Mexican President André Manuel López Obrador said Friday a lack of “hugs and embraces” are to blame for the U.S. fentanyl crisis, the latest in a series of remarks on the topic by the Mexican president, who has sought to dismiss the role that murderous drug cartels play in shipping the deadly drug into the U.S.
The controversial Mexican leader told reporters the U.S. fentanyl crisis was caused by “a lack of hugs, of embraces.”
“There is a lot of disintegration of families. There is a lot of individualism. There is a lack of love, of brotherhood, of hugs and embraces,” López Obrador said, according to The Associated Press. “That is why [U.S. officials] should be dedicating funds to address the causes.”
The remarks were the latest effort by the president to deflect renewed scrutiny in the U.S. on the role of Mexican drug cartels in bringing fentanyl, which is 50-100 times more potent than morphine and can be lethal in tiny doses, into the U.S.
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The drug is primarily made in Mexico using Chinese precursors and then smuggled in across the land border, primarily at ports of entry, but also between ports.
The DEA said in December that “most of the fentanyl trafficked by the Sinaloa and CJNG Cartels is being mass-produced at secret factories in Mexico with chemicals sourced largely from China.”
There were 14,000 pounds of the drug seized last fiscal year at the southern border and more than 11,000 pounds this fiscal year so far. There were over 70,000 deaths recorded due to fentanyl in the U.S. in 2021, according to the National Institute of Health.
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Attorney General Merrick Garland recently told lawmakers Mexico was helping the U.S. with the issue of fentanyl, but could still be doing more. He also said the epidemic is being “unleashed on purpose” by Mexico.
Multiple lawmakers have since called for cartels to be designated as foreign terrorist organizations, and some have raised the possibility of military action to take out the drug labs in Mexico.
“We’re going to unleash the fury and might of the United States against these cartels,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said earlier this month. “We’re going to destroy their business model and their lifestyle because our national security and the security of the United States as a whole depends on us taking decisive action.”
Those calls led López Obrador to falsely claim Mexico does not produce fentanyl.
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“Here, we do not produce fentanyl, and we do not have consumption of fentanyl,” López Obrador said. “Why don’t they [the United States] take care of their problem of social decay?”
He also threatened to meddle in U.S. elections by launching an “information campaign” against Republicans.
“And if they do not change their attitude and think that they are going to use Mexico for their propaganda, electoral and political purposes, we are going to call for them not to vote for that party, because it is interventionist, inhumane, hypocritical and corrupt,” López Obrador said, later adding that Mexico would be insisting that “not one vote” goes to Republicans from Mexicans and Hispanics.
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This week, he also called for a ban in both countries on the use of fentanyl in medicine, although there is no indication that the use of fentanyl in hospitals is connected with the ongoing broader crisis. Most fentanyl available illegally is consumed via fake pills used to look like other drugs and medication.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.