Mexico traffickers ramp up synthetic drug production

By Dialogo
February 03, 2012

MEXICO CITY – Seizures of precursor chemicals for synthetic drugs and raids on drug labs have multiplied in Mexico and Guatemala in recent months, as experts say traffickers are increasingly turning to production.
The shift is another sign of the growth of Mexico’s cartels, once known as cocaine traffickers to the United States and now infamous for violent turf wars and trafficking drugs to Australia or Africa, human trafficking and extortion.
In Mexico, many synthetic drug laboratories have been discovered in western Pacific coast states, where there has also been a sharp rise in seizures of precursor chemicals in port cities, mostly on ships from China.
“We note a change of direction in the activities of criminal organizations, who are turning to the production of synthetic drugs,” Gen. Ricardo Trevilla Trejo, spokesman for the Mexican army, said recently.
Mexican authorities have not published figures on the production of synthetic drugs but say they have uncovered 646 laboratories and seized more than 45 tons of methamphetamines and 13.5 million psychoactive pills since 2006.
Between 2001 and 2006, the army discovered only 10 laboratories for producing synthetic drugs.
In 2011, authorities also intercepted more than 1,200 tons of precursor chemicals used in drugs such as amphetamines, including monomethylamine, derived from ammonia.
Mexican defense officials said the rapid growth of drug labs is partly due to the success of the government’s eradication of marijuana and heroin poppy fields.
But authorities also said it was easier to set up a lab than plant a field of drug crops and, most importantly, the profits were greater.
“Synthetic drugs represent a very attractive opportunity for criminal organizations because, unlike natural drugs, they can be produced anywhere, once the organization has access to precursor chemicals and a basic knowledge,” said Antonio Mazzitelli, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s regional representative for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.
[AFP (Mexico), 02/02/2012; Milenio (Mexico) 29/01/2012]