Coronavirus disrupting U.S.-Mexico action against meth labs, says U.S. Attorney General

FILE PHOTO: Attorney General Barr Testifies Before House Judiciary Committee, in Washington

(Reuters) – The novel coronavirus pandemic has disrupted joint U.S.-Mexico actions against methamphetamine labs operated by Mexican cartels, U.S. Attorney General William Barr said on Thursday.

Barr made two trips to Mexico in December and January, which he said led to greater cooperation between the two nations in combating Mexican drugs cartels, including a step up in extraditions of gang leaders.

U.S. President Donald Trump has pushed Mexico to increase cooperation in the fight against drug gangs, especially since the massacre of nine U.S-Mexican women and children in northern Mexico by suspected cartel hitmen last November.

Barr said the coronavirus pandemic had acted as a brake on some operations against Mexican cartels, especially in terms of plans for busting clandestine methamphetamine labs that feed the illegal drugs market in the United States.

“Unfortunately Covid has intervened and has tempered a lot of the progress we had been making, reduced our momentum,” Barr told a media briefing in Phoenix, Arizona.

“But we are confident once Covid abates that we are going to get back on track with Mexico.”

Mexico’s foreign ministry had no immediate comment on Barr’s remarks.

Barr spoke as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration showcased the results of a six-month operation targeting Mexican cartels operating major methamphetamine “transportation hubs” in the United States.

The operation led to 1,840 arrests and the seizure of more than 28,560 pounds (12,955 kg) of methamphetamine, $43.3 million in drug proceeds, and 284 firearms, the DEA said.

Barr said more than 60 Mexican cartel figures have been extradited this year and more are expected. In 2018, Mexico extradited 69 to the United States and 58 last year, Mexican data shows.

(Reporting by Sharay Angulo and Drazen Jorgic in Mexico City; editing by Grant McCool)

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