Mexico supplies majority of meth


Published: Sunday, January 6, 2008 at 8:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 6, 2008 at 8:24 p.m.

MEXICO CITY - Mexican drug traffickers are the main suppliers of methamphetamine to the U.S. and produce enormous quantities of the drug despite government crackdowns, according to a recent U.S. Justice Department report.

Mexico's efforts to restrict imports of precursor chemicals needed to make the drug, and a number of high-profile drug busts, have not led to lower meth production, the report said.

"Despite heightened chemical import restrictions in Mexico, methamphetamine production in that country has increased since 2004, and Mexico is now the primary source of methamphetamine to U.S. drug markets," the National Drug Intelligence Center's 2008 report on methamphetamine said.

The report was dated December but highlighted in several Mexican newspapers Sunday.

President Felipe Calderon has made the fight against organized crime and drug trafficking a cornerstone of his administration, deploying more than 24,000 agents to violence-wracked areas.

In a December speech marking his first year in office, Calderon said security forces had arrested some 15,000 people with links to organized crime and made numerous drug busts since January 2007.

Last March, police raided the Mexico City home of Chinese businessman Zhenli Ye Gon and seized some $207 million in cash allegedly linked to one of the Western Hemisphere's largest trafficking rings for pseudoephedrine, the main chemical ingredient in methamphetamine.

Government officials could not be reached for comment Sunday, which was "Three Kings Day," a popular Roman-Catholic holiday in Mexico.

In the wake of the March raid, Mexico now requires prescriptions for medicines that contain pseudoephedrine and blocks over-the-counter sales of the decongestant.

But traffickers have adapted by using alternate routes to smuggle restricted chemicals into Mexico, importing non-restricted precursor chemicals and mislabeling substances to trick customs officials, the Justice Department report said.

Mexican cartels are also increasingly distributing the drugs themselves in U.S. markets such as Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas, according to the report, selling directly through street gangs and bypassing established networks.

Violent crime in Mexico remains rampant despite Calderon's much-touted drug offensive, and Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora reported Friday that drug and organized crime related killings rose to 2,500 in 2007, up from 2,350 in 2006.

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