(The Center Square) – The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee wants Mexico and countries that supply the precursor chemicals for making cheap and potent fentanyl to be held accountable and do more to stop illicit trafficking as deaths from the drug continue to surge in the United States.
Chairman U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said more needs to be done both within the U.S. and abroad.
“I’m urging the Biden administration to take additional steps to confront the fentanyl epidemic,” he said. ” … It’s time for the United States to build a multi-lateral coalition to hold China accountable for failure to meet its international obligation to stop illicit drug trafficking.”
Menendez said China needs to immediately implement Know-Your-Customer standards to protect against fraud, corruption and money laundering or face sanctions. At home, he said the U.S. needs more high-tech screening at the borders to disrupt open fentanyl sales on social media and to improve access to treatment for those with substance use disorders.
U.S. Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, said more than 100,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2021. He said fentanyl was responsible for nearly 70% of those deaths. Addressing the issue will require “very effective international cooperation,” he said.
“Another way to stem this crisis is to identify and cut off the pipelines,” he said.
Those pipelines include precursor chemicals from China that Mexican cartels use to make fentanyl, which is then smuggled into the U.S., Risch said.
“The same cartels are profiting from and prolonging the illegal migration crisis caused by the Biden administration’s weak enforcement of border security and immigration controls,” he said.
More than 46 million Americans have substance use disorders, said Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
“America is facing the worst drug crisis we’ve ever seen,” he said. “It is tearing the very fabric of our nation. It presents a direct and surging threat to public health.”
Anne Milgram, administrator for the Drug Enforcement Administration, said the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel are responsible for the majority of the illicit fentanyl that enters the United States.
She said the two cartels buy precursor chemicals from China, which they use to make fentanyl powder. That powder is then pressed into fake prescription pills, Milgram said.
“It is the deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced,” she said.
The Mexican Army this week announced that it seized a fentanyl pill manufacturing center and the laboratory with the largest methamphetamine production capacity in Culiacán, Sinaloa. The army found about 282 pounds of possible granulated fentanyl, 629,138 pills of probable fentanyl, 220 pounds of possible methamphetamine, other chemicals, and 28 organic synthesis reactors.
“Due to the number of reactors, the laboratory is the one with the largest synthetic drug production capacity that has been recorded historically and during the present administration,” Mexico’s Secretary of National Defense said in a news release.