Fentanyl, Mexico, and the US: Interview with Dr José Domingo Schievenini

Part 2

By Bernardo Moreno

BM: In the first part of this interview we explored the implications of calling out Mexican cartels as terrorist groups. In this context, how tense is the bilateral relationship between Mexico and the United States?

DS: There are harsh issues on the international agenda, immigration is one of them; there is also tension over the intention to recover energy sovereignty; for rethinking the way in which natural resources are extracted (particularly revising the mining law); and for limiting the importation of products that violate food sovereignty, such as transgenic corn from the US intended for human consumption. But there is another key point: the question is how to recover sovereignty in matters of national security.

BM: And how could that sovereignty be recovered? Would stopping the shipment of illegal weapons from the US help?

DS: Yes, it would help a lot, the shipment of illegal weapons from the US is ominous. And in the end they are used by those groups they call “terrorists”. In this regard, there is a lawsuit orchestrated by Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard against these arms manufacturers, accusing them of complicity and negligence. It is difficult for it to prosper, but at least it puts its finger on the line. Apart from weapons, if the world’s largest drug market does not control its consumers, there is little room for maneuver for the Mexican government to cooperate in the drug crisis. However, the strict regulation that is being implemented for DEA agents who are in Mexican territory seems to me a good starting point.

BM: Which cartel controls fentanyl in Mexico and could be considered a terrorist by the US government?

DS: According to investigations by the US Congressional Research Service leaked in the so-called Guacamaya Leaks, China was the largest source of illicit fentanyl, but as of 2019, Mexican criminal groups became the main suppliers of that substance. And according to leaks of documents specifically from the DEA, as of 2017, after the extradition of «Chapo» Guzmán to the US, his sons solidified the obtaining of chemical precursors from not only China but also India and created in Mexico a network of drug laboratories. As you can see, there is a whole geopolitical network behind fentanyl.

BM: How would you describe the role of the AMLO government in this conflict?

DS: From the beginning of his term, AMLO took the country in a state of suffocation, in a generalized crisis that was the result, among other reasons, of decades of poor implementation of neoliberal economic policies. In those decades, a lot of sovereignty was lost, including sovereignty over public security. The current government wants to increase its field of action and, as far as possible, strengthen a central State to start filling the gigantic power gaps from there. On several issues, the AMLO administration is the most to the left in the last eight decades, which has caused media corporations related to other powers and other agendas to attack and disqualify, in an almost obsessive way, every action of the government, and with regard to drugs in particular, the refrain is very repetitive: yes, because he greeted «El Chapo’s» mother, yes, because he freed Ovidio, yes, because in the morning he talks about «hugs, not bullets», decontextualizing each of those points. and ignoring the very old historical process of decomposition and the economic interests that have consolidated this problem.

BM: So, is the role that the US government has played in all this catastrophe for decades being relegated to the background?

DS: The leaks and the creation of new media enemies, such as the sons of “Chapo,» the “Chapitos,» seem to give the DEA and the «war on drugs» a breather, both of which have been so criticized for their dismal results. These new public enemies, now characterized as terrorists, are part of the narrative that serves to blame Mexico for the public health problem they are going through and to thereby take out political-electoral slits. But more than on the «Chapitos» they could focus on issues of greater structural depth, for example, on the former Secretary of Public Security in Mexico, García Luna, who was found guilty in the US on charges of international cocaine trafficking during the Felipe Calderón’s six-year term, and whom senior US officials had cuddled and applauded, even naming him a «super cop.»

BM: Can this crisis bring something positive?

DS: First of all, fentanyl seizures are starting to rise. But in reality this does not mean much, because the demand is maintained and what these seizures will cause is an increase in the price. The fact that, in the face of the crisis, the US begins to look inward seems positive to me: what relationship and what internal responsibility do they have in this dynamic of trafficking that they want to brand as terrorist? And, on the other hand, in Mexico it is urgent to build strong institutions to prevent the problem of fentanyl use and overdose from spreading south of the border. A decade ago we already had a similar experience with cristal meth, which is currently a very serious problem in Mexican territory.

BM: Whose responsibility is it to prevent an epidemic of fentanyl use in Mexico?

DS: It doesn’t depend on the US, nor on China. It depends on society and Mexican institutions.

To read more about Dr. Schievenini’s opinion, follow his Twitter account: @DomSvn