USA imposed sanctions against 15 Mexicans and two companies accused of being part of a network dedicated to trafficking fentanyl to that country, the Secretary of the Treasure, Janet Yellen, at a time when Washington seeks to intensify its fight against that deadly substance.
“Today, more people between the ages of 18 and 49 die from fentanyl in the United States than from any other cause”Yellen said when explaining the sanctions during an event in Mexico City.
The Treasury measures target 15 Mexican citizens and two companies related to the Beltrán Leyva drug trafficking cartel and seek to contain the smuggling of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.
Among those sanctioned are Óscar Manuel Gastelum Iribe, alias “The musician”, and Pedro Inzunza Noriega, identified as current leaders of the Beltrán Leyva.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, for his part, highlighted Washington’s determination to continue “dismantling” the transnational mafias that destabilize the United States and “cut the links of criminal entities with the international financial system”according to a note released by his office.
This cartel is “very involved in transportation and distribution” of drugs such as cocaine and fentanyl in the United States, the Treasury indicated.
The financial sanctions occur simultaneously with the decision of the US Department of Justice to charge 60 foreigners, including 12 of those punished by the Treasury, for international drug trafficking, according to a statement.
The Beltrán Leyva, an organization that seemed in decline for more than a decade due to the death or capture of its leaders, has reemerged in recent years due to the opioid epidemic in the United States, focusing on the lucrative fentanyl market, according to reports from Washington.
The consequences of this opioid are devastating in the United States, where it is responsible for around two-thirds of the 110,000 overdose deaths recorded between March 2022 and March 2023, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Yellen will remain in Mexico until Thursday, where she will meet with the president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the Secretary of the Treasury, Rogelio Ramírez de la O, and the governor of the Bank of Mexico (Central), Victoria Rodríguez Ceja.
Yellen’s visit comes after US President Joe Biden and his Mexican counterpart committed last month to working together to confront the fentanyl crisis affecting the United States.
China is also acting against illicit suppliers of chemicals used to produce these drugs, following recent talks between Biden and President Xi Jinping.
Yellen assured that most of the chemical precursors used come from China and are processed in Mexico before the fentanyl is trafficked to the United States.
He pointed to illicit drug trafficking as “a significant threat to our national security” and a threat to public safety in Mexico.
Opportunity for “friendshoring”
Yellen then met with Mexican businessmen to whom she highlighted the importance of the call “friendshoring”, which consists of the transfer of supply chains to “trusted partner and allies” countries, he explained.
“Mexico is especially well positioned to capitalize on the opportunities that ‘friendshoring’ offers in our region”the secretary stated before journalists, highlighting the “robust macroeconomic stability” of the country.
He warned, however, that governments must create “a robust investment and operating environment for the private sector”, including adequate infrastructure development, skilled workforce, “regulatory stability and rule of law”.
The relocation of investments is key for Washington, which is seeking greater stability for doing business amid economic and geopolitical tensions with China.
Later, Yellen will meet with Governor Rodríguez Ceja, and will chair a debate on illicit finance with leaders of financial institutions and members of the Association of Mexican Banks.
This year, Mexico became the United States’ largest goods trading partner.
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