HomeNewsBriefMassive Mexico Methamphetamine Seizure Reflects Market Shifts
BRIEF

Massive Mexico Methamphetamine Seizure Reflects Market Shifts

METHAMPHETAMINE / 21 AUG 2018 BY MIKE LASUSA EN

Authorities in Mexico have made what is almost certainly the largest seizure of methamphetamine in the country's history, suggesting growing US demand has encouraged Mexican crime groups to increase production of the drug.

Mexico's marines announced on August 17 that military personnel had discovered a stash of approximately 50 metric tons of methamphetamine along with precursor chemicals and equipment in the town of Alcoyonqui in the western state of Sinaloa.

The drugs, an unspecified portion of which were in partially processed liquid form, were reportedly stored in underground warehouses near the site of a production facility.

Officials did not confirm which crime group the stash belonged to, but the DEA's former Chief of International Operations, Mike Vigil, told InSight Crime that the location and other details about the bust pointed to the Sinaloa Cartel.

The seizure is the largest since February 2012, when authorities found 15 tons of methamphetamine at a laboratory in the state of Jalisco.

The 2012 seizure generated significant concern among law enforcement and independent experts, who said it showed Mexican crime groups were able to produce huge quantities of the drug.

“The big thing it shows is the sheer capacity that these super-labs have in Mexico,” Rusty Payne, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), told the New York Times at the time. “When we see one lab with the capability to produce such a mass tonnage of meth, it begs a question: What else is out there?”

A slew of media reports this year have highlighted the increasing prevalence of high-purity methamphetamine in the United States, most of which is produced in and trafficked from Mexico, according to a 2017 report from the DEA.

Statistics from the US Customs and Border Protection agency show seizures of methamphetamine, mostly along the border with Mexico, have risen sharply in recent years, from just over 8 tons in 2012 to more than 31 tons in the first seven months of 2018 alone.

InSight Crime Analysis

It's likely that an increase in methamphetamine consumption in the United States has spurred Mexican crime groups to ramp up production.

"Methamphetamine abuse in the United States is at an all-time high and it continues to climb," Vigil said. "Demand here drives the market in Mexico in terms of production."

Until the late 1980s, most of the methamphetamine consumed in the United States was manufactured domestically. But in the 1990s and 2000s, growing concern over the dangers associated with the drug pushed lawmakers and law enforcement agencies to crack down on production.

Shutting down lots of mostly small-scale production centers in the United States opened space for large-scale traffickers in Mexico to fill the supply gap.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Drug Policy

"It basically handed over this huge market to the Mexican traffickers who could import the precursors by the barrelful," said Sanho Tree, a drug policy expert at the Washington, DC-based Institute for Policy Studies.

"As long as you had a corrupt port officer or someone willing to forge some documents you could import these precursors in large quantities," Tree added. "So you turn an artisanal problem into an industrial problem by doing that."

Vigil said strong law enforcement efforts alone probably won't deliver serious blows to Mexican crime groups.

"We have to do a better job here in the United States in terms of curbing the demand," he said. "Even though it was a very big seizure, there's other labs that are probably producing even more."

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

EL CHAPO / 3 FEB 2014

The death, imprisonment and targeting of several members of Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada's faction of the Sinaloa Cartel points to…

MEXICO / 27 SEP 2018

A proposal by the governor of Mexico’s southwest state of Guerrero to disband municipal police forces and replace them with a…

MEXICO / 31 MAY 2011

Mexico’s Justice Department has opened an investigation into a Sunday night grenade attack on the Vanguardia newspaper, in the northern…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…