“Sol Prendido” for Borderland Beat
Mexican drug cartels are increasingly moving into the Netherlands to produce the drug crystal meth. The National Police warned of this today in De Telegraaf.
The cartels have discovered the Netherlands as a convenient transit port, where the labs of xtc producers and their networks can be used to make and export extremely addictive hard drug.
Whether the Netherlands is a “Valhalla” for the cartels, as De Telegraaf is headlined above the article? Drug researcher Ton Nabben, affiliated with the University of Amsterdam, would not go that far. But the development does not surprise him. “The big drug gangs are everywhere, and this fits into the idea of the global ‘nar economy,'” he says.
According to Nabben, the cartels choose places where raw materials for the drug are already there. “Then you have to drag as little as possible there,” Nabben explains. And those raw materials are there in the Netherlands, where they are smuggled in through the ports. In addition, the Netherlands is conveniently located to countries where crystal meth is popular, such as Eastern Europe.
Crystal meth (officially: methamphetamine) is, simply put, very heavy speed. It is highly addictive, exhausts the user physically and mentally, and can cause permanent brain damage.
According to him, Mexican cartels are global organizations that constantly react to supply and demand. “They can also do that at lightning speed because they don’t have to take rules into account,” Nabben says. “It’s like a game of Risk, they are constantly moving their troops. You see it in Colombia, where the guerrilla movement FARC is gone from the interior, and cartels there are now taking over cocaine production.”
Furthermore, the cartels have an unbridled urge to grow, and there is barely a grip on them in Mexico. Last year, the country had a record number of nearly 35,000 murders, mostly due to gang violence. Just last week, Mexico’s president signed a decree allowing the military to continue to maintain order on the streets until at least 2024.
“You don’t decide something like that when you have the situation under control,” said Professor Wil Pansters, who is an anthropologist and Mexico expert at Utrecht University. “By the way, it is also a misconception that these are only drug cartels. They are also involved in territorial control, for example, and there is always one big cartel trying to get a dominant position. That goes in waves,” Pansters said.
‘They are willing to take risks’
In recent decades, for example, alternately the Los Zetas cartel, the Sinaloa cartel, and now the Jalisco cartel have been the biggest players. The common denominator is that because of their urge to grow, they are quick to look across borders, and thus have probably been active in the Netherlands for a long time, Pansters says, for example through money and trade flows.
However, the cartels do seem to be operating more and more visibly. This month, a Mexican was arrested in the village of Achter-Drempt in Gelderland during a raid on a drug lab, where at least 10 million euros worth of crystal meth was found
In March, three Mexicans were sentenced to four years in prison for making crystal meth on a barge in Moerdijk. They also interfere with production and are physically present in the Netherlands. It is really a next step, Pansters said. “Maybe they don’t trust it, or they think they can make it better or cheaper if they do it themselves. In any case, it’s a risk they are apparently willing to take.”
Drug researcher Nabben says the number of crystal meth addicts is rapidly increasing worldwide, especially in countries such as the U.S. and Australia, and thus production is becoming more interesting to criminal organizations.
“You can also see it in the price. A few years ago, a gram cost 100 euros. Now that has dropped to about 60 euros. That’s almost the price of a gram of cocaine,” Nabben says. “And it’s different from cocaine because it’s purely synthetic. So you can make it anywhere and don’t have to drag it halfway across the world,” Nabben says.
In De Telegraaf, Max Daniel, head of drug control at the National Police, calls Mexican cartels “a plague.” He fears that Dutch xtc criminals are converting their labs to meth labs with Mexican help. But Nabben calls that fear “premature”: “You already saw in the 1980s some xtc labs switch to, for example, amphetamine. But certainly, on the Dutch market, where little crystal meth is used, xtc will always be much more marketable than crystal meth.”