Chinese cartels are rapidly expanding the fentanyl and methamphetamine drug trade in Mexico—a phenomenon that is taking the lives of many Americans and underscores the importance of having a secure southern border.
In recent years, the “Los Zheng” cartel is reported to have “the largest presence in Mexico for the trafficking of fentanyl and methamphetamine,” and is becoming a major concern to Mexican and U.S. national security authorities.
The cartel’s supply chain originates in Wuhan, China (also the origin of coronavirus!)—where it can produce chemicals necessary for these drugs in large scales and low costs. Its drugs are then transported overseas to Mexico and commercialized by Mexican cartels such as Sinaloa and Jalisco Nueva Generación. Once completed, the drugs are transported by land or air through the Mexican states of Jalisco, Nayarit, Sinaloa, and Sonora to the United States for consumption, according to Lee Oughton, the co-founder and COO of Fortress Risk Management, a security firm.
The Los Zheng and other Chinese cartels in Mexico have largely stayed undetected from authorities as they operate through Mexican shell companies that range from veterinary services to clothing sales. Los Zheng is also said to utilize legitimate pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to help facilitate drug production.
The expansion of Chinese cartels participating in this drug trade is becoming a large priority to U.S. national security authorities. Recently, the Department of Justice (DOJ) apprehended six Chinese nationals who allegedly participated in drug trafficking and money laundering between China, the United States, and Latin America. This comes after the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) charged four Chinese individuals and one entity in June for “facilitating payments for the purchase of fentanyl analogs or other controlled substances,” to the Zheng Drug Trafficking Organization.
In recent years, fentanyl has taken the lives of tens of thousands of Americans—with more than 31,000 dying from the drug in 2018—highlighting the need for a fortified U.S.-Mexico border.
Between 2017 and 2020, the Trump administration built some 400 miles of border barrier to deter dangerous criminal illegal aliens and illicit drugs from entering the country. However, President-elect Biden has pledged to stop building any more wall, which could help facilitate more drugs entering the U.S.
While a border barrier may not be a panacea to stop this drug trade and Chinese and Mexican cartels—it remains an integral feature of a comprehensive border and national security strategy.
In addition to building more border barrier, the United States should also seek to increase prosecutions and investigations of foreign nationals who are suspected of participating in these operations, establish security and intelligence cooperation agreements with Mexico, and invest more into border technology that can detect illicit drugs at ports of entry.