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Yellen touts cooperation with Mexico on fentanyl fight

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(The Center Square) – Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has stressed the importance of cooperation with Mexico in the fentanyl fight during her visit to Mexico City.

Yellen’s visit comes months after a report from a Congressional watchdog found little to show for past investments in Mexico. The U.S. government has spent more than $3 billion in Mexico to reduce drug trafficking and transnational crime since 2008, but the report found scant progress despite continued spending.

On Wednesday, Yellen toured a crime evidence lab operated by Mexico’s Attorney General, Fiscalía General de la República, that processes evidence of fentanyl-related and other illicit activities. She also watched a canine demonstration with drug, firearm, and currency detection canines donated by the Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement.

She spoke Wednesday about the toll of fentanyl in the U.S.

“Today, more people in the United States aged 18 to 49 die from fentanyl than from any other cause. The cost for families, individuals, and communities is devastating,” she said in Mexico City. “While we are focused on the immense human impact, the epidemic also takes a significant toll on our economy. The U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee estimates that in 2020, the opioid epidemic cost America nearly $1.5 trillion.”

Yellen said that U.S. law enforcement agencies have seized more than 410 million deadly doses of fentanyl so far this year.

She detailed the Biden administration’s efforts to curb fentanyl precursor supplies in China and Treasury collaboration with the Mexican government.

In September, a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that “the U.S. government cannot demonstrate that it is achieving its goals in Mexico and that its investments, at over $3 billion since 2008, have been spent effectively.” As The Center Square previously reported, the U.S. money going to Mexico is supposed to address transnational organized crime and violence in Mexico, enhance the country’s rule of law and reduce drug trafficking to the United States.

Cartels in Mexico supply most of the cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and illicit fentanyl smuggled into the United States, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

“Despite ongoing security assistance, the security situation in Mexico has significantly worsened over the last 15 years. From 2007 to 2021, the homicide rate in Mexico more than tripled to one of the highest national homicide rates in the world, from eight homicides per 100,000 people to 28 per 100,000 people, according to the United Nations,” according to the report. “Meanwhile, Mexico has extremely low rates of prosecution for all crimes, according to the 2022 State Department Human Rights Report on Mexico.”

The GAO report looked at the work of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

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