NewsUSADEA presses Mexico again to stop fentanyl trafficking

DEA presses Mexico again to stop fentanyl trafficking

A batch of fentanyl seized by US customs agents in Nogales, Arizona, in January 2019.Mamta Popat / Arizona Daily Star (AP)

The DEA insists on its great crusade of the 21st century, the trafficking of fentanyl, a powerful opioid that is manufactured mainly in Mexico. In an appearance before the United States Senate, the director of that country’s anti-drug agency, Anne Milgram, pointed out the southern neighbor for not doing enough to stop the transfer. Milgram has asked the Government of Mexico, headed by Andrés Manuel López Obrador, to “do more” to stop the manufacture and trafficking of the opioid.

“We believe that Mexico has to do more to stop the damage that this is causing,” Milgram said. In 2021 alone, the last year for which there are records, the United States counted almost 108,000 deaths from opioid overdoses, a historic figure, boosted by the rise of fentanyl, an easy-to-produce substance 50 times more powerful than heroin. As the agency said in December, as a yearly balance, just two milligrams of fentanyl, which fits in the tip of a pen, is enough to kill.

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Then and now, Milgram and the DEA target two criminal actors as those most responsible for the epidemic north of the Rio Grande, the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel (CJNG). “These two Mexican cartels, the one in Sinaloa and the one in Jalisco, dominate the global fentanyl supply chain,” Milgram said. According to the DEA, these criminal groups import chemical precursors from China and set up clandestine laboratories to produce the drug.

Milgram has criticized that Mexico does not share enough information with the United States about the seizure of fentanyl and its precursors, does not sufficiently go after clandestine drug laboratories or extradite enough drug traffickers. The Government of López Obrador has reported these years of drug seizures, such as last November, when the National Guard discovered 2,000 pills hidden in huge loaves of bread in Sinaloa, or December, when the Attorney General’s Office located 300 kilos of the opiate hidden in coconuts.

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Milgram’s words are strange, judging by the information disclosed in the Sedena papers, a massive leak of documents from the Ministry of Defense a few months ago, thanks to the hacker collective Guacamaya Leaks. As EL PAÍS reported, the documents showed close collaboration between the two governments, and the sharing of intelligence on drug trafficking, particularly fentanyl.

Despite everything, the relationship between the security agencies of the United States and the Government of Mexico is not experiencing its best moment. The fiasco in the case of General Salvador Cienfuegos, arrested north of the Rio Grande a year and a half ago for drug trafficking, cooled the collaboration between both parties. The Mexican Government forced the transfer to Mexico of Cienfuegos, Secretary of Defense in the previous Government, chaired by Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018). After analyzing the evidence, Mexico decided not to charge the general.

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Another strange situation that does not help the relationship improve is the dismissal, last year, of the manager of the agency in Mexico, Nicholas Palmeri. According to the United States Government, Palmeri made “use of funds from the fight against drugs for inappropriate purposes.” The head of the agency in Mexico met with lawyers for drug traffickers in unprofessional circumstances, as revealed by the journalistic investigation that brought the case to light, led by The Washington Post and Associated Press.


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