That said, seizures of fentanyl on Mexico’s south west border with the United States have been spiking — pointing to Mexico’s growing importance in the market and the growing amount of fentanyl moving north. During 2016 and 2017, three quarters of the total amount of fentanyl seized by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) was at its Southwest border. Officials there have seen seizures grow by some 700 percent, spiking from six in 2015 to 54 in 2017.
Investigations by InSight Crime – a think tank that studies organized crime in the Americas – suggests that the organization founded by El Chapo, the Sinaloa Cartel, as well as the other strongest criminal organization in Mexico, the New Generation Jalisco Cartel, are investing in the fentanyl business.
Workers in a poppy field high up in the mountains of Sinaloa and several hour’s drive from the city of Culiacán told the same story. They spoke as they worked, cutting thin lines around the ripe buds of the poppy flowers with improvised razors. They would return the next day to scrape away the paste that will ooze out of the bud overnight.
They say that the price of the poppy paste that will later be processed into heroin has dropped from some 36,000 (USD 1,865) pesos per kilo to a mere 10,000 (USD 500) pesos in the last few years. Chiva sintética – or synthetic heroin – is the new cash cow and killing the heroin business.
“The price started to fall as soon as synthetic heroin started appearing around three years ago – it’s affected us all,” said one farmer who didn’t want to be named.