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Mexican drug cartels are rapidly expanding fentanyl production, pushing more of the deadly drug into the United States and clearly profiting from an easily produced and highly addictive substance.
“Even seeing a single lab in Mexico squeezing pills was something unique that we were seeing. And that was only a few years ago,” said Uttam Dhillon, the former acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
“Now we see literally a million pills being seized in Los Angeles, for example, just a few months ago, so the growth has been massive.”
The Sinaloa Cartel and its rival the Jalisco Carte are responsible for much of the manufacturing and smuggling of fentanyl in the United States, according to former officials and analysts.
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In 2019, the United States successfully lobbied the Chinese government to subject fentanyl to a stricter regulatory regime. This reduced fentanyl shipments from China to North America and opened up the possibility for Mexican cartels to manufacture the drug themselves.
“The Mexican cartels are running a global business. They’re running it like a Fortune 500 company right now,” Derek Maltz, a former DEA special agent, told Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.” “They implemented a strategic and deceptive marketing plan to create addiction and generate profits.”
“All they need are the precursor chemicals,” Dhillon said. “Once they have these chemicals, they can manufacture them on an industrial scale.”
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Unlike cocaine and heroin, fentanyl is synthetically made with chemicals produced largely in China and without crops grown in the fields. The drug is extremely potent in small doses, meaning smugglers can supply a market in the United States with much smaller shipments.
“If production costs a few hundred dollars, sales in the United States will generate hundreds of thousands of dollars or potentially even more, depending on how they are cut,” said Dr. Vanda Felbab-Brown, director of the Non-State Armed Actors Initiative. at the Brookings Institution.
“The profitability is also higher because the means of smuggling and transportation are greater, and the ease of evading law enforcement is great.”
Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada would lead the Sinaloa Cartel. The US government is offering up to $15 million for his capture and $10 million for alleged Jalisco boss Nemesio “El Mencho” Cervantes.
“The individual leaders of these cartels are ruthless, greedy and sophisticated. These cartels pocket billions of dollars a year, and the leaders profit from it every day,” Dhillon said. “They are very adept at avoiding U.S. prosecution and have adapted, avoiding Mexican law enforcement.”
In 2016, the US government successfully teamed up with its Mexican counterparts to capture Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, after his years of successful escape and escape from ISIS forces. order. Since then, this bilateral relationship has changed dramatically.
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“The current administration in Mexico of President Andres Lopez Obrador has really gutted cooperation,” Felbab-Brown said.
“Mexico’s decision to no longer cooperate effectively with the DEA is definitely frustrating,” Dhillon added. “The DEA and our law enforcement efforts — this cooperation is one we’ve had with Mexico for decades — it’s critical to aggressively attack cartels where they live in Mexico.”
President Lopez Obrador has adopted a “hugs, not bullets” policy in the fight against cartels, arguing that fighting criminal groups only creates more violence.
The DEA declined to comment for this story.
“CBP has made unprecedented investments in surveillance systems at our borders, deployed new non-intrusive inspection technology at ports of entry, and we are leveraging improved intelligence analysis and sharing information with other federal agencies and foreign partners,” an Interior Department spokesperson said in a statement. broadcast on Fox News.
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A record 107,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 70,000 of those victims were killed by synthetic opioids like fentanyl.