Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Mexico’s president Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Thursday that his country does not produce or consume fentanyl. President Obrador portrayed the synthetic opioid epidemic as primarily an issue for the United States, and he advocated using family values to combat drug addiction.
His comments were made while White House homeland security advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall was in Mexico to address the fentanyl epidemic. Meanwhile, the Associated Press says that some Republicans in the United States are pushing for military strikes against Mexican drug labs.
Mexicali’s administration has admitted before that fentanyl is made in laboratories there using Chinese precursor chemicals. Fentanyl is suspected in roughly 70,000 annual opioid-related deaths in the United States. When asked why the United States doesn’t “take care of their problem of societal disintegration,” López Obrador answered, “Here, we do not create fentanyl, and we do not have consumption of fentanyl.”
He continued by naming a number of social factors that may contribute to the fentanyl crisis in the United States, such as the prevalence of single-parent households, the practice of forcing adult children out of the home, and the practice of placing elderly relatives in care facilities with the intention of “visiting them once a year.”
His remarks were in sharp contrast to a tweet posted by US Ambassador Ken Salazar on Thursday, in which he said that a meeting between Sherwood-Randall and Mexico’s attorney general was intended to “enhance security cooperation and fight against the scourge of fentanyl to better protect our two nations.”
Almost all fentanyl used in the United States is processed and manufactured in Mexico, a fact that is not disputed by either American or Mexican authorities. When the Mexican army revealed in February that it had discovered the largest synthetic drug factory to date, it involved the seizure of more than half a million fentanyl pills. The outdoor lab was reportedly discovered by the army near Culiacan, the state capital of Sinaloa, as reported by the Associated Press.
The government may be so inept at detecting narcotics because fentanyl use appears to remain limited and is mostly confined to northern border areas. Ninety-three percent of methamphetamine and heroin samples tested positive for the presence of fentanyl in a 2019 study conducted in the border city of Tijuana. Republican senator Lindsey Graham held a news conference on Wednesday in which he declared his intention to “unleash the fury and might of the US against these cartels.”
Such threats, López Obrador added, reveal “a lack of respect for our independence and sovereignty,” and Mexico would not tolerate them. He warned that a campaign will be launched in the United States to encourage Mexicans and other Hispanics living there to not vote for Republicans.