Mexican drug cartels are rapidly expanding fentanyl production, pushing more of the deadly drug into the United States and profiting markedly from an easily produced, highly addictive substance.
“Even seeing just one lab in Mexico pressing pills was something unique that we were seeing. And this was only a few years ago,” said Uttam Dhillon, the former acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
“Now we’re seeing 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 Cartel are responsible for much of the fentanyl manufacturing and smuggling into the U.S., according to former officials and analysts.
In 2019, the United States successfully lobbied the Chinese government to bring fentanyl under a stronger regulatory regime. That cut fentanyl shipments from China to North America and opened an opportunity for Mexican cartels to manufacture the drug themselves.
“The Mexican cartels run a global enterprise. They run it like a Fortune 500 company right now,” Derek Maltz, a former DEA special agent, said “America’s Newsroom.” “They implemented a strategic, deceptive marketing plan to drive addiction and to drive profits.”
“All they need are the precursor chemicals,” said Dhillon. “Once they have those chemicals, they can manufacture those on an industrial scale.”
Unlike cocaine and heroin, fentanyl is manufactured synthetically with chemicals produced largely in China and without crops grown in fields. The drug is acutely powerful in small doses, meaning smugglers can feed a market in the U.S. with far smaller shipments.
“If production costs a few hundred dollars, the sales in the United States will generate hundreds of thousands of dollars or potentially, even more, depending on how it is cut,” said Dr. Vanda Felbab-Brown, director of the Initiative on Nonstate Armed Actors 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.”
Source: El Universal