The United States government is seeking to reinforce the training of Mexican soldiers and sailors for the investigation and elimination of clandestine narcotics laboratories in Mexico, it has been revealed by news outlet Debate. In 2022 alone, Mexican Armed Forces have secured at least 492 such labs nationwide, confirming the level of collaboration that existed under the Mérida Initiative is insufficient. The main goal appears to be sequestering fentanyl production and subsequent importation into the U.S.
The Mérida Initiative, also known as the ‘Plan Mexico’ is a security and counter-narcotics cooperation agreement between the United States and Mexico, as well as other seven other Central American countries. The initiative, first proposed in 2007 by then-US President George W. Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderón, aims to provide support and resources to these countries to combat drug trafficking, organized crime, and violence.
In response to substandard results to stem the flow of fentanyl, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) began a market investigation on January 30 to find US trainers to train personnel from the Mexican Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA) and Secretaría de Marina (SEMAR).
Subsequently, the INL determined that training that was conducted under the Merida Initiative was not sufficient for the needs of SEDENA and SEMAR, thus new action had to be taken. Both agencies will make available instructors to meet the demands of the soldiers and sailors who secure a large number of clandestine laboratories in Mexico.
Specifically, the new instructors will train the military operating in the field on how to detect clandestine laboratories, where the cartels manufacture synthetic drugs, including methamphetamines and the opioid fentanyl.
U.S. Government Aims To Crush Drug Labs At The Point Of Origin
With the U.S. border remaining largely undefended, drug trafficking remains a profound problem. While the construction of an effective border wall has been stymied largely for political reasons, the U.S. government is now setting its sights on dismantling these drug laboratories at the point of origin, before finished product can make its way over the border.
Since early in the previous decade, the fentanyl crisis has emerged as the foremost preventable health crisis in the United States in recent times. In 2021 alone, it is estimated that fentanyl is responsible for at least 70,600 deaths domestically, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH). This accounts for the greatest amount of drug overdose deaths, by far, in American society.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid drug that is up to 100 times more potent than morphine and is commonly used for pain relief, anesthesia, and treatment of chronic pain. The drug is also produced illegally and sold on the black market, where it is often mixed with other drugs or substituted for them without the user’s knowledge.
News of the initiative comes a little over two months after a military operation in northwestern Mexico which resulted in the arrest of Ovidio Guzman, one of the sons of drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. The operation on the Sinaloa Cartel left at least 10 soldiers and 19 gang suspected criminals dead, as the military sought to impair the flow of drugs from a major cartel player.
In Sinaloa, more than 700 clandestine drug laboratories were found between 2019 and July 2022. Multiple chemical substances are often seized in each laboratory, usually imported illegally from China or other Asian countries, which require specialized handling to investigate their origin.