Yellen Visiting Mexico To Address Fentanyl Trafficking And Trade

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is set to visit Mexico City, aiming to bolster cooperation against fentanyl trafficking and enhance bilateral trade relationships. This strategic visit follows the Treasury’s recent announcement of a new Counter-Fentanyl Strike Force, emphasizing a renewed federal commitment to curb illicit drug flow and reinforcing economic ties.

Yellen’s agenda includes high-level talks with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and key officials. These discussions will concentrate on strategies to combat drug financing and innovate in the fight against narcotics traffickers, who continuously adapt their methods.

A significant focus of Yellen’s trip will be on the new strike force, uniting the Treasury’s various arms to disrupt the illegal drug trade more effectively. “Treasury will use every tool at its disposal to disrupt the ability of drug traffickers to peddle this poison in our country,” Yellen stated.

The visit also highlights the intricate U.S.-Mexico trade relationship, which is now the largest global bilateral trade partnership. Yellen will advocate for Mexico’s vital role in “friend-shoring” U.S. supply chains, a strategy aimed at enhancing the resilience of these networks and promoting national security.

However, challenges persist. Earl Anthony Wayne, a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico, notes that despite sanctions on cartels and money-laundering networks, the overall cross-border drug trade, estimated at $20 to $30 billion annually, continues unabated.

“Somehow, that money gets back to cartels,” Wayne observed, pointing to the ongoing difficulty in dismantling the financial underpinnings of drug operations.

The fentanyl crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border presents alarming statistics that underscore the severity of this issue. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data, fentanyl seizures at the southwestern border with Mexico have already exceeded 9,500 kg (about 21,000 pounds) during the fiscal year 2023. This represents a significant increase, approximately 50% more than the previous fiscal year.

Around half of this fentanyl was intercepted at the San Diego-Tijuana ports of entry. Despite increased efforts to control the situation, the trafficking of this potent synthetic opioid continues to be a significant challenge​​, especially amid the Biden administration’s disastrous open-borders immigration enforcement policies.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in 2021, there were about 71,000 deaths in the U.S. due to overdosing on synthetic opioids like fentanyl. This number shows a significant rise from almost 58,000 in 2020. To put this in perspective, the death toll from synthetic opioid overdoses in 2021 was more than ten times the number of drug deaths at the height of the crack cocaine epidemic in 1988​​.

Yellen’s visit is a crucial step in a broader strategy to address the dual challenges of fentanyl trafficking and strengthening U.S.-Mexico economic ties, signaling a concerted effort to tackle complex transnational issues through collaboration and innovation.

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