Washington claimed the sanctioned entities are involved in illegal drug trade
The United States has blacklisted several individuals and entities in China and Mexico accused of producing or selling equipment used to manufacture illegal drugs as part of President Joe Biden's crackdown on the narcotics trade amid an overdose epidemic across the US.
The Treasury Department announced the new penalties on Tuesday, saying they would target seven companies and six people based in China, as well as one business and three individuals in Mexico. All are alleged to be involved in the sale of pill presses, or machines used to produce counterfeit pharmaceuticals, such as oxycodone. The fake pills often contain fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid responsible for tens of thousands of fatal overdoses each year.
"Treasury's sanctions target every stage of the deadly supply chain fueling the surge in fentanyl poisonings and deaths across the country," senior Treasury official Brian Nelson said in a statement.
The sanctioned entities include Chinese companies accused of selling pill presses, and even shipping "scheduled pharmaceuticals" to the US for "counterfeit pill manufacturing."
The Treasury targeted Mexpacking Solutions, a Mexican business it claimed is "controlled by a Sinaloa Cartel pill press supplier," referring to the international drug syndicate. Three Mexican nationals affiliated with the company also face sanctions, and were said to have interacted with some of the Chinese firms supplying pill press machines.
The US has seen a sharp spike in opioid-related overdoses over the last 10 years, with fentanyl accounting for a large proportion of fatalities. In 2022, there were nearly 110,000 drug deaths nationwide, a record number for the US, according to federal statistics. A study published in the Lancet medical journal last year further highlighted the crisis, predicting that the opioid epidemic would claim more than 1.2 million lives by the end of the decade.
President Joe Biden recently authorized the deployment of reserve-duty soldiers at the US-Mexico border to help combat the illicit drug trade - a move in line with Republican calls for military operations against Mexican cartels. Mexico has been critical of those efforts, however, with President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador rejecting Washington's "abusive interference" on Mexican territory. Lopez Obrador insisted that "foreign agents" cannot enter Mexico without permission.