Crime & Justice

Mexican, US authorities on alert over fentanyl distribution spike in Tijuana

By Manuel Ayala

Tijuana, Mexico, Sep 6 (EFE).- The sharp rise in fentanyl distribution in this northwestern city, where it is estimated to have skyrocketed this year by 333 percent in the tourist zone, has put authorities on alert on both sides of the United States-Mexico border.

That alarming figure is based on the confiscation of 269 kilograms (590 pounds) of that potent opioid in the year’s first eight months by the northwestern state of Baja California’s Public Security Secretariat.

Most of those seizures occurred in the Zona Norte neighborhood, which is located just one kilometer from the San Ysidro Port of Entry – the largest land border crossing between Tijuana and San Diego, California – and thus a place where tourist and migrant flows are concentrated.

Efe toured that area with the director of Baja California’s State Citizen Security Force, David Amaury Salas Sanchez, who confirmed that a significant number of fentanyl seizures have been made this year.

Prior to 2022, “it was very rare to see those types of substances in the city,” he said.

The official said that increase in fentanyl distribution and consumption has occurred because the per-dose distribution cost is much lower – just 50 pesos ($2.50) – compared to other substances.

He added that the effect that synthetic drug produces in people is “double that of methamphetamine and lasts longer.”

Criminal gangs fight for control of Zona Norte due to its location in the center of the tourist area, its proximity to the San Ysidro and El Chaparral border crossings and its status as a “tolerance zone” for prostitution, Salas Sanchez said.

“Drug sales are very high here … and disputes among (criminal gangs are frequent),” the official said. “Typically, a person is killed every day in that zone, so we’re constantly monitoring.”

Ivan Carpio Sanchez, the state attorney general, confirmed to the media that his office also has noticed an increase in fentanyl and acknowledged that the concern level is high even though “it’s a federal matter.”

“We’re even working with the government of the United States, which is where this substance commonly ends up,” he said.

Mexico has boosted its seizures of fentanyl, other synthetic drugs and drug precursors amid US pressure to crack down on those types of narcotics.

A recent report by the federal Security Secretariat indicated fentanyl seizures have risen 814 percent during the current administration of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador compared to that of his predecessor.

Salas Sanchez also said criminal gangs prey on migrants, adding that they “take advantage of (the fact) they are out of work or need money to survive (and) use them to make drug sales.”

Authorities say fentanyl is distributed on the street and at nightspots in Tijuana’s Zona Norte, with the drugs being sold hand to hand in small doses.

The drug has been confiscated in multiple forms, including pills, powder and blocks that are easy to conceal but cause severe harm to consumers.

Adrian Medina Amarillas, Baja California’s health secretary, said his office has observed in recent months an increase in the consumption of fentanyl and methamphetamine, which in turn are triggering higher rates of addictions and overdoses.

“Many of the overdose deaths are occurring on the street, and so it’s difficult to have an exact count. (Overdose victims) don’t make it to our health centers so we don’t identify them,” he told members of the media.

The official said training has been provided to emergency room personnel at hospitals to “reverse overdoses and avoid patient deaths.” EFE

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