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Sinaloa Cartel heavily into meth.

Ice meth bag

The Sinaloa is nowadays the most powerful drug cartel in Mexico, with The Zetas in second place.

The Sinaloa Cartel seems to be expanding on a massive level of methamphetamine production, filling the void left by the virtual  dissolution of the cartel La Familia that was once the principal in the production and illegal trafficking of synthetic drugs.

It is believed that the cartel is trading tons of drugs and chemical precursors that are processed in industrial scale operations.

The increasing involvement of the Sinaloa cartel in this activity comes as the government claims to have dismantled the cartel “La Familia”, arresting key figures and killing his leader.

Mexico is again the main source of the methamphetamine consumed in the U.S., according to reports from U.S. intelligence agencies.

Methamphetamine production has grown tremendously in the last three years, as confirmed raids on laboratories and seizures of drugs.

Mexican authorities have made two high-profile operations in the last two months in Queretaro. They confiscated nearly 500 tons of precursor chemicals and they seized 3.4 tons of pure methamphetamine, worth about 100 million dollars.

The authorities said they were not able to calculate the value of the precursors that were probably aimed at an illegal industrial laboratory located underground, 100 meters long and built four feet underground in a farm in the northwestern state of Sinaloa.

Tons of chemicals used for meth production were seized by mexican police. Credit Photo AP

“We believe the drugs are from the Sinaloa Cartel,” said a Mexico-based American agent to magazine Milenio, who noted that the cartel can send their cargo along with cocaine, heroin and marijuana entering the U.S. illegally.

“Now you may be interested to have more control over the methamphetamine market. While” La Familia drug distribution in the United States does not have the network available to the Sinaloa cartel,” he said.

The agent could not be identified for security reasons.

Steve Preisler, an industrial chemist who wrote the book “Secrets of methamphetamine production,” says that “the amounts involved are staggering.”

“This is a huge amount of materials for production, allowing them to dominate the market,” said Preisler.

Preisler, who is considered by many the “father” of modern production of methamphetamine and was detained for three and a half years more than two decades ago, said that more efficient production methods generate half the weight of the precursors, between 200 and 250 tonnes of synthetic drugs with a street value of billions of dollars.

Officials from the Federal Police, the Army and the Attorney General’s Office refused to reveal who owned the lab and precursors.

The supply of methamphetamine rose from 2007 and it is estimated that this is due to the production of Mexico, the U.S. Department of Justice.

The seizure of methamphetamine in the United States remains stable. In 2008 and 2009 were seized 8.16 tons and 8.27 respectively, but in Mexico it went from 0.37 tons in 2008 to 6.72 tons in 2009, according to a UN report.

Not yet circulated the statistics of seizures in 2010, but U.S. officials predict that probably were higher than in 2009.

Authorities confiscated 200 tons of precursor chemicals on the Mexican port of Manzanillo last year, as the Attorney at the time described as the largest raid in the history of Mexico. The seizure last month in Queretaro was twice as large.

The capture of meth labs has also increased significantly, the report said international narcotics control the U.S. State Department 2011. The number of dismantled laboratories rose from 57 in 2008 to 217 in 2009. In early 2010, maintaining a similar level.

The figures show “that (output) is intended only for domestic consumption and the United States.”

The mexican government says its offensive against “La Familia” cartel is one of the great successes of its war against drug trafficking and organized crime.

Its founder, Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, died in a clash of two days with the Federal Police in December and his right hand, Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas, who allegedly ran the business of methamphetamine, was arrested in June.

U.S. officials say that other bands try to fill the void left by “The Family”.

The criminals are using the old method of production known as “P2P”, these ingredients are easy to smuggle and can be produced from other substances that are not prohibited. Such ingredients have become more popular since the Mexican government prohibited the main component of methamphetamine, pseudoephedrine, in 2007.

Authorities say the P2P method produces a weaker drug, but the World Drug Report of the 2007 United Nations said that Mexican cartels are producing huge amounts of pure methamphetamine.

The soldiers found a sophisticated underground lab near Mazatlan, in Sinaloa, on June 26. It was a two-story structure with an elevator and ventilation systems, kitchen and bedrooms. The complex could be reached only through a tunnel of 30 meters, whose income was hiding under a shed for a tractor.

The American officer said that the deposit of Querétaro dismantled in July apparently supplied the underground laboratory of Sinaloa.

Some speculate that the Sinaloa cartel is trying to expand beyond the United States. Malaysian police arrested in March 2008 a gang of  three Mexicans in a laboratory and seized nearly 30 kilos of methamphetamine.

The U.S. agent would not confirm that they were individuals working for the Sinaloa cartel, but noted that the three were from the Sinaloa State.

“Were there showing the locals how to make methamphetamine? Or was it an experiment of the Sinaloa cartel to see if they could penetrate the market in that part of the world,” he asked.

The presence in Asia would be a natural step for the cartel, since most of the precursor chemicals used in Mexico come from that region.