SINALOA, Mexico From the outside, the house looks like an ordinary middle-class home in a suburban family neighborhood in Culiacn, Sinaloa. A minivan is parked outside, the courtyard is clean, and a children’s bicycle is sitting on the lawn.
The inside tells a different story. Where you’d normally find a dining room is a large wooden table littered with dozens of flasks, measuring instruments, chemical canisters, and a gun.
This is where some deliveries of fentanyl from Mexico to the United States begin.
Here you go, we produce fenta here, a man in a white hazmat suit told The Daily Beast, referring to the opioid.
The man is a chemist for the Sinaloa Cartel. He said he was taught how to make fentanyl by a Chinese man over two years ago. He said it took two months to learn how to synthesize the powerful opioid and how to mix it with other precursors to make pills, destined for shipment to the United States.
It’s always easier to get pre-made fentanyl from China and then just compress it into pills, but sometimes the product gets seized and a safer way is to import the precursors and then make our own fentanyl, he told The Daily Beast.
Mexican President Andrs Manuel Lpez Obrador often denies that laboratories like the one in Culiacn exist in Mexico.
Here we do not produce fentanyl and we do not consume fentanyl, Lpez Obrador said in March. He accused China of producing the opioids that killed more than 70,000 people in the United States from overdoses.
In April, Lpez Obrador sent a letter to the Chinese government asking them to crack down on shipments of fentanyl to North America.
I am writing to you, President Xi Jinping, not to ask you for help with these rude threats, but to ask you on humanitarian grounds to help us by controlling shipments of fentanyl, wrote the Mexican president.
The Chinese government later denied any involvement in the illegal trafficking of fentanyl with the help of cartels. But the man with the white fireproof carpet inside the lab says otherwise.
The cartel member refuses to display all of the chemicals used to synthesize the opioid, but shows what he says is a crucial chemical in the process: a vial of a substance labeled 4-Piperidone, which he claims was delivered by the China.
This is the key to making fenta, and it’s very hard to find outside of China, he said.
Finally, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has designated 4-Piperidone as a regulated substance under the Controlled Substances Act to be important for the production of the controlled substance fentanyl, as it cannot be replaced by other chemicals.
One of many
The house where the interview takes place is one of several dozen clandestine laboratories scattered throughout Sinaloa. According to another Sinaloa cartel operative, who spoke to The Daily Beast on condition of anonymity, a single lab produces up to 1,000 counterfeit pills a day.
The outdoor labs are over, those are just for chiva [heroin] or goal [methamphetamine]. But we don’t need such a big place to cook [fentanyl]the man said.
In February, Mexican authorities seized what they called the largest fentanyl laboratory in history on the outskirts of Culiacn, Sinaloa.
The substances seized were enough to produce more than 100 million doses of one to two milligrams of fentanyl, according to an official communicator, and some 600,000 pressed fentanyl pills were also discovered.
Mexican authorities did not disclose who owned the lab, but US authorities blamed the children of notorious drug lord Joaqun El Chapo Guzmn for many of Mexico’s fentanyl operations.
El Chapos’ sons Ivn Archivaldo, Jess Alfredo, Joaqun and the recently captured Ovidio, known collectively as Los Chapitos, are said to have assumed leadership of the Sinaloa Cartel faction formerly run by El Chapo. The drug lord was arrested and extradited to the United States in 2017.
The Chapitos pioneered the production and trafficking of the deadliest drug our country has ever faced and are responsible for the massive influx of fentanyl into the United States. As a direct result of their actions, we have lost hundreds of thousands of American lives, DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said at an April press conference.
Recently, the Chapitos sent a letter to a major Mexican TV channel denying any involvement in the illegal fentanyl trade.
We have never worked with fentanyl, although there are many in Sinaloa that produce it, which is why we have seen the recent seizures, the Guzmns wrote in the letter. But those laboratories have a name and a surname. Do some research. You should only send a single agent to Sinaloa.
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