Mexico’s top detective apologizes for ‘inadequate’ remark about country’s production of fentanyl

April 26, 2024 by No Comments

The head of Mexico’s detective service apologized on Thursday for saying his country is “the champion” of fentanyl and meth production. The comments made on Tuesday by Felipe de Jesus Gallo, the head of Mexico’s Criminal Investigation Agency, appeared to contradict past statements by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has denied any fentanyl is produced in Mexico. Gallo’s office cited a report of the comments by The Associated Press, and acknowledged that Gallo “used an inadequate word,” but didn’t specify whether the offending word was “champion.” “It is clear that this word, which was reported by AP and a Mexican media outlet, was inadequate,” his office said. “For that reason, Mr. Gallo publicly apologizes, and explains that his intent, in which he clearly shouldn’t have used the word, was to emphasize the long battle that our country has had to carry out against the production, export and shipment of synthetic drugs.” Gallo’s comments at a U.S.-Mexico conference on synthetic drugs in Mexico City Tuesday drew López Obrador’s ire at his daily news briefing Thursday. The president has long claimed that Mexican cartels only press it into pills or add finishing touches, and he demanded that Gallo’s office explain the comments, calling them “alarmist.” Gallo originally said that since the 1990s “Mexico has been the champion of methamphetamine production, and now fentanyl.” Experts agree that cartels in Mexico use precursor chemicals from China and India to make the synthetic opioid and smuggle it into the United States, where it causes about 70,000 overdose deaths annually. While fentanyl is not widely abused in Mexico, methamphetamine addiction is commonplace. Gallo said Mexican cartels have launched industrial-scale production of meth in many states throughout the country and now export around the world. “Believe me, methamphetamine production has become industrialized, it’s not just in the mountains anymore,” Gallo said. “We now expect to see (drug) laboratories not just in the mountains of Sinaloa and Sonora, but in Hidalgo as well, Puebla, and also in Jalisco.” He was apparently referring to thousands of drug labs detected in previous years in the hills and scrublands around Culiacan, the capital of the northern state of Sinaloa. Those clandestine, rural production sites were often bare-bones, improvised labs covered with tree branches and tarpaulins. Now, the meth trade has become so lucrative and so sophisticated that Mexican meth is exported as far away as Hong Kong or Australia, and the cartels have found ways to avoid detection of their drug money. There is little question that drug production goes on at a huge scale in Mexico. In February, Mexico’s Navy seized over 45 tons of methamphetamine at the biggest drug lab found during the current administration. The lab was in Quiriego, a township in a remote part of the northern border state of Sonora. The 91,000 pounds of meth found there was more than half of the 162,000 pounds of the drug Mexico has seized so far this year. Fentanyl production is also huge, though because it is a more potent drug, the volume is smaller. A year ago, soldiers seized more than a half-million fentanyl pills in Culiacan in what the army at the time described as the largest synthetic drug lab found to date. Soldiers found almost 630,000 pills that appeared to contain fentanyl, said. They also reported seizing 282 pounds of powdered fentanyl and about 220 pounds of suspected methamphetamine.