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A Boom in Narco - Laboratories as Synthetic Drugs Become More Popular at Home and Abroad

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Yaqui for Borderland Beat from: Zeta

                                                       Narco-laboratories on the rise
                 Synthetic drug dealers have increased profits by reducing their operating costs.

By: Luis Carlos Saénz

Since 2016, the Mexican Army has secured 273 methamphetamine factories. Sinaloa, once resistant to enter that market, now leads Michoacán and Jalisco. Only three people were put in a prosecutorial process during that period. Narcos take advantage of low production costs, the secrecy and immediacy to distribute their products and the addictive power of the substances to enhance their illicit business, estimates the organized crime investigator, Sergio Manuel Robles.

In recent years the number of clandestine laboratories for the manufacture of synthetic drugs in Mexico has increased, but their assurance by the authorities is going down, as well as the arrest of alleged criminals involved and the confiscation of substances within the establishments, that have decreased, according to statistics from the Ministry of National Defense.

According to figures from the Transparency Unit of the military unit, from January 1, 2016 and until the first months of 2019, the soldiers dismantled 273 narco-laboratories in the country in at least 16 of the states. disposition of other authorities to three people and secured more than 259 tons of substances, including drugs and chemical precursors.

The states with the most drug factories detected and insured by the Mexican Army were Sinaloa, with 145; followed by Michoacán (58), Jalisco (23), Durango (16) and Guerrero (10). In Baja California, there are four narco-laboratories, three of which were discovered in 2018, among which the impressive and massive methamphetamine factory which stands out below a depopulated area in La Rumorosa, where there was a camp for ten people and almost four tons of the drug known as ice , or crystal meth was found along with  utensils , equipment and chemical products. It was extremely near the US – Mexico Border-line and very near a Mexican Army Base. Tunnels were located on the US side of the border.

One of the largest synthetic drug production centers was secured on August 16 last year in a village in the Sierra de Badiraguato, Sinaloa. Military found 47 tons of crystal meth inside drums distributed along the terrain. Allegedly the narco-laboratory belonged to the Sinaloa Cartel.

The demand in the consumption of synthetic drugs in a globalized world has led to the mutation of the large Mexican drug cartels, the production of drugs that were the best known during the twentieth century, to new design products claimed by the markets local, American, European and Asian, as far as the tentacles of the illicit business extend.

Lower Costs:

For the teacher Sergio Manuel Robles, professor in the matter of Organized Crime of the Free College of University Studies (CLEU) Campus Guadalajara, this type of hard drugs has proliferated in the country because the traffickers have been much easier to produce thanks to the reduction of operating costs, the secrecy, the immediacy of the product in circulation and the addictive power of the substances.

“Perhaps the main factor that led to these criminal groups – that were reluctant to enter this criminal modality and with this way of operating – is the question of operating costs. Among them we can untie the ease with which these narco-laboratories are moved immediately without generating excessive costs to do so, “said the professor.

In these times, none of the big cartels subtract their participation in the market of designer drugs, which previously disdained for the bonanza of the eighties and nineties in the transfer of marijuana and cocaine. This has been another reason for the increase in this activity, encouraged by the traffic of chemicals that illicitly arrive from countries such as China.

With more than thirty years of police career and a Master of Law, Robles added that the aspect of hiding is another advantage for criminal cells: “These factories can be or are, according to references that have, in places as unimaginable as possible : houses, workshops and even apartments that are located in urban areas, without any problem. In rural areas, attention is paid more to the size or magnitude, and to the amounts of processing. “

In effect, the actions of both the Army and the Navy, federal, state or municipal police, which have training and intervention teams donated by North American agencies, confirm that the methamphetamine factories are working both in urban housing centers, as well as in farms in unpopulated areas such as ranches, galleys, reed beds and even in hills or ravines in the open.

The interviewee by ZETA said: “In addition to operating expenses and hiding, you have the factor of immediacy with which you have access to this drug, more in those places in urban areas because it is produced and immediately distributed. in the locality, reducing risks of transfer and handling of this type of substances “.

Other forms that have facilitated the production of drugs such as crystal, ice, tachas or speed , and many other names with which methamphetamines are known are also addressed . Maybe a few pesos less than other drugs.

“The cost is somewhat similar. We are talking about access to 10, 15 or 20 Pesos difference, but I think that their production increased for what it represents, more than the cost of the addict; the problem is that they are more addictive drugs and, therefore, better access for the consumer, ” said the specialist.

Generational Change:

As for the entry into the market of the Cartels of Sinaloa, Juarez, and the Gulf, which were disinterested in the methamphetamine business when Michoacanos, Jalisco and Baja Californians were already leading them, Sergio Manuel Robles states that this situation was due to the aging in the structures of the first criminal groups in Mexico, ” along with a generational change coupled with the change in social morality, it was possible for these organizations to take a step from which there is no turning back.

“Those criminal groups that were headed by what were now known as ” moral ” leaders , and that many of them are imprisoned or are no longer found, had a badly called ” moral” ; but  which understood that the synthetic drug causes greater harm in health than the traditional consumption of narcotic drugs, opiates or alkaloids. But with the generational change in the criminal groups, we observe that their relative values ​​also go hand in hand with social change. Society has set aside many values, and those new generation narco-traffickers or “narco-juniors”, ie,  “they are not out of this society, they are in it.  It is observed that the predominant interest is economic, and knowing that these drugs do more harm, that does not generate any suspicion or interest as to venture into their production and marketing “, in other words: money talks, revealed the researcher.

It also highlights that these criminal organizations have a more entrepreneurial touch in the form of a consortium or corporate, a situation that was already handled in terms of hierarchy and division of labor, but now “the preparation, the structures, because they no longer serve those called inheritances of blood or of family that were had in the past, but are more integrated to businesses , transnational and globalized interests “.

Under this approach, drug traffickers no longer care so much about where the drug is sold or where it is consumed. They do not care about the social aspect, ” although it seemed ridiculous, there were traditional groups that did consider it, yet they sought to protect their society. Not now. The drugs are sold here,” the teacher emphasized.

The forms of outsourcing are also reproduced in organized crime:

Robles picks up the point of operating expenses: “If you move the drugs from the countries of the South, which come from Bolivia, Peru or Colombia, the producing countries, you arrive in the south of Mexico to move it to the north, it generates an expense in transfer, security, bribes, and now with the new synthetic drugs those expenses are reduced. It even reduces in personnel, because the workforce is reducing.
                     A normal looking house in a normal neighborhood: A synthetic drug factory
“The operating expenses decrease and they know that it is enough to have a house to be able to produce, and that they may last a short time on the site before the neighbors can cause them a nuisance, but immediately they change the laboratory to another place and the expenses are minimal. Now there are more narco-menudistas than members of the big cartels and those do not enter the payroll. On the contrary, they are customers and resellers, aligned by the threat of violence, “he explained.

Even so, globalization and customers in other latitudes and other continents have made this illicit merchandise reach everywhere. The proliferation of narco-laboratories, the difficulty of locating them, the lack of citizen complaint and the serious public health problem that is coming are pending tasks for the authorities, the expert concluded.

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