The state of Sinaloa dominates the production of fentanyl and methamphetamine in Mexico


Authorities in Sinaloa state in northern Mexico have made a series of arrests of synthetic drug labs, highlighting how the state has become a center for the production of fentanyl and methamphetamine.

Between June 3 and 8, members of the Mexican military seized a total of 16 clandestine laboratories in a number of towns near the municipalities of Badiraguato, Cosalá and Elota in the Pacific coast state of Sinaloa, according to separate Defense Ministry press releases.

In the most recent discovery, authorities seized 2,000 liters of suspected methamphetamine from a lab near the state line with Durango, among other equipment. In the other labs, officials found dozens of 50-liter metal and plastic drums used to hold precursor chemicals like sulfuric acid, as well as tanks, reactors and other plumbing infrastructure. Vehicles to transport the finished methamphetamine and fentanyl were also seized.

However, no arrests have been announced in connection with the drug labs.

SEE ALSO: Impact of illicit fentanyl felt on both sides of the US-Mexico border

In recent years, authorities have uncovered more synthetic drug labs in Sinaloa, the territory of the Sinaloa Cartel, than in any other Mexican state, according to Defense Department data. Official data viewed by Milenio showed that Sinaloa was among three northern states – alongside Baja California and Sonora – where nearly 90% of fentanyl seizures have been concentrated since late 2018 and early 2018. This year.

As reported by InSight Crime, the Sinaloa Cartel and the New Generation Jalisco Cartel (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación – CJNG) are the main criminal actors engaged in the production of synthetic drugs. But the amount of synthetic drug labs seen in Sinaloa suggests that the Sinaloa Cartel may now be leading the charge.

InSight Crime Analytics

Sinaloa’s geographical location on the Pacific coast of Mexico makes it a strategic point for almost all stages of the synthetic drug production chain.

First, the state is home to the Port of Mazatlán, one of the main container ports in the country that serves maritime trade between Mexico and other countries in Asia and Europe. Precursor chemicals used to produce fentanyl and methamphetamine arrive at the port primarily from China and India, but also from other source countries such as Germany.

Second, Federal Highway 15 acts as a major artery from south to north, cutting from Mazatlán to the heart of Sinaloa and ultimately connecting to Nogales in Sonora State at the US-Mexico border. This not only allows criminal groups like the Sinaloa Cartel to transport chemical precursors to production sites hidden in rural areas – and sometimes in plain sight, such as in homes in the capital, Culiacán – but also to transfer the finished product to its main destination. : United States.

SEE ALSO: Synthetic drugs flood the California border between the United States and Mexico

Criminal groups regularly exploit such routes connecting Mexico to the United States to smuggle drugs across the border. Drugs are most often concealed in hidden compartments in passenger vehicles or among legitimate goods in tractor-trailers passing through ports of entry. To be sure, a recent six-month analysis The American Immigration Council’s report on fentanyl seizures reported at the southwest border by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) found that passenger vehicles were by far the most common smuggling method.

This connectivity has allowed a steady flow of synthetic drugs to meet US demand. New estimates released last month by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put the total number of drug overdose deaths in the US in 2021 at more than 107,000, representing an increase of 15% from the then-record total seen in 2020. Illegally manufactured synthetic opioids like fentanyl continue to cause these deaths amid growing production in Mexico.

This mass production is also beginning to have repercussions in Mexico, and not just at the border. Addicts in border towns like Tijuana have been increasingly exposed to fentanyl, leading to an increase in drug overdoses. But in May, health officials in the state capital of Sinaloa detected the first three fentanyl overdose deaths ever recorded there, evidence that the drug has also started to appear in the local drug supply. of State.

During a recent reporting trip through Sinaloa, various sources ranging from health officials to addiction workers and government officials expressed concern that fentanyl could soon have a more serious impact on local drug dynamics in the state.

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