The Mexican Navy reported this Monday the discovery, last week, of a huge methamphetamine laboratory in the south of the State of Sonora, in the northwest of the country. In a press release released in the morning, the agency indicated that more than 1,350 million doses of the drug were found at the site, in addition to thousands of kilos of precursors, which represent around 700 million dollars in its sale to the retail The Navy has highlighted that the seizure “represents more than 50% of the drugs and precursors seized this year.”
The images of the laboratory give an idea of the magnitude of the discovery: dozens of condensers, reactors, centrifuges, hundreds of bags of raffia, vehicles, tubs… The Navy has reported that it is the largest laboratory located during the current Government, chaired by Andrés Manuel López Obrador, with quite a difference. Until now, the largest had only 13 reactors, well below the 72 in Sonora.
Methamphetamine is one of the most used drugs in the United States. Reports from the United States Department of Health and Human Services and the Rand Corporation lobbying group over the past five years indicate that between two and three million people use methamphetamine in the United States each year, more than cocaine or heroin. The United States authorities accuse Mexican criminal organizations of producing and exporting most of the drugs consumed north of the Rio Grande, an always thorny issue in the relations of both countries.
Regarding the producers, the geography of last week’s discovery and the previous one, located in Sinaloa, south of Sonora, just a year ago, points to the Sinaloa Cartel or the criminal organizations that occupy its space. Groups linked to one of the group’s historical leaders, Ismael, operate in this area. May Zambada and the children of his former partner, Joaquín El Chapo Guzman. The Navy has not indicated which group might have been using the lab. For years, the United Nations has identified Mexico as one of the largest producers of methamphetamine in the world.
The agency has also not explained how it located the clandestine production center. The laboratory operated on the outskirts of Quiriego, a town 80 kilometers by car from Ciudad Obregón. Its magnitude required important logistics. How long did it function outside the eyes of the authorities? How much was known about its existence in Quiriego and surrounding areas? These are questions that, like others that point to the dynamics of drug production and trafficking in the country, often remain unanswered.
The Navy has also taken the opportunity to provide some figures that, instead of clarifying the importance of what was found, confuse the reader. The agency has indicated that so far this year “a total of 73,520 kilograms of methamphetamine and a total of 141,470 kilograms of precursors have been located, disabled and destroyed.” According to his calculation, this represents “a loss of more than 700 million dollars to organized crime.” The figure is the same that the agency handles for last week’s discovery.
It is difficult to calculate how important this laboratory is in the context of the global production of Mexican criminal organizations. The Mexican government routinely reports findings from methamphetamine or other drug laboratories, one of the few criteria for estimating the size of the industry in the country. It is unknown, however, how long those found will function and how many remain in operation. From what was reported, it is also not known whether or not they were important at the time of the seizure. Last year, the Reuters agency reported that only 5% of the 527 drug laboratories seized in the first half of the year were operating at the time of their discovery.
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