Mexico Busts Meth ‘Mega Laboratory,’ Biggest in Over Five Years

Mexican authorities have raided and dismantled the biggest meth lab found under the current presidential administration in the northern state of Sonora.

According to the Mexican Navy, a clandestine “mega-laboratory” was discovered recently in the area of Rancho Viejo, Quiriego, Sonora. That laboratory was raided by naval personnel on an undisclosed date and effectively neutralized.

“In coordination with [the Attorney General’s Office] [and the Attorney General’s Office of the State (FGE) of Sonora] and authorities of the state of Sonora, in recent days a mega laboratory was located and dismantled, the largest insured during the current administration, which was made up of six drug generation points and represents more than 50% of the drugs and precursors secured during the current year,” The Secretary of the Navy of Mexico said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

This particular raid was responsible for the seizure of 41,310 kilograms of bulk methamphetamine as well as 12,705 kilograms of precursor chemicals used to synthesize methamphetamine capable of producing a total of 54,015 kilograms of methamphetamine. The Mexican Navy indicated in a press release that if individually bagged and tagged for personal use, this would constitute over 1 billion doses of meth (not to split hairs but by my count it’s more like 540 million).

The Mexican Navy also indicated that 72 reactors, 102 condensers, 32 centrifuges, three vehicles, two motorcycles, a trailer and other miscellaneous material were seized during this operation. Before this raid the largest lab found was in Sinaloa and had only13 reactors. It was also noted in the same press release that after distribution, the amount of narcotics seized in this raid would have netted the cartels over $700 million USD. Including this raid, a total of 73,520 kilograms of methamphetamine and 141,470 kilograms of precursor chemicals have been seized and destroyed in Mexico thus far this year.

The United States has been ramping up pressure on President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and subsequently the country of Mexico to crack down on the flow of illegal narcotics from Mexico into the United States, the vast majority of which are fentanyl and methamphetamine produced by the cartels. As a result of this increased pressure, Mexico has been increasingly raiding drug labs around the country but a Reuters investigation released in March of last year found via leaked government documents that Mexico has been dramatically inflating the number of drug raids it performs.

This inflation was reportedly performed by including a large number of raids in the tallies shared with the U.S. which were labs that were already inactive by the time the military got there. In fact, a report released last December found that 89% of raids on suspected fentanyl-producing labs were performed on inactive labs. 

“These numbers are outrageous and not worth the paper they are written on,” said Matthew Donahue, former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Regional Director to Reuters, calling the number inflation an attempt at “placating the United States and to make it appear they are doing something, when clearly they are not.”

Data obtained from the Mexican Defense Ministry by Reuters showed that in 2023, Mexican military units performed 503 raids on inactive labs and 24 raids on active labs. In 2022 the military raided 450 inactive labs and 42 active labs.  In 2021 it was 195 inactive and 22 active. In 2020, 267 inactive and 55 active.

This increased pressure by the U.S. on Mexico has been consistent to the tune of several in-person meetings and conversations between the Biden administration and President Obrador. It even led to an ominous warning to all drug cartels being posted on signs throughout SInaloa in October of last year expressly telling people to stop producing fentanyl in the area, though by all accounts fentanyl production has not slowed down whatsoever since the notices were posted. 

“Attention. Due to the incessant disinformation of some media and the obvious omission of the government in not investigating and prosecuting the true culprits of this epidemic,” the banners said (in Spanish). “In Sinaloa, the sale, manufacture, transportation or any type of business that involves the substance known as fentanyl is strictly prohibited, including the sale of chemicals for its preparation. We have never been nor will we be related to that business. [Be warned of] the consequences. Att: Chapitos,” the signs read.”

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