- Hubei is a major source of fentanyl precursors.
- China also supplies counterfeit pharmaceuticals.
- The US restriction of travelers from Mexico has become a major hurdle for Mexican drug traffickers.
The coronavirus epidemic is affecting the global economy in the most serious of ways, and the Mexican government is scrambling to contain its spread. Even though the country has yet to implement a full lockdown, the coronavirus epidemic is taking its toll on the economy. Mexican drug trafficking syndicates have not been spared either. Just like legitimate businesses, they are beginning to feel the pinch.
Limited Supply of Drugs Precursor Ingredients from China
China is a prime manufacturing powerhouse. As the epicenter of the coronavirus scourge, it was the first country in the world to go into lockdown. Since the outbreak, the country’s industries have had to scale back production to allow the epidemic to blow itself out. The result is a decrease in supplies to overseas companies.
Mexican drug cartels typically get precursors for opiates, such as fentanyl and meth, from China. The novel virus has, however, held up the supply chain. According to a recent Vice report, the Sinaloa Cartel, the most dominant cartel in the region has increased narcotics prices as a result.
Methamphetamine prices have been hiked by over five times. According to the investigative report, Mexican drug lord Ismael ‘El Mayo’ Zambada has ordered his dealers to increase the price of meth from $100 a pound to $600. Fentanyl prices have also soared from $35,000 a kilo to $42,000. The raw chemicals are a major export of Hubei province, the epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic. The zone was among the first in mainland China to have its factories shut down.
The Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), a primary rival of the Sinaloa Cartel, is reportedly also struggling to obtain supplies. Apart from the narcotics trade, the syndicate also deals in cheap counterfeit drugs sourced from China. They are sold to pharmacies in its strongholds.
According to a new Daily Mail report, the bootleg drugs cost about a fifth of what the legitimate medicines cost. Most of the products are aimed at people afflicted by HIV, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Countries are Shutting Down Borders and Banning Flights
It is not only a shortage of supplies that’s affecting the cartels but the movement of the drugs into the United States as well. With the US barring non-essential travelers from Mexico, the business of smuggling drugs into the country has just become more complicated.
According to a Sinaloa Cartel trafficker who spoke to Vice, his unit normally smuggles about 15 kilograms of meth and heroin every week. The new bylaws have, however, caused this quantity to cascade to just 5 kilos. According to a report by InsightCrime, “countries across Latin America are shutting down borders and preventing air travel, which is likely to significantly disrupt criminal economies like drug trafficking, contraband smuggling and human trafficking.”