Fentanyl to alter status quo of Mexican drug cartels
The battle between natural and synthetic opioids has started – Photo: Carlos Jasso/AP

Fentanyl to alter status quo of Mexican drug cartels

07/09/2019
14:10
Mexico City
Inder Bugarín
-A +A
If synthetic opioids displace heroin from the market of clandestine painkillers, Mexican drug trafficking organizations will compete for a declining market, causing violence to escalate in the country

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Violence will escalate in Mexico if synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, displace heroin in the American market of clandestine painkillers, warns a study of the Rand Corporation Research Center.

Fentanyl unseated heroin as the main cause of death from overdose in the U.S., but the market still has a balance between the demand of substances made with Chinese precursors and the drug coming from the Mexican fields of poppies.
 

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“If synthetic opioids displace heroin from most markets, it could erode the power of drug trafficking organizations that control the area of poppy cultivation in Mexico and reduce their income from cross-border smuggling,” says the document.

“In the short run, this could create more violence from drug trafficking organizations competing for a declining market,” it adds.
 

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According to the report, in the long run, it could translate to less violence and corruption because, unlike heroin, part of the illegal business of painkillers is online.

Online imports would end with corrupt intermediaries, as well as with several “violent layers” of the distribution chain. Rand Corporation is a renown think tank with offices in Santa Monica and Brussels
 

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In the U.S., deaths linked to synthetic opioids went from 3,000 in 2013 to over 30,000 in 2018.

The current toxic outbreak in the U.S. has its origin in China, main supplier of synthetic opioids.
 

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It is estimated that in the Asian country, there are 5,000 pharmaceutical producers, while chemical manufacturers and distributors ascend to 400,000. Chinese synthetic opioids are imported by courier, airfreight, and sea, and across the border with Mexico and Canada. The business is developed through the usual channels of organized crime, but also through e-commerce. Beyond China, Mexico has started to produce fentanyl for the North American market.

The increase of U.S. imports of fentanyl has not affected the demand for Mexican heroin, “but the balance of the market between natural and synthetic opioids will be hard to keep if cheaper imitation products close the quality gap.”
 

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