Mexican President Angered by U.S. Pressure Asks China to Help Stop Fentanyl Production

Mexican President Angered by U.S. Pressure Asks China to Help Stop Fentanyl Production
Bag of fentanyl pills (U.S. FDA)

The Lede: In a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has asked for help in halting the transport of chemicals from China that Mexican drug dealers use to illegally produce fentanyl. He also criticized the U.S. for placing blame on Mexico for the drug trade.

What We Know:

  • López Obrador highlighed China’s export of fentanyl precursors and called on the Chinese leader to help stop shipments of chemicals imported by Mexican cartels.
  • The Mexican President complained about calls in the U.S. to designate Mexican drug gangs as terrorist organizations with some Republicans saying that they favor using U.S. military force to counter Mexican cartels.

The Background: Most illegal fentanyl is produced by Mexican cartels into counterfeit pills made to look like other medications like Xanax, Oxycodone, or Percocet. They also end up mixed into other drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Many people who die of overdoses in the U.S. do not know they are taking fentanyl. More than 107,000 people died from fentanyl consumption in the U.S. in 2021 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. China has taken some measures to counter the export of fentanyl materials, but the issue remains pervasive. While López Obrador has angrily denied that fentanyl is produced in Mexico, his own administration has acknowledged finding dozens of labs, many in Sinaloa, where it is produced.

Likely Outcomes:

  • China may increase efforts to crack down on the export of fentanyl materials as requested by the Mexican President, but it will likely be just for show as Beijing has not effectively committed to or demonstrated any competency in preventing the shipment of these components out of the country. However, bilateral cooperation on this front may be an area of agreement that can bring China and Mexico closer.
  • The U.S. will likely be angered on both counts. The important neighboring trading partner has criticized U.S. policy while asking for help from their rival superpower in Asia. Those wishing for a more active U.S. role against the drug cartels may use this as yet another reason for greater American involvement. This could further damage U.S.-Mexico relations. Yet, the two countries continue to have strong ties that China would not be an alternative to in the near term.


“These positions are in themselves a lack of respect and a threat to our sovereignty, and moreover they are based on an absurd, manipulative, propagandistic and demagogic attitude.” – President López Obrador on Washington's stance.

“It is assumed that the fentanyl is coming from Asia. What must be made clear is that we don't produce fentanyl. It's a primary resource that is produced in Asia, and it's also important to clarify this: who is producing it?” – López Obrador.

"We come to you, President Xi Jinping, not to ask for your support in the face of these rude threats, but to request that for humanitarian reasons, you help us control shipments of fentanyl that can be sent from China to our country.” – López Obrador in a letter to Xi.

Good Reads:

Mexican president bemoans ‘rude’ US fentanyl pressure in plea to Xi Jinping (The Guardian)

Mexico asks China’s help in curbing production of fentanyl (AP)