico harassing me all the time in my day to day life..