Mexico’s president said Thursday, March 9, 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 US 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 US Republicans to use the U.USilitary 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 homes 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 US Ambassador Ken Salazar saying a meeting between Sherwood-Randall and Mexico’s attorney general was meant “to enhance security cooperation and fight against the scurge of fentanyl to better protect our two nations.”
‘The president is lying’
There is little debate among US 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.
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“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 US are so lucrative for Mexican cartels that they previously had not seen a need to develop a domestic market for the drug.