Officials in Mexico seized another 136 tons of precursor chemicals originating from China, pointing to that country's role as a major source for methamphetamine ingredients and highlighting the prevalence of methamphetamine production in the region.
The shipment of phenylacetate and monomethylamine, packed into 1,748 barrels, was seized at the port of Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan. The barrels were divided among seven containers on a ship from China with its final destination in Honduras.
Officials from the Attorney General's office have launched an investigation to determine who was behind the shipment.
InSight Crime Analysis
This incident follows the last week's seizure of 36 tons of precursor chemicals in the port of Veracruz. In both cases, the shipments originated in China.
It is still uncertain whether the chemicals were bound for labs in Mexico, Honduras, or both. One thing appears clear, however: The seizures of methamphetamine in Mexico and Central America are skyrocketing.
Guatemala, for example, saw a 400 percent increase in seizures of precursor chemicals from 2010 to 2011. The rise was so extreme that one storage facility reportedly ran out of space in October 2011. At least 200 tons of the chemicals seized there had arrived on ships leaving the Lazaro Cardenas port in Michoacan.
Some of this increase likely resulted from heightened enforcement as authorities catch up to the rise of methamphetamine production in the region; or increased friction between those who control this illicit traffic, as the groups inform on one another's merchandise. Traffickers are increasingly relying on local laboratories to traffic their own meth into the United States, where both the purity and availability of the drug has risen sharply.
Governments face major difficulties in cutting down on meth production due to the versatility of the industry: when one country cracks down on its meth labs, others step in to fill the gap. For example, a 2006 US law limiting the availability of pseudoephedrine products led to a decrease in US meth production, but its high demand led Mexican traffickers to compensate. As a result, while authorities in Mexico broke up 22 meth labs in 2007, by 2011 that number had risen to 206, according to a report by MSNBC.