Imperial Valley Press

Mexican president to U.S.: Fentanyl is your problem


MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s president said Thursday that his country does not produce or consume fentanyl, despite enormous evidence to the contrary.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador appeared to depict the synthetic opioid epidemic largely as a U.S. problem, and said the United States should use family values to fight drug addiction.

His statement came during a visit to Mexico by Liz Sherwood-Randall, the White House homeland security adviser, to discuss the fentanyl crisis. It also comes amid calls by some U.S. Republican­s to use the U.S. military to attack drug labs in Mexico.

The Mexican government has acknowledg­ed in the past that fentanyl is produced at labs in Mexico using precursor chemicals imported from China. Fentanyl has been blamed for about 70,000 opioid deaths per year in the United States.

“Here, we do not produce fentanyl, and we do not have consumptio­n of fentanyl,” López Obrador said. “Why don’t they (the United States) take care of their problem of social decay?”

He went on to recite a list of reasons why Americans might be turning to fentanyl, including single-parent families, parents who kick grown children out of their houses and people who put elderly relatives in old-age homes “and visit them once a year.”

His statement contrasted sharply with a Thursday tweet from U.S. Ambassador Ken Salazar saying a meeting between Sherwood-Randall and Mexico’s attorney general was meant “to enhance security cooperatio­n and fight against the scourge of fentanyl to better protect our two nations.”

There is little debate among U.S. and even Mexican officials that almost all the fentanyl consumed in the United States is produced and processed in Mexico.

In February, the Mexican army announced it seized more than a half million fentanyl pills in what it called the largest synthetic drug lab found to date. The army said the outdoor lab was discovered in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state.

In the same city in 2021, the army raided a lab that it said probably made about 70 million of the blue fentanyl pills every month for the Sinaloa cartel.

“The president is lying,” said Mexican security analyst David Saucedo. “The Mexican cartels, above all the CJNG ( Jalisco New Generation Cartel) and the Sinaloa Cartel have learned to manufactur­e it.”

“They themselves buy the precursor chemicals, set up laboratori­es to produce fentanyl and distribute it to cities in the United States and sell it,” Saucedo said. “Little by little they have begun to build a monopoly on fentanyl, because the Mexican cartels are present along the whole chain of production and sales.”

While it is true that fentanyl consumptio­n appears to remain low in Mexico and largely confined to northern border areas, that may be because the Mexican government is so bad at detecting it. A 2019 study in the border city of Tijuana showed that 93% of samples of methamphet­amines and heroin there contained some fentanyl.

Saucedo said fentanyl exports to the U.S. are so lucrative for Mexican cartels that they previously had not seen a need to develop a domestic market

for the drug.

“It is true that fentanyl consumptio­n in Mexico is marginal, but some mid-level cartels have begun selling it in border cities and in big cities like Leon, Mexico City and Monterrey,” Saucedo said.

On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham held a news conference, saying he wanted “to unleash the fury and might of the U.S. against these cartels.”

“The second step that we will be engaging in is give the military the authority to go after these organizati­ons wherever they exist,” Graham said. “Not to invade Mexico. Not to shoot Mexican airplanes down. But to destroy drug labs that are poisoning Americans.”

López Obrador said Mexico would not accept such threats, calling them “an insult to Mexico and a lack of respect for our independen­ce and sovereignt­y.”

López threatened to start a campaign in the United States asking Mexicans and Hispanics who live there not to vote for Republican­s.

“We are going to issue a call not to vote for that party, because they are inhuman and interventi­onist,” López Obrador said.

Security analyst Alejandro Hope said López Obrador appeared trapped between his own “hugs, not bullets” strategy of not confrontin­g cartels – which plays well among his supporters – and increasing U.S. pressure, especially from Republican­s. Portraying himself as the defender of Mexico’s sovereignt­y has been an easy out for López Obrador in the past.

 ?? AP PHOTO/MARCO UGARTE ?? Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gives his regularly scheduled morning press conference at the National Palace in Mexico City on Tuesday.
AP PHOTO/MARCO UGARTE Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gives his regularly scheduled morning press conference at the National Palace in Mexico City on Tuesday.

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