US fentanyl crisis: 'Lack of hugs' behind US opioid overdoses, says Mexico leader
Parents in the US are to blame for the country's drug overdose crisis because they do not hug their children enough, Mexico's president has claimed.
It is the latest provocative remark by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador about the problems caused by fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid trafficked by Mexican cartels that is held responsible for about 70,000 US deaths a year.
He had been stung by calls in America to designate Mexican drug gangs as terrorist organisations.
Some Republicans have said they support using the US military to crack down on the cartels.
Mr Lopez Obrador said family values have broken down in the US, because parents do not let their children live at home long enough.
He has also denied that Mexico produces fentanyl.
Referring to the US crisis, Mr Lopez Obrador said: "There is a lot of disintegration of families, there is a lot of individualism, there is a lack of love, of brotherhood, of hugs and embraces."
He has repeatedly argued Mexico's close-knit family values are what have protected it from the wave of fentanyl overdoses.
But experts have said the cartels are making so much money now from the US market that they see no need to sell fentanyl at home.
The gangs often sell methamphetamines in Mexico, where the drug is more popular because it purportedly helps people work harder.
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Mr Lopez Obrador has also called anti-drug policies in the US a failure and proposed a ban in both countries on using fentanyl in medicine, despite there being little evidence of the drug crossing from hospitals into the illegal market.
US authorities estimate most illicit fentanyl is produced in clandestine Mexican labs using Chinese chemicals.
Relatively little comes from diverting medicinal fentanyl used as anaesthetic in surgery and other procedures.
Most illegal fentanyl is pressed by Mexican cartels into counterfeit pills made to look like other medications.
The opioid is 50 times more potent than heroin and even a small dose can be fatal.
It has quickly become the deadliest drug in the US, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.