Sinaloa Cartel Drug Traffickers Explain Why Coronavirus Is Very Bad for Their Business

Vice News –

The chemicals used for manufacturing meth and fentanyl are mainly sourced in China, and cartels in Mexico are running low.

Jesús is a drug trafficker allied with the Sinaloa cartel. Last week, he and other traffickers received a WhatsApp message from the cartel’s top boss, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, who declared that wholesale prices were going to increase for methamphetamine.

“Mayo sent this announcement saying, ‘Everyone is going to sell a pound of crystal for 15,000 pesos ($600) from now on because of the shortage. Before that, it was 2,500 pesos ($100),” said Jesús, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The message also said, ‘If you don’t obey, pay attention to the consequences.’ ”

The stated reason for the sixfold price hike is the novel coronavirus pandemic. The cartel supply chain is complex and international. The raw chemical ingredients used for manufacturing methamphetamine and fentanyl are mainly sourced from China, the epicenter of the outbreak. In a recent interview with VICE News, Jesús said his “cooks” were already running low on some of the essential materials used in the drug manufacturing process.

“Because of the coronavirus, there is very little distribution or importation from China to Mexico City.”

The coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, has thrown a massive wrench in the gears of the global economy. Seemingly every industry that relies on China for labor or raw materials has been affected, most notably companies that make medical supplies and pharmaceuticals, which are essential for treating sick people and containing the spread of the virus. Drug cartels have not been immune.

Jesús said that normally his cooks keep about a month’s supply of chemicals on hand, but they were already running low and having difficulty restocking. A cook from another Sinaloa cartel faction, who identified himself as Enrique, reported a similar problem, saying the price of acetone, which is used to manufacture heroin, has more than doubled over the past 15 days, climbing from around $60 for 20 litres to $150.

“It’s changed a lot,” Enrique said. “The prices are very high right now. Because of the coronavirus, there is very little distribution or importation from China to Mexico City. It’s difficult to get the chemicals, the juice. You can get them, but the prices are going way up for everyone.”

Enrique said he’s heard rumors that a kilo of fentanyl, which used to sell wholesale in Sinaloa for 870,000 pesos ($35,000), now costs 1 million pesos ($42,000). The powerful synthetic opioid, which has fueled the skyrocketing rate of overdose deaths in the U.S., once flowed directly from China to the U.S. through the international mail system. But a crackdown by Chinese authorities that began last May has stimulated production in Mexico, with the Chinese supplying the loosely regulated precursors necessary for the cooking process.

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