US lashes out against “mass-produced” fentanyl in Mexico

DEA Director Anne Milgram said fentanyl remains “the number one threat to the U.S.” because it kills nearly 200 people daily

Fentanyl “mass-produced in Mexico” by cartels remains the main threat to the United States, because “its only limit” is the chemicals to manufacture it, warned the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on Thursday.

This synthetic opioid, up to 50 times more potent than heroin, kills nearly 200 people a day in the United States, according to official data, and is responsible for two-thirds of the 107,735 drug overdose deaths recorded in the country in 2021.

“It is the deadliest drug the United States has ever faced,” DEA Director Anne Milgram reiterated during a session of the House Judiciary subcommittee on crime and oversight of the federal government.

“Fentanyl is cheap to manufacture, easy to conceal, and deadly to those who take it. Just two milligrams, the equivalent of a few grains of salt, can kill a person,” he explained.

The worrying thing about synthetic drugs is that their “only limit” is “the chemicals you can buy” to make them, she added.

According to her, the supply chain begins in China with companies manufacturing chemicals known as precursors that are the building blocks of fentanyl and methamphetamines.

These substances “are shipped to Mexico or other places in Latin America” and then taken to Mexican territory where the cartels, especially the Sinaloa and Jalisco Cartel – New Generation, manufacture fentanyl.

They then ship it to the United States in powder or pill form, mixed with other drugs, such as cocaine, or in pills as if they were counterfeit prescription painkillers.

“To be very clear, those pills are being mass produced in Mexico. Fentanyl is being mass-produced in Mexico,” Milgram stressed.

In 2022 the DEA seized 400 million lethal doses of fentanyl, and so far this year it has already confiscated more than 200 million, he detailed.

The DEA chief is concerned about how drug traffickers are “driving demand” in a way never before seen, introducing fentanyl into other products to “mass produce.”

Designating cartels as terrorist groups

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been under pressure since some Republican congressmen in March called for designating the cartels as “terrorist” groups and allowing the U.S. military to fight them wherever they are, but none mentioned this possibility on Thursday.

Mexico is not the DEA’s only concern. Colombian drug trafficking organizations “not only ship cocaine directly to the United States” but “increasingly through the Mexican cartels” of Sinaloa and Jalisco Nueva Generación, Milgram said, according to which the same is true of Peru and other South American countries.

To deal with the opioid crisis, Washington has changed its strategy. It is no longer focusing only on the kingpins, but on the entire supply chain: from the shipment of precursor chemicals to transportation to the United States, especially through ports of entry on the Mexican border.

Another major concern for the DEA is the use of social media and encrypted platforms by cartels to deliver drugs to their victims, sometimes teenagers who think they are taking a painkiller.

The DEA also tracks cryptocurrencies because it has observed “a large amount of Chinese money laundering by drug cartels in the United States.”

Two congressmen, Republican Matt Gaetz and Democrat Steve Cohen, brought up a contentious issue: the elimination of the federal ban on marijuana, whose recreational use is legal in 23 states.

In 2022, Biden called on the Department of Health and Human Services and Attorney General Merrick Garland to review how marijuana should be categorized in federal law.

“Studies amply demonstrate that in states with access to medical marijuana there is a lower rate of prescribing these opioids that can lead to addiction,” Gaetz said.

Milgram claimed to have not yet received the findings, which are necessary for the DEA to make its own assessment.

Categorized in:

Tagged in: