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Federal seizures of fentanyl and meth are soaring in Mexico as cartels have begun churning out increased quantities of the deadly synthetic drugs while also importing it from China.
According to seizure figures issued Monday by Mexico’s Defense Department, seizures of the synthetic opioid fentanyl soared 525% in the first three years of the current administration, which took office Dec. 1, 2018, compared to the previous three years. Law enforcement seized 1,232 pounds (559 kilograms) of fentanyl in 2016-2018 and 7,710 pounds (3,497 kilograms) in 2019-2021.
TUCSON, Ariz. – U.S. Border Patrol agents working the Interstate 19 Immigration Checkpoint near Amado, Arizona, seized over 50 pounds of suspected fentanyl and arrested the driver of the vehicle on Oct. 13, 2021. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) (U.S. Customs and Border Protection)
The defense secretary, Gen. Luis Cresencio Sandoval, acknowledged there has been a huge shift by Mexican cartels away from naturally grown drugs like opium and marijuana, where seizures and crop eradication have fallen.
But he said seizures of the synthetic opioid fentanyl soared 525% in the first three years of the current administration, which took office Dec. 1, 2018, compared to the previous three years. Law enforcement seized 1,232 pounds (559 kilograms) of fentanyl in 2016-2018 and 7,710 pounds (3,497 kilograms) in 2019-2021.
Seizures of methamphetamines, meanwhile, more than doubled. Meth seizures rose from 120,100 pounds (54,521 kilograms) in 2016-2018 to almost 275,000 pounds (124,735 kilograms) in the last three years, an increase of 128%.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is seeing a record number of seizures of fentanyl. (Courtesy DEA)
Mexican authorities say part of that increase is due to an increase in fentanyl globally which Mexican cartels obtain via organized crime in China to press into pills or mix into other drugs.
“There was a change in consumption, there was a change in drug markets due to the ease of producing synthetic drugs,” Sandoval said. For example, cartels no longer have to pay farmers to grow opium poppies and painstakingly collect the opium past that oozes from the bulbs.
Mexico’s synthetic drug boom was illustrated last week when a trucker from Mexico was arrested after trying to smuggle record-breaking amounts of meth and fentanyl into the U.S.
More than 17,500 pounds (7,930 kilograms) of meth and 389 pounds (176 kilograms) of fentanyl were discovered Thursday hidden inside a tractor-trailer at the Otay Mesa border crossing in San Diego, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The seizures were the largest of either drug in the U.S. for both 2020 and 2021, the statement said.
Earlier this month, Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio vowed in a Fox News interview to keep the pressure on the Biden administration to address the opioid crisis head-on by working more aggressively with Mexico and China to stop drug trafficking, and by urging a greater awareness campaign by the federal government about the fentanyl-laced “fake pills,” which are killing Americans at record rates.
Opioid epidemic, drug abuse concept with closeup on two heroin syringes or other narcotics surrounded by scattered prescription opioids. Oxycodone is the generic name for a range of opioid painkillers (iStock)
The U.S. surpassed 100,000 overdose deaths in one year between April 2020 and April 2021, marking a terrible new milestone in American history. In addition, in October alone, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported a 42% increase in the seizure of fentanyl.
The Biden administration has come under criticism by Portman, and other lawmakers, for seemingly putting the opioid crisis on the back burner during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the staggering number of overdose deaths.
“So [the Biden administration] have got to tighten it up, and that means working with China, working with Mexico much more aggressively, and tightening of the border,” Portman said. “And I think they should do a huge prevention campaign.”
Fox News’ Kelly Laco and the Associated Press contributed to this report