Mexico provides an online platform for dual-use precursors

MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s government unveiled an online platform on Wednesday that will allow authorities to track the import and consumption of so-called “dual-use” precursor chemicals that are often used to make synthetic drugs such as meth and fentanyl.

Mexico is the largest supplier of such drugs to the US market, and a number of Mexican companies have lost shipments of chemicals such as ephedrine, benzene or ammonium chloride to theft or sales to front companies used by drug cartels.

Dual-use precursors are chemicals that are both used to manufacture drugs and have legitimate uses in cosmetics, household cleaning products, or other industries. Although they were long “flagged” for special control in Mexico, the system was riddled with stupidity and corruption.

Alejandro Swarch, head of COFEPRIS, Mexico’s health and drug regulatory agency, cited “corruption and acts of substance abuse” at the agency he ran in previous years.

“In an unspecified archive … in many cases there was the discrete use of the importation of various chemicals for the purpose of producing illegal substances without any responsibility,” Svarch said.

In fact, of the six Mexican distribution companies authorized by the government to handle such substances, two have been suspended for “irregularities,” one temporarily closed and one permanently closed.

One of the two remaining Mexican companies is under investigation by the country’s anti-money laundering agency, and its bank accounts were frozen until earlier this year.

Svarch said that the new system will allow tracking of cargoes and checking how they are used.

The new system was developed in conjunction with the Mexican Navy, which entrusted it with overseeing customs inspections at Mexico’s seaports. The Navy also played a role in raiding the main offices of the Cofepris agency and rooting out corruption there.

Svarch did not explain how the new system would prevent chemicals – many of which are liquids – from “leakage” from legal warehouses, but said shipments would be attached with a QR code.

Mexico has created a list of 72 chemicals that require special permits and treatment, ranging from close precursors such as piperidone and P2P to more commonly used substances such as acetic acid and iodine.

It’s unclear whether such measures would stop Mexican cartels, which have set up industrial-scale labs to make meth and fentanyl, trained chemists to make them, and demonstrated an ability to change formulas when certain ingredients are in short supply.