Mexico found fentanyl in a shipping container from China earlier this month, just several weeks after a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman said there was no illegal trafficking of the deadly drug between the two nations.
On May 5, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador confirmed that the Mexican navy had intercepted a container of smuggled drugs in the southern port of Lázaro Cárdenas a few days earlier, Deutsche Welle reported.
The Secretary of Navy Rafael Ojeda said the seized container of 600 packages of fuel resin (34-35 kg each, total weight over 20 tons) was tested and determined to contain fentanyl and methamphetamines.
The shipment departed from eastern China’s coastal city of Qingdao, passed through Busan port of South Korea, and finally arrived in Mexico, Ojeda said.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador delivers a speech in Mexico City on March 18, 2023. (Rodrigo Arangua/AFP via Getty Images)
Obrador said he would again write to Chinese leader Xi Jinping to reiterate his hope that the Chinese authorities would help curb the illegal trade in fentanyl.
More than a month earlier, Obrador sent a letter, under the request of a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers, to Xi stating that large quantities of fentanyl produced in Asia are being freely exported to Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. He urged Xi “for humanitarian reasons” to block shipments of fentanyl departing from China.
The highly addictive and physiologically destructive drug is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine, which will cause functional disorders in a brief period and lead to death, Obrador said in the March 22 letter.
However, the spokeswoman of China’s Foreign Ministry, Mao Ning, on April 6, denied fentanyl was trafficked from China.
“There is no such thing as illegal trafficking of fentanyl between China and Mexico,” Mao said. “The problem of fentanyl abuse in the U.S. has its roots in itself, and the problem is made in the USA, American-made.”
After Beijing’s response, Obrador restated at a press conference on April 10 that the raw material of fentanyl is not produced in Mexico.
“If China’s government says they do not produce it either, then it is interesting. Who is producing it?” he said, Reuters reported.
Sinaloa and Jalisco Cartels
This is not the first time evidence of fentanyl smuggling from China has been found in Mexico.
On Aug. 24, 2019, the Mexican Navy intercepted a 40-foot container from Shanghai at the port of Cárdenas. The container had a shipping list that falsely stated the goods were 23,368 kilograms of inorganic calcium chloride powder, commonly used as an electrolyte in sports drinks, beverages, and bottled water and as a sodium-free flavoring agent for kimchi.
After testing the powder, it was found to be more than 25 tons of fentanyl destined for the Sinaloa Cartel base.
An illustration of two milligrams of fentanyl powder, a lethal dose, next to a one-penny coin. (DEA)
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), 2 mg of fentanyl amounts to a lethal dose.
Most of the fentanyl is trafficked by two drug cartels in Mexico—the Sinaloa and Jalisco Cartels, and is “with chemicals sourced largely from China,” DEA said in a last December report.
Fentanyl in the US
In 2022, DEA seized 50.6 million fentanyl pills disguised as prescription drugs and more than 10,000 pounds of fentanyl powder, equivalent to more than 379 million deadly doses of fentanyl, “enough … to kill every American,” said Anne Milgram, director of DEA. The U.S. resident population reached more than 333 million in 2022, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“A decade ago, we didn’t even know about fentanyl, and now it’s a national crisis,” said California attorney Randy Grossman in August last year. He said the Southern District of California has seen unprecedented fentanyl seizures and fentanyl-related deaths.
A photo of 14-year-old Alexander Neville, who died after accidentally taking fentanyl, is displayed at a news conference with Orange County officials in Irvine, Calif., on April 28, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Data by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection showed that the amount of fentanyl seized at ports of entry in San Diego County, California, on the U.S.-Mexico border, more than tripled from the fiscal year 2019 to the fiscal year 2021.
The number of fentanyl-related deaths in San Diego County increased to 817 in 2021, nearly 24-fold from 33 in 2016, said the local medical examiner’s office.
According to data released by the U.S. Department of Justice, 107,735 people died from drug overdoses from August 2021 to August 2022, with two-thirds of those deaths involving synthetic opioids-primarily fentanyl. Between 2019 and 2021, fatal overdoses in the United States increased by about 94 percent, with an estimated 196 Americans dying daily from fentanyl poisoning.