Mexican President: What Fentanyl?

López Obrador maintains there's none in his country
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 9, 2023 6:40 PM CST
Mexican President Calls Fentanyl a US Problem
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador holds a press conference at the National Palace in Mexico City last month.   (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Mexico's president said Thursday that his country does not produce or consume fentanyl, despite enormous evidence to the contrary. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador depicted the synthetic opioid epidemic largely as a problem for the US, which he said should battle drug addiction with family values. His statement came during a visit to Mexico by Liz Sherwood-Randall, the White House homeland security adviser, to discuss the fentanyl crisis. At the same time, some US Republicans are calling for the military to attack drug labs in Mexico, the AP reports.

The Mexican government has acknowledged in the past that fentanyl is produced at labs in its country using precursor chemicals imported from China. Fentanyl has been blamed for about 70,000 opioid deaths per year in the US. "Here, we do not produce fentanyl, and we do not have consumption of fentanyl," López Obrador said, asking why Americans don't "take care of their problem of social decay?" He went on to recite a list of reasons why people in the US might be turning to fentanyl, including single-parent families, parents who kick grown children out of their houses, and people who put elderly relatives in care homes "and visit them once a year."

His statement contrasted sharply with a Thursday tweet from US Ambassador Ken Salazar saying a meeting between Sherwood-Randall and Mexico's attorney general was meant "to enhance security cooperation and fight against the scourge of fentanyl to better protect our two nations." There is little debate among American and even Mexican officials that almost all the fentanyl consumed in the US is produced and processed in Mexico. In February, the Mexican army announced it seized more than a half-million fentanyl pills in what it called the largest synthetic drug lab found to date. The army said the outdoor lab was discovered in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state, per the AP.

While it is true that fentanyl consumption appears to remain low in Mexico and largely confined to northern border areas, that may be because the government is so bad at detecting it. A 2019 study in the border city of Tijuana showed that 93% of samples of methamphetamines and heroin there contained some fentanyl. On Wednesday, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham held a news conference to say he wants "to unleash the fury and might of the US against these cartels." López Obrador said Mexico would not accept such threats, adding that they show "a lack of respect for our independence and sovereignty." He threatened to start a campaign in the US asking Mexicans and Hispanics who live there not to vote for Republicans.

(Read more fentanyl stories.)

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