Mexican authorities seized a massive cache of fentanyl pills this week in what they are describing as a record-setting bust.
The country’s Ministry of Defense said on Wednesday that the “Mexican Army personnel seized a fentanyl pill manufacturing center and the laboratory with the largest methamphetamine production capacity in the municipality of Culiacán, Sinaloa,” which is located in the northwestern part of Mexico.
The raid, which was carried out on Tuesday, yielded “629,138 pills of probable fentanyl, weighing approximately 68,576 kilograms,” government officials said in the announcement.
The Ministry of Defense listed the soldiers’ other findings in the raid: “Approximately 128.03 kg of possible granulated fentanyl; Approximately 100 kg of possible methamphetamine; Approximately 750 kg of probable tartaric acid; Approximately 275 kg of possible mannitol; Approximately 225 kg of probable caustic soda; [and] 28 organic synthesis reactors.”
“Due to the number of reactors, the laboratory is the one with the largest synthetic drug production capacity that has been recorded historically and during the present administration,” the authorities said in the announcement.
The defense ministry said that while “carrying out intelligence work to strengthen the rule of law in the country and detect criminal organizations with a presence in said federal entity, military personnel obtained information about a property and an area on the land that was used as a laboratory for the production of drugs in the Municipality of Culiacán, Sin.”
“Derived from the above and from the operational planning, elements of the Mexican Army carried out ground reconnaissance in the vicinity of Pueblos Unidos, municipality of Culiacán, Sin., where they located a production center and a clandestine laboratory for the production of synthetic drugs, for which military personnel implemented a security device,” the ministry said.
The announcement continued: “What was insured was made available to the competent authorities, in order to carry out the corresponding investigations and expert actions to confirm the type and quantity of drugs, as well as chemical substances.
These actions were carried out in strict adherence to the rule of law and with full respect for human rights. In this way, the Mexican Army reaffirms the indeclinable decision of the federal government to continue acting against organized crime, meeting the needs that society demands; Likewise, it endorses its commitment to ensure and safeguard the well-being of citizens, guaranteeing the peace and security of the population.”
The historic bust comes at a time when the United States is also struggling to contain the fentanyl trade within its own borders.
As CBS News noted, Tuesday’s bust “came on the same day that the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the huge number of U.S. fentanyl overdoses that occur annually, currently around 70,000,” with the committee chairman, Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, pressing Mexico to step up its efforts to combat the problem.
“This means asking Mexico to do more to disrupt the criminal organizations from producing and trafficking fentanyl, although a politicized judiciary and incidents of Mexican security forces colluding with drug cartels will make that difficult,” the senator said, as quoted by CBS News.
CBS also noted that “Mexican drug cartels produce the opioid from precursor chemicals shipped from China, and then press it into pills counterfeited to look like Xanax, Percocet or Oxycodone,” and that people often “take the pills without knowing they contain fentanyl and can suffer deadly overdoses.”
According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than “150 people die every day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl.”