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Official: U.S. offering to fund Mexico heroin fight as opium output surges in 2016

April 24, 2017  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Official: U.S. offering to fund Mexico heroin fight as opium output surges in 2016 Photo: Bernandino Hernández

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The U.S. has offered to assist with funding Mexico’s attempts to destroy opium poppies, according to the U.S. assistant secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).

“We are prepared to support (opium eradication efforts) should we reach an agreement regarding how they would do more and better eradication in the future,” William Brownfield of INL told Reuters.

“That is on the table, but I don’t want you to conclude that it’s a deal because we still have to work through details,” he said, without specifying how much money the U.S. would fund.

The U.S. is in the midst of a severe opioid epidemic that has killed tens of thousands of victims and with much of its heroin being produced in the Mexican mountains. The issue has become a primary topic of discussion between the Mexican government and President Trump’s administrator.

The nation’s offer to help pay for Mexico’s war on poppy production stands in contrast to Trump’s threats to rip up the Free Trade Agreement and force Mexico to pay for a wall along the border, and exposes the more subtle discussions occurring between the two governments.

FILE PHOTO: A soldier touches a poppy plant used to make heroin during an operation of destruction in Culiacan in the state of Sinaloa, December 8, 2011. REUTERS/Bernardo Montoya/File photo

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a U.S. official indicated that the range of opium poppies being grown in Mexico reached 32,000 hectares in 2016, which is equal to roughly 81 tons.

In 2015, Mexico had 28,000 hectares, which is almost triple the area in 2012.

Support for destroying the opium crop in Mexico could come in various forms, Brownfield revealed. For instance, the U.S. government could provide more vehicles, or pay for helicopter flights to access the isolated regions where poppy is grown.

The INL will not write Mexico a blank check but is prepared to help fund units involved in eradication, he added.

Mexico is taking part in discussions with the Trump administration over drug trafficking, trade and immigration, and Trump focused on the heroin problem throughout his election campaign.

Nonetheless, Brownfield indicated that the two governments are making progress.

“Our cooperation with the Mexican government on the heroin challenge is good, and it is better than it has been in the past,” he continued.

Brownfield also verified a Reuters report that Mexico’s army is allowing the U.S. and the United Nations to observe eradication attempts.

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