By Eduard Ribas i Admetlla
Washington, Aug 8 (EFE).- Despite repeated denials by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the US State Department’s top anti-narcotics official said fentanyl is being produced in Mexico.
Todd Robinson, the assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, added that bilateral cooperation to halt trafficking of that highly potent synthetic opioid is very good but can still improve.
“Everything we’ve seen shows that in fact fentanyl is being produced in Mexico, and that we know that the precursors are coming from (China and) are going to these traffickers in Mexico,” he said in an interview with Efe.
“I’ve traveled to Mexico. I’ve seen what’s being produced on the ground there, both in terms of methamphetamine and fentanyl. And we are working as hard as we can, as closely as we can, with our partners in Mexico to stop this trafficking.”
The illicit trade in fentanyl – a narcotic 50 times more powerful than heroin – has triggered the worst drug crisis in United States history.
More than 70,000 people died of overdoses in that country last year.
Mexico’s Sinaloa and Jalisco Nueva Generacion drug cartels produce fentanyl in clandestine laboratories using chemicals and substances legally acquired from China and then traffic and distribute that opioid in the US, President Joe Biden’s administration says.
But Lopez Obrador has repeatedly denied that fentanyl is produced in his country, arguing that the drug arrives in the US directly from China and that only a small percentage of those shipments are smuggled through Mexico.
Despite those differences, Robinson hailed US-Mexico bilateral cooperation in both the technical and political dimensions.
He also said a letter Lopez Obrador sent Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in April asking for his support in combating fentanyl trafficking was a very positive gesture.
“I would say our cooperation is good. Can it be better? It can always be better, but we’re very pleased to be able to work with our Mexican colleagues.”
“While we want Mexico to do more to go after the narcotic traffickers, the United States recognizes its responsibility to do more on the demand side,” Robinson said, adding that the Biden administration has devoted around $24 billion this fiscal year to help communities across the US fight the synthetic opioid scourge.
INSUFFICIENT COOPERATION WITH CHINA
Cooperation with China, however, has proved to be more complicated, Robinson said.
He recalled that Beijing has declined to participate in the US-led Global Coalition to Address Synthetic Drug Threats, an international effort that has brought together more than 70 countries, including Mexico.
Robinson said China can do more in terms of sharing information about the chemicals it distributes, ensuring the correct labeling of these products and keeping track of who acquires them.
The diplomat said that in 2019 China cooperated with efforts to control those exports and that led to a decrease in fentanyl trafficking.
That is not happening now and fentanyl precursors and now being shipped all over the world, Robinson added.
COCA MONITORING TO RESUME IN COLOMBIA
But Robinson said the fight against fentanyl trafficking cannot divert attention away from the battle against cocaine and other dangerous illegal drugs.
The US this year suspended its satellite monitoring of coca crops in Colombia, a tool Washington used for years to evaluate the results of its anti-narcotics policy.
Robinson, however, said that was merely a temporary halt and the monitoring will likely resume in 2024.
The diplomat said that as part of the Colombian government’s new comprehensive anti-drugs approach leftist President Gustavo Petro has asked the US to guarantee the security of rural communities and punish drug traffickers’ environmental crimes.
In that regard, Robinson added that the US is eager to work with the Petro administration in all areas and believes Colombia remains a great partner in the anti-narcotics fight. EFE