MEXICO CITY -- Mexico's president said Friday that U.S. families were to blame for the fentanyl overdose crisis because they don't hug their kids enough.
The comment by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador caps a week of provocative statements from him about the crisis caused by the fentanyl, a synthetic opioid trafficked by Mexican cartels that has been blamed for about 70,000 overdose deaths per year in the United States.
López Obrador said family values have broken down in the United States, because parents don't let their children live at home long enough. He has also denied that Mexico produces fentanyl.
On Friday, the Mexican president told a morning news briefing that the problem was caused by "a lack of hugs, of embraces."
"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," López Obrador said of the U.S. crisis. "That is why they (U.S. officials) should be dedicating funds to address the causes."
López Obrador has repeatedly said that Mexico's close-knit family values are what have saved it from the wave of fentanyl overdoses. Experts say that Mexican cartels are making so much money now from the U.S. market that they see no need to sell fentanyl in their home market.
Cartels frequently sell methamphetamines in Mexico, where the drug is more popular because it purportedly helps people work harder.
López Obrador has been stung by calls in the United States to designate Mexican drug gangs as terrorist organizations. Some Republicans have said they favor using the U.S. military to crack down on the Mexican cartels.
On Wednesday, López Obrador called anti-drug policies in the U.S. a failure Wednesday and proposed a ban in both countries on using fentanyl in medicine - even though little of the drug crosses from hospitals into the illegal market.
U.S. authorities estimate that most illegal fentanyl is produced in clandestine Mexican labs using Chinese precursor chemicals. Relatively little of the illegal market comes from diverting medicinal fentanyl used as anesthesia in surgeries and other procedures.
There have been only scattered and isolated reports of glass flasks of medicinal fentanyl making it to the illegal market. Most illegal fentanyl is pressed by Mexican cartels into counterfeit pills made to look like other medications like Xanax, oxycodone or Percocet.