EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Mexico’s Navy has taken control of the country’s seaports to stem overseas trafficking of synthetic drugs and chemical precursors.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said change was needed as civilian port administrators are under increasing threats of “plata o plomo” (lead or silver/bribes or bullets) from organized crime and need the support of the armed forces.
“Mexico’s ports are strategic, and these ports in the Pacific lately have been used by organized crime to introduce synthetic drugs and precursor chemicals for fentanyl – the most dangerous drugs for those who become addicted, generally young people,” Lopez Obrador said during a visit to the port of Manzanillo, Colima.
According to U.S. analysts, all of Mexico’s drug cartels for the past two years have gone into overdrive in their trafficking of methamphetamine and fentanyl to the United States. Not only that, but they’re flooding Mexican northern cities with leftover product, which in turn is leading to increased drug addiction and violence over control of sales outlets.
“Until recently, the cultivation of marijuana and (opium) poppy predominated; now what predominates is fentanyl and these precursors from which they obtain chemical drugs manufactured throughout the country that are popularly known as ‘cocinas’ (kitchens), improvised labs where they cook these very dangerous drugs,” Lopez Obrador said.
Opium poppy is used in the manufacture of heroin, a substance U.S. officials have described as a “dirty drug,” which often is taken intravenously. Heroin still is trafficked, but seizures of this drug at the U.S.-Mexico border are now small in comparison to meth seizures. U.S. officials also blame the increasing availability of synthetic drugs, particularly fentanyl, for recent spikes in drug overdose deaths in America.
Previously, the Ministry of Communications and Transportation managed seaports. The Lopez Obrador administration last July announced its intent to put the Navy in charge of maritime ports and the Ministry of Defense in charge of land ports. “It’s done. The (Mexican congress) approved it,” the president said on Sunday. He did not provide details on any operational changes at land ports or airports.
Mexican officials said visitors to popular Mexican port cities such as Mazatlan or Puerto Vallarta would hardly feel the change.
“Today’s transition is to improve security (of operations),” Navy Secretary Jose Rafael Ojeda Duran said. “There will be no militarization of the ports.”
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, some of the precursor chemicals include benzylfentanyl, 4-anilinopiperidine and norfentanyl.