Mexican and Chinese Crime Organizations Working Together to Ramp Up Meth and Fentanyl Production

A recent study issued by the Mexican Defense Department revealed that Mexican drug cartels are moving to larger labs to make more synthetic narcotics like meth and fentanyl. Criminal organizations in China are key to their operations.

According to Mexican Defense Secretary General Luis Cresencio Sandoval González, the growing demand for synthetic narcotics is because of cartels’ choice to shift away from naturally cultivated drugs like opium and marijuana, whose popularity is declining due to crop seizures and eradication.

Sandoval González said Mexican fentanyl seizures have increased by 525% in recent years. NPR reported that law enforcement recovered 1,232 pounds (559 kilograms) of fentanyl from 2016 to 2018 and 7,710 pounds (3,497 kilograms) from 2019 to 2021. Methamphetamine seizures have also risen dramatically in the last three years, from 120,100 pounds (54,521 kilograms) in 2016-2018 to about 275,000 pounds (124,735 kilograms) in 2019-2021. 

Additionally, Sandoval González stated that the number of drug labs raided has decreased from 287 in 2016 to 203 in the previous three years. However, those that were discovered were larger.

He noted that “the laboratories that have been discovered or seized in this administration have had larger capacities, which has allowed us to seize a larger quantity of methamphetamine products.”

This news came shortly after the biggest drug bust of 2020-2021 at the port of entry to Otay Mesa in San Diego when US police uncovered over 17,500 pounds of methamphetamine and 389 pounds of fentanyl in a tractor-trailer.

Synthetic drug usage is on the rise, mainly due to the simplicity they are manufactured with compared to naturally produced drugs. Sandoval González also stated that synthetic products allow the cartel to avoid paying to plant the poppies required in opium production.

He explained, “There was a change in consumption, there was a change in drug markets due to the ease of producing synthetic drugs.”

Head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Anne Milgram, said, “The cartels are mass producing these pills in Mexico, mostly, and they’re making them look like they’re real oxycodone, like they’re real hydrocodone, Percocet, Adderall, and then they’re bringing them flooding into the United States and falsely advertise them, marketing them as though they were real pharmaceuticals.”

The link between Mexican drug cartels and Chinese organized crime is directly connected to the general growth in the supply of synthetic drugs. It is essential in the importation of illicit substances.

In May 2021, New York City Division DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Raymond Donovan told Newsweek that the Chinese are involved in every level of the drug trade and that the right answer to the synthetic drug situation is for the Chinese government to regulate the export of chemicals needed to produce the drugs. He stated, “I think if the Chinese government said, ‘No, we are going to regulate the export of precursor chemicals to Central America,’ you would see an immediate change in America.”

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