Mexico launches online platform for dual-use precursors

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The Mexican government unveiled an online platform Thursday that it claims will allow authorities to track the importation and consumption of so-called “dual-use” precursor chemicals often used to make synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine and the fentanyl.

Mexico is the largest supplier of such drugs to the US market, and some Mexican companies have lost shipments of chemicals such as ephedrine, benzene or ammonium chloride to theft or sold them to companies used by drug cartels.

Dual-use precursors are chemicals used in the production of drugs that have a legitimate use in the production of cosmetics, household cleaning products or other industries. While they have long had “flags” for special oversight in Mexico, the system has been riddled with laxity and corruption.

Alejandro Svarch, head of Mexico’s health and drug regulatory agency COFEPRIS, reported “acts of corruption and substance abuse” at his agency in previous years.

“In a dark file … indiscriminate use was made, without any accountability, of imported shipments of various chemicals for the purpose of manufacturing, in many cases, illegal substances,” Svarch said.

In fact, of the six Mexican distribution companies listed by the government as authorized to deal in such substances, two have had their operations suspended for “irregularities,” one temporarily closed and one permanently closed.

Of the remaining two Mexican companies, one is under investigation by the country’s anti-money laundering agency and had its bank accounts frozen until early this year.

Svarch said the new system will allow tracking of shipments and verification of how they were used.

The new system was designed in collaboration with the Mexican Navy, which has been given control of customs control at Mexico’s ports. The Navy also played a role in raiding the headquarters of the Cofepris agency and rooting out corruption there.

Svarch did not explain how the new system would prevent the chemicals – many of which are liquids – from “leaking” from legal warehouses, but said a QR code would be attached to shipments.

Mexico has created a list of 72 chemicals that require special permits and handling, ranging from close precursors like piperidone and P2P, to more general-purpose substances like acetic acid and iodine.

It’s unclear whether such measures can stop Mexican cartels, which have built industrial-scale labs to make meth and fentanyl, trained chemists to make them and demonstrated an ability to change formulas when certain ingredients are in short supply.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *