Anchors aweigh down Mexico way.

SEMAR detains another shipment of methylamine in Lazaro Cardenas.

The Mexican Navy (SEMAR) this week seized 195 metric tonnes of methylamine at the port of Lazaro Cardenas in south-western Michoacán, Mexico. This recent seizure contributes yet another chapter to a prevailing narrative within the region, characterised by almost weekly seizures of the primary chemical used in the production of the illegal drugs methamphetamine and cocaine. In the weeks since December 2011, almost 900 metric tonnes of the chemical have been detained at the port – all said to have been shipped from China with the intended destination of Guatemala.

Mexican federal sources continue to suspect that domestic drug cartels have accelerated production of methamphetamine in Guatemala, with the intent of meeting increased demand for the stimulant both in South and North America.

Whilst it is tempting to applaud the Mexican authorities for their vigilance, it is not yet apparent whether they alone have the resources to counter these unprecedented levels of domestic production and demand. It is vital that they work closely with North American federal agencies, such as the Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP), to maintain high levels of narcotics surveillance in the Pacific trade routes between Asia and South America.

These recent seizures also demonstrate the need for an improved chemical detection capability for customs and naval officers within the region and beyond. Experience shows that many of the barrels containing these chemicals are either poorly or misleadingly labelled – or have no labels at all. Many of these precursors pose a respiratory and dermal hazard, and it cannot be long before there is a serious incident due to either ignorance or a false reading. It would be better if common sense prevailed over legal action and these teams were provided with the proper capability.

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