HomeNewsUS Sanctions Oversimplify Fentanyl Trafficking From Mexico
NEWS

US Sanctions Oversimplify Fentanyl Trafficking From Mexico

FENTANYL / 22 NOV 2022 BY PARKER ASMANN* EN

Authorities in the United States have sanctioned a Mexican criminal group for trafficking illicit fentanyl into the country, but the designation passes over some of the complexities behind the smuggling and marketing of the deadly synthetic opioid.

The US Treasury Department announced that it had sanctioned the Nueva Familia Michoacana and two of the group’s alleged leaders, Johnny and José Alfredo Hurtado Olascoaga, for their role in trafficking illicit fentanyl, according to a government press release published November 17.

Under the leadership of the brothers, the Nueva Familia Michoacana -- a splinter group of the once-powerful Familia Michoacana -- allegedly operates across dozens of municipalities in the states of Michoacán, Guerrero, Morelos, and Mexico, and smuggles cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and illicit fentanyl into the United States.

SEE ALSO: Mexico’s Role in the Deadly Rise in Fentanyl

US officials directly targeted the illicit fentanyl trafficked by the organization, which also “now markets ‘rainbow fentanyl,’” according to Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson. In August of this year, US anti-drug officials claimed this “new” trafficking method was “a deliberate effort by drug traffickers to drive addiction amongst kids and young adults.”

At least one of the recently sanctioned brothers has been on the radar of authorities for more than two decades. A court in Florida indicted Johnny Hurtado Olascoaga on cocaine trafficking charges in June 2000. However, he has not yet been arrested or charged with new drug trafficking crimes related to his alleged role in leading the Nueva Familia Michoacana.

InSight Crime Analysis

The latest sanctions handed down by US authorities offer a window into the world of illicit fentanyl trafficking from Mexico to the United States. Yet they only provided part of the picture.

Authorities said that the Nueva Familia Michoacana was the group “behind the increasing US presence of rainbow fentanyl.” However, Mexico’s organized crime landscape is more complex than that. It’s more likely that there are a number of groups responsible for the trafficking of so-called “rainbow fentanyl” into the United States.

Both the Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación - CJNG) are known to be mass-producing powerful synthetic drugs like methamphetamine and fentanyl. In fact, a large portion of the clandestine drug labs seized since Andrés Manuel López Obrador became president have been located in Sinaloa, where the Nueva Familia Michoacana does not have a presence.

SEE ALSO: Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, CJNG Share Fentanyl Chemical Suppliers

The idea that Mexican drug trafficking groups are deliberately targeting children and young people with this colored fentanyl is also misguided.

"It's not a marketing tool for children. Traffickers are just replicating classic strategies to distinguish their product from other drugs," said Jaime Arredondo, a professor at the University of Victoria and researcher with the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research.

Indeed, in recent years illicit fentanyl has driven drug overdose deaths in the United States largely because users were unaware dealers had mixed lethal quantities into fake M30 Oxycodone pills, known as “blues,” or with other drugs like cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine.

However, with some US drug users now beginning to seek out fentanyl directly, the coloring acts as a way to identify the product for those who want it, as well as for those who do not. Not only that, but the colors make it harder for US dealers to mix the illicit fentanyl with white, powdered drugs.

*InSight Crime investigator Sara García contributed reporting to this article.

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

JALISCO CARTEL / 11 JUL 2022

Despite Mexico ranking as the second-most devout Catholic country on the planet, clerics have found no salvation from extortion, beatings…

FENTANYL / 19 JUL 2021

The United States saw a record toll in drug overdose deaths last year, driven in part by two powerful synthetic…

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 11 JUN 2021

Over seven million rounds of ammunition were stolen by an unknown armed group in central Mexico this week, a record-breaking…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

‘Ndrangheta Investigation, Exclusive Interview With Suriname President Make Waves

2 DEC 2022

Two weeks ago, InSight Crime published an investigation into how Italian mafia clan the ‘Ndrangheta built a cocaine trafficking network from South America to ‘Ndrangheta-controlled Italian ports. The investigation generated…

WORK WITH US

Open Position: Full Stack WordPress Developer

28 NOV 2022

As Full Stack WordPress Developer You Will: Work collaboratively with other developers and designers to maintain and improve organizational standards.Demonstrate a high level of attention to detail, and implement best…

THE ORGANIZATION

Join Us This #GivingTuesday in Exposing Organized Crime

24 NOV 2022

For over twelve years, InSight Crime has contributed to the global dialogue on organized crime and corruption. Our work has provided policymakers, analysts, academics, journalists, and the general public with…

THE ORGANIZATION

Like Crime, Our Coverage Knows No Borders

18 NOV 2022

The nature of global organized crime means that while InSight Crime focuses on Latin America, we also follow criminal dynamics worldwide. InSight Crime investigator Alessandro Ford covers the connections between Latin American and European…

THE ORGANIZATION

Using Data to Expose Crime

11 NOV 2022

Co-director Jeremy McDermott made a virtual presentation at a conference hosted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The ‘Sixth International Conference on Governance, Crime, and Justice…