Jesús is a drug trafficker allied with the Sinaloa cartel. Last week, he and other traffickers received a WhatsApp message from the cartel’s top boss, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, who declared that wholesale prices were going to increase for methamphetamine.
“Mayo sent this announcement saying, ‘Everyone is going to sell a pound of crystal for 15,000 pesos ($600) from now on because of the shortage. Before that, it was 2,500 pesos ($100),” said Jesús, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The message also said, ‘If you don’t obey, pay attention to the consequences.’ ”
The stated reason for the sixfold price hike is the novel coronavirus pandemic. The cartel supply chain is complex and international. The raw chemical ingredients used for manufacturing methamphetamine and fentanyl are mainly sourced from China, the epicenter of the outbreak. In a recent interview with VICE News, Jesús said his “cooks” were already running low on some of the essential materials used in the drug manufacturing process.
“Because of the coronavirus, there is very little distribution or importation from China to Mexico City.”
The coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, has thrown a massive wrench in the gears of the global economy. Seemingly every industry that relies on China for labor or raw materials has been affected, most notably companies that make medical supplies and pharmaceuticals, which are essential for treating sick people and containing the spread of the virus. Drug cartels have not been immune.
Jesús said that normally his cooks keep about a month’s supply of chemicals on hand, but they were already running low and having difficulty restocking. A cook from another Sinaloa cartel faction, who identified himself as Enrique, reported a similar problem, saying the price of acetone, which is used to manufacture heroin, has more than doubled over the past 15 days, climbing from around $60 for 20 litres to $150.
“It’s changed a lot,” Enrique said. “The prices are very high right now. Because of the coronavirus, there is very little distribution or importation from China to Mexico City. It’s difficult to get the chemicals, the juice. You can get them, but the prices are going way up for everyone.”
Enrique said he’s heard rumors that a kilo of fentanyl, which used to sell wholesale in Sinaloa for 870,000 pesos ($35,000), now costs 1 million pesos ($42,000). The powerful synthetic opioid, which has fueled the skyrocketing rate of overdose deaths in the U.S., once flowed directly from China to the U.S. through the international mail system. But a crackdown by Chinese authorities that began last May has stimulated production in Mexico, with the Chinese supplying the loosely regulated precursors necessary for the cooking process.
One of the hubs for the Chinese fentanyl trade is Hubei province, where COVID-19 has killed more than 3,100 people since January. One trafficker indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice, Yan Xiaobing, has a company based in Wuhan. According to Ben Westhoff, author of the book “Fentanyl Inc.,” provincial authorities allowed Yan’s company, which makes a wide range of other chemicals, to operate in a special economic development zone, which provided tax breaks. Beijing has refused to arrest or extradite Yan, saying there’s no evidence he broke Chinese law.
The arrival of fentanyl has already disrupted the Mexican heroin market, causing the price of opium poppy gum — a thick black goo that is refined into heroin — to plummet from around $1,800 per kilo a few years ago to $320 in recent months. Cartels have found it far more lucrative to manufacture fentanyl, since it can be made year-round with chemicals that, until recently, were cheap and readily available. Heroin, by contrast, requires huge poppy fields, which can only be harvested seasonally, by farmers who must be paid for their labor.
Mexican cartels have long dominated the crystal meth trade, especially since the mid-2010s, when the U.S. began to tightly control cold medicines that contain pseudoephedrine, which Americans were using to manufacture meth in small-scale local labs. Given a monopoly on the U.S. meth market, the cartels ramped up production, relying on Chinese suppliers for ephedrine and other essential chemicals. Mexican authorities have busted numerous large, clandestine meth labs capable of producing hundreds of kilos per month. High-purity meth is now cheap and readily available across the U.S.
Jesús speculated that the meth price hike ordered by El Mayo was more about opportunism than the chemical shortage. He said that as meth production has scaled up in recent years and competition from rival cartels has increased, profit margins have dwindled.
“It’s just an excuse to raise the prices,” he said. “It’s no longer a business anymore like it used to be. They were investing $100,000 and they got $200,000. It’s a lot of money, but it’s not a lot of profit for the risk. They want to keep investing $100,000 but get $1.5 million instead.”
DEA spokesperson Katherine Pfaff said the agency is tracking whether the coronavirus outbreak is affecting illicit drug markets, but it’s too early to say for certain what’s going on.
“It’s difficult to assess the situation,” Pfaff said. “DEA is continuing to monitor these things. It’ll be sometime until we have a better sense of whether or not the health emergency has impacted the drug trade.”
The situation in China already seems to be improving, with the country reporting no new domestic cases of COVID-19 since last Thursday. Workers are beginning to return to their jobs and factories are resuming production, but the crisis is in some ways just beginning. The outbreak has now migrated abroad to the U.S., Europe, and Latin America, which could pose new challenges to the global economy.
The U.S. and Mexico announced new restrictions last week on cross-border travel, a move that could mean new challenges to drug traffickers, who mainly smuggle their product across the border hidden in cars and trucks.
One trafficker who works for El Mayo in the border city of Mexicali told VICE News that last week they went from smuggling around 15 kilos of meth and heroin per week to five due to lack of supply and increased enforcement on the U.S. side. The trafficker was also worried about being unable to smuggle money and weapons into Mexico from the U.S.
Bryce Pardo, an associate policy researcher at the RAND Corporation who studies illicit drug markets, said the chemical supply chain could be further disrupted if seaports are forced to shut down or limit operations in response to more outbreaks in the U.S. in Mexico.
“There’s going to be a lot of product sitting in ports, because there's not going to be enough people — dockworkers, stevedores, those guys — to unload it,” Pardo said. “The problem might get fixed in Asia, but then on the intake side in the U.S. and Mexico, there’s going to be this lag here because people can’t go to work and offload products, legitimate and illegitimate.”
There are already reports of drug prices increasing on dark web marketplaces due to chemical shortages in China, along with indications that Mexican cartels are hurting for business in other ways. One news outlet reported that a cartel in Mexico City, La Unión de Tepito, had stopped receiving shipments of counterfeit luxury goods, such as knockoff shoes and purses.
Pardo also noted that COVID-19 could be devastating for drug users in the United States. While recreational users might curtail their habits because they are social distancing and no longer partying with friends, people with serious substance-use disorders will continue to seek out drugs regardless of the cost.
“Those that are chronic drug users, people using heavier drugs like methamphetamine and heroin, these individuals are not in good health to begin with,” Pardo said. “They live on the economic and social fringes. It’s very likely that corona will kill a lot of them, and that’s going to depress demand because they’re the ones that are consuming the most by volume.”
There are currently 316 cases of COVID-19 and two deaths in Mexico, though, like in the U.S., the lack of widespread testing for the disease may be obscuring the true extent of the outbreak. Enrique said he thought the virus might be a “smokescreen” or an excuse by cartel leaders to raise prices, but he was also nervous.
“Everyone is afraid. We’re hearing all sorts of things,” he said. “Some say it’s just a simple flu; others say it can kill you. I don’t know what to believe.”
Jesús, on the other hand, was skeptical about the risks posed by the virus.
“To me it’s all lies,” he said. “I don’t believe in that. I think it’s all busllhit, personally. I don’t know anyone who has been affected by coronavirus.”
As for his future business prospects, Jesús was optimistic. His operating costs might increase in the short term, which will force him to raise prices, but the costs will just trickle down.
“As a provider, it’s good because you make more money, but my clients are going to have to increase the price per gram in the street, and there could be people that might not like that,” he said. “But since they are addicted to crystal meth, they will complain, but in the end they will end up paying whatever we ask.”
Miguel Angel Vega contributed reporting.
I am always skeptical of some of these pieces, but thanks for posting, and I enjoyed reading
Do we really think Mayo Zambada is sending whatsapp messages about the number on crystal pounds?
I agree J.
Mayo seems to be skeptical about technology all together and why would he give an order to someone this low on the chain of command. Vice just prints or fabricates details like this because they can’t be proven either way.
Still, it’s interesting to see this wreck in slow motion.
Thanks Mica, I saw that episode as well, With a past in Executive Management/Leadership/Sales, I first thought this was an extremely aggressive and totally unrealistic sales goal to be expecting from my team... Then I thought of the more important bi-product of this...
Recently it has been mentioned and I am seeing hints of this more frequently from people here and in MX, that this is causing a whole chain reaction of problems to come in this business internally and eternally and it wil start to be noticed more mainstream very soon.
They are putting tremendous pressure on everyone involved that is evident (as the above Vice report detailed in relation to product and prices, with drastic efforts to keep the money flowing the pipeline full). Prices are one thing that causes another set of problem for those who can't now afford their habit, what will they do to come up with all the extra $...? Especially at a time like this when people are losing jobs and having less and less disposable income? We will surely see spikes in crime, we are already seeing looting in San Diego each night of local businesses, as well as other crime more brazen and frequent, this could be a real issue that I don't see much in the way of informing the Public, but I know it's a concern as gang units have been doing random stops in targeted areas, which lead to probable cause searching of persons and vehicles, and with 3 or more unit cars with 6 or more on each stop, and repeated in same area, then they move to another. I have not seen that kind of activity and repeated each night and day ever in San Diego. Not sure of the reasoning, but I hope it's because they see it as a possibility for an increase of this kind of desperate criminal behavior and they could get some solid messages across that they are not playing around. I have seen the videos and it is occurring, who knows what the other departments are doing as I have really only seen the gang units out and about usually together in 3 or more SUV's and they move fast.
The other more serious problem to please keep an eye on is the fact that with rising costs for ingredients, and powers that be raising prices, people on all levels in their organisation's are more stressed than ever to deliver on these mandates and to save their own lives. They will all show signs of this and will be more desperate and liable to act out unpredictably more so than ever.
They will also be doing things to make up for the "gap," directly with the products they sell (some have already started this and most will follow).
Just like how Fentanal became mainstream in most supplies of heroiin and other opiates to deliver a more potent product, but with more profit margin, regardless of the negatives it has created for everyone else.
Not sure what will be used, or how, but different chemicals that are more readily available and/or cheaper to them now, will be introduced to their products, and new methods will be used to cut their products, which also means new methods of preparing/cooking/producing the products will also be necessary. After seeing what this has done in the past, no idea what this could mean depending on what is used, how much, and by what method as it changes the chemical and molecular makeup completely and will be in testing mode until they get what they want right, until then possibly dangerous and deadly drugs on our streets at a higher price is what it is looking like, and again who knows how it could impact and change the end product and what added negatives it will have... = NO BUENO!!!
This would be a very scary time to be using anything, I could not imagine dealing with what addicts already do in their struggle with daily life as it is, but now with prices through the roof that were barely being paid before most likely, now also lower quality with unpredictable unknown cut and other chemicals being used, the worry involved with that aspect and with tolerance levels possibly needing more of it, along with less and less opportunities to make money, any current saving dwindling for all fast in addition to being told to stay at home for weeks, months, not sure how long... Talk about stress, heart attack waiting to happen just thinking about it and I am grateful to be on the other side of that awful life.
The flip side is that... WOW, if someone truly wants out of that life, now is the time to do it. All roads are clearly making it extremely hard to be a drug user in today's World. With these changes, some will finally see that it is no longer an option and the only option is to seek help and recovery and to finally get the life they have wanted. We are being given the time and circumstances like no other to take time for yourself and others by getting clean. This is something that is hard for an addict to argue as all the cards are literally being stacked against them and a lot more than we think have been trying to get out of that life for a long time, now some will get it and take advantage of it, please pass the msg along to those you may know, if anything to warn them and to look out for them, hopefully leading to more.
Spread the word and help those you know who deserve a better life and to help combat addiction wherever you may reside.,.
Stay safe people!
I am in SD, and I have seen no reports of looting anywhere, there is a general sense of unease, and gun sales in El Cajon, and places like SE, Spring Valley, as well, the whole city really. And the local law enforcement has stepped up enforcement of price gouging, coordinating with the City Attorney, thee District Attorney, and federal prosecutors from the USAO.
There have been no instances of looting or crime up, though likely domestics are going to rise.
The real issue here is going to be the tightening of the border, many people will not be able to use their method to cross, and will have to combine shipments with someone who has a "visa".
Fortunately for those of us who play in the legal economy supply chains are fairly resilient and will recover. I would love to see long term instability for the meth and fentanyl producers. I will believe it is occurring when we only see weed and raw opium being smuggled and consumed.
I gotta call bullshit on Mayo messaging all these guys on Whatsapp giving orders.
In the USA, recession is a given.
Our administration was very late to the party on testing, but China concealed, lied and even accused the original medical director who reported this virus, as an insubordinate. He was just exonerated last week. Typically a recession is 2 quarters of negative GDP, but we know where this is going. Now, a depression becomes a bigger threat, 1929-1942, where there is no demand for anything. Thomas Friedman reported in yesterday's NYT, the following: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/22/opinion/coronavirus-economy.html?searchResultPosition=1
Perhaps it's better to let Covid-19 run it's course while we protect the most vulnerable. An interesting thought, but one has to think of the lay-offs, furloughs, restaurants, hospitality, uber drivers and all the others who would fall into this abyss, because who's going to trust whom? Density, a god-given curse, especially for a hungry germ.
Back to Sinaloa. Their prices are only beginning to rise. Not only are the precursors starting to rise but the market is dwindling in the states. A study by the Salt Lake Tribune back in 2010? found the typical panhandler on the interstate could bring in $70,000 USD. Through dances, wheelchairs, were many junkies. Today in the states the tremendous Mexican work ethic, lies in many tweaks. Here are my thoughts.
The interstate is dead . . the day the music died. Panhandlers will have to milk blood to keep from running out (Neil Young). The Mexicans, employed in hospitality, restaurants, etc. are running out. The only essential business remaining is construction. A lot of these people are tweakers, not just the MX's. But already job absenteeism in this trade has fallen to 80% total work force and moving downwards progressively. The tweaks will not need their medicine, as more jobs are considered at risk by the private/public companies who've see their capital expenditures go to nothing. This will hit Sinaloa/CJNG hard!
Extortion/kidnapping? Don't count on it. The sugar babies will suffer. A recession is supposed to not be "too big to fail", but the survival of the fittest, kind've of like this coronavirus germ. From a brown bat, to under a scale of Pangolin in a wet market. Chinese eat a lot of strange stuff like rhino horns, bladders of endangered Mexican totubas, etc. They have crossed the line for human to human transmission, just like meth and fent. Go figure that these cookers know what the shit they are talking about.
I work in construction, people of all backgrounds work there, not just Mexicans and/or tweakers.
Also, many Mexicans work in agriculture, another essential business allowed by our President Trump to continue operating.
You must not go out that often...... (i.e. keyboard warrior)
This post was updated on .
Thank you Kab for your reply,
but I'm out there everyday in construction and farming. I see what's happening.
It's sad to say the least because my heart is with the Mexican immigrant. I don't shit you and nor, am I a keyboard warrior . . every day . . seeing it
Describe 20 hour workdays, for anyone .
No shortage in ATL,... good article tho.
In reply to this post by J
Well, I certainly did not make something like this up if that is what is being eluded here. I find it kind of comical that this would even be a question of happening, as in an event like this we need to realize that things like were happening before this started (regardless of where we live) and now with some people handling things differently than others, things will get a little bit more out of hand in the weeks to come, and there are already a few examples and that occurred when people are supposed to be at home.
I am not here to waste time with statements just for fun, but people need to have a heads up with reality. This most likely to get worse as we move through this, some is certainly expected and therefore preventive measures can help and are in place, but people should be aware of their surroundings and not always told that everything is just fine and turning a blind eye.
Just because one themselves has not seen any of these reports, does not make it a fact that they are not in deed occurring and reported, and that maybe not all has been heard by all?
I am not going to waste a lot of time on this, there is nothing to prove on my end, I just thought people should know some of what is happening. A simple Google search the subject, narrowed down to the last week for example shows some stories that have not been on the local news, an increase of random aggressive behavior when you create a report, which is partly expected with tensions rising for some, yet people for the most part are to be home.
Just something to be aware of is all, which is always a good thing to know, than to not know.
Here are just few instances for you, if you are interested:
This is a great tool if you don't already know about it. Run some reports here and see the kinds of incidents that are taking place each day, you can have them sent to you based on parameters you set as well...pretty interesting...
How fast are the canine units, what a game changer...?
Same local owned business two times in two nights, or in same week, i can't remember specifically, but sucks regardless and a big expense
This post was updated on .
I enjoy and appreciate all the posts by everyone . I especially like your local field observations with commentaries. I know some items contain speculations or comments based of flimsy data (by social sciences standards).
All you posters, IMO, are doing a needed service. I have gotten somewhat leary of believing "stuff" fed to us by talking heads in the MSM. It has become an old habit, because I have known several TV and print reporters. Trust me, what we see, read, and hear from the "news" outlets is not always reliable. Blaa, blaaaa, but you already know that.
About the CRIME-MAPPING Web site Great idea! I will be looking into this because it is just one more indicator of where the world is headed as noted and predicted by scholars like Shohana Zuboff in her recent book "Surveillance Capitalism ". WARNING based on some of my readings in this area of concern: Warn your friends, kin, especially youngsters to NOT do any kinds of crimes. I kid you not, because AI computer technology is so advanced that it is possible to know what, where, when, and how you think, socialize, and much more. This technology will even predict what you might do in the future. What is coming for young people is virtually Orwellian, "1984" stuff. a final note, it bothers me that some of these AI type advances may "entrap" classes of people into fukin up so as to exploit their failings for who knows what purposes? Don't laugh, even organ harvesting purposes as is reliably reported to be done in China.
To everyone who posts their field observations here, THANKS.
P.S. I live in a semi- rural area that is veryvpopular with tourist from Asia and other parts of the world, Tourism is way down! I feel especially bad for five family owned type restaurants in town because their business are gone for the time being.
This Corona Virus pandemic has really shaken things up and will have many varied reprcussions, no doubt.
Happily, some of these may actually be good.
In reply to this post by Parro
We good Parro 👍
In reply to this post by J
I have been wanting to write to you to ask if you heard about this:
my son told me multiple first responders are now out ill with CV in SD . and in Chula Vista. here is the rub, they ARE NOT testing the others in the department so are not identifying carriers that may not be ill.
AND because citizens are hoarding N95 masks, there re not enough. so they as fist responders go into a home where a cv sufferer has been sneezing, coughing adding contamination droplets into the air, and making FF ill. it is not about killing FF an paramedics, it is about depleting the department.
I see in fla the first responders are wearing hazmat suits...
PEOPLE: we don't need to wear masks. The CV is not air born it needs a droplet to attach to, such as from sneezing or coughing. The masks are for ill people, medical staff and personnel and first responders, police, FFs .... don't hoard supplies not needed... please?
from the proud mom of a fire capt
The way I see it.... the more people that don't like me, the less people I have to please
I have not heard of that exact issue, but there hasn't been much from Chula Vista in general, other than a city councilman, Steve Padilla, was diagnosed and placed in ICU. Other, parks in National City and Chula Vista are closed. I am sure regarding first responders there is chaos and shortages. The Union Tribune has had comprehensive, and at times overwhelming coverage.
I agree about the masks, I won't be wearing, unless CDC directs.
In reply to this post by PSBNY619
Hello PSBNY619, I would not take anything personal. You started good discussion and I enjoyed your posts along with the responses of others.
Your earlier post stresses that drug use/economic shock are cyclical. In other words as people’s income drops their drug consumption will drop as well. Also, the supply chain issues may cause some reevaluating among users. This is my summary of your earlier post so if I got it wrong let me know.
Very many people much smarter than I am are proponents of the cyclical hypothesis. Many studies support this argument. Common sense less $$ less luxuries.
There are also studies supporting a hypothesis that states that drug use/economic shock, recession etc..are counter cyclical. In other words drug abuse goes up when times are bad.
I don’t believe the folks here or the experts will reach consensus any time soon.
With that said below is a link to a too long to post study that looks at five different mechanisms (lost income, stress etc..). Two os these are cyclical and three are counter cyclical. In this paper the authors believe the counter cyclical hypothesis wins. Other studies come to different conclusions.
Any way here is the link to a very long read on a complicated subject:
Off topic but did FB shut down the page and are there any videos or pics here that were on FB?
In reply to this post by MM
I heard from someone in the East Vancouver area where there are thousands of addicts that drugs are in short supply as most are heroin/ fent users and a lot are going through withdrawals and getting violent.I guess most of the fentanyl comes from China there and there's not much for planes and ships coming from China right now.The US/Canada border is pretty tightened up so there wouldn't be many people going for weekend jaunts with small loads in their car.Yes trucks are coming north with food supplies as there is still snow on the ground so some could come with the big rigs but
I'm thinking maybe the supply of drugs is also short in the US from Mexico so most of it is just being spread around there rather than risk another border crossing and more scrutiny there with the lesser traffic.Also I heard that since lots of businesses are closed and/or people working from home the addicts are not getting in their bottle recycling cans to turn in for change and the panhandling has dwindled down to nothing as nobody's walking the streets and what little traffic there is at intersections people are rolling up their windows what with this virus so they are getting desperate.Don't know if some of the other port cities in the USA are experiencing this.Maybe if a Vancourite could weigh in here on the situation maybe someone like Frank as he works in harm reduction and would know some of the scoop or someone from the Seattle/Portland or SF Bay Area on this situation.(maybe now would be a good time to kick the habit but then again if you're not ready it's just forced like incarceration).
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