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Mexico claims largest synthetic drug lab arrest to date


MEXICO CITY — Mexican soldiers have seized more than half a million fentanyl pills in a raid on what the military announced Wednesday as the largest synthetic drug lab found so far.

The military said the open-air lab was discovered in Culiacan, the capital of the northern state of Sinaloa. Sinaloa is home to the drug cartel of the same name.

Soldiers raided the lab on Tuesday and found nearly 630,000 pills that appear to contain the synthetic opioid fentanyl. They also reported seizing 282 pounds (128 kilograms) of fentanyl powder and about 220 pounds (100 kilograms) of suspected methamphetamines.

“This is the highest capacity synthetic drug manufacturing lab on record during this administration,” the military said in a statement.

Mexican drug cartels produce the opioid from chemical precursors shipped from China, then press it into pills that are counterfeited to look like Xanax, Percocet, or Oxycodone. People often take the pills without knowing they contain fentanyl and can end up with fatal overdoses.

The arrest came on the same day that the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the massive number of US fentanyl overdoses that occur each year, currently around 70,000.

The committee’s chairman, Senator Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, called on Mexico to do more.

“This means we need to ask Mexico to do more to stop the criminal organizations from producing and trafficking fentanyl, although a politicized judiciary and incidents of Mexican security forces colluding with drug cartels will make that difficult,” he said.

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