Menu Close

The Mexican Navy in the Port of Cardenas discovered 52,000 pounds of fentanyl powder in a mismarked container from a Danish ship arriving from Shanghai, China.

The cargo manifest for the 40-foot ocean container stated that the powder content was 23,368 kilograms of inorganic calcium chloride, commonly used as an electrolyte in sports drinks, beverages, bottled water and as a non-sodium flavoring for pickles. The fentanyl was bound for the Sinaloa Cartel home-base in Culiacan, 300 miles north of the port.

Mexican Customs seized 931 sacks of the substance weighing about 25.75 tons. The total weight of the fentanyl powder seizure is preliminary, with authorities still evaluating the purity of fentanyl seized. But if the seizure is confirmed as pharmaceutical-grade fentanyl, it could be pressed into tens of millions of tablets.

Drug cartels favor fentanyl or fentanyl precursors imported from China because it can be diluted with fillers and marketed by street-dealers as cocaine, heroin or meth. Fentanyl can also be pressed into pills and sold on the street as oxycodone.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse warns that pharmaceutical-grade fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Fentanyl is extremely dangerous to handle because as little as 0.25 milligrams absorbed through the skin can be lethal.

The Port of Lazaro Cardenas fentanyl seizure follows the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Aug. 15 announcement of cumulative year 2019 seizures of 1,138,288 illicitly created fentanyl pills by its Phoenix DEA Field Office in cooperation with Arizona law enforcement agencies. That is nearly triple the 380,000 fentanyl pills seized in year 2018, and over 56 times the 20,000 fentanyl pills seized in year 2016.

Former Sinaloa Cartel crime boss Joaquin Guzman Loera (“El Chapo”) was extradited to the United States in January 2017. He was earlier convicted in Mexico for trafficking cocaine, heroin and fentanyl. But he successfully escaped from two Mexican prisons.

Guzman was sentenced by a U.S. district judge in July 2019 to a life term in a maximum-security U.S. prison, with the addition of 30 years, and ordered to pay $12.6 billion in forfeiture for being the principal leader of the Sinaloa Cartel and for 26 drug-related charges, including a murder conspiracy.