Mexico closes in on U.S., China over fentanyl crisis, expert says 1:59

(CNN Español) -- U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen announced Wednesday during her visit to Mexico the sanction of 15 individuals and two entities for their alleged connection to the Mexican Beltrán Leyva cartel, which she points out as one of the organizations responsible for trafficking fentanyl to the United States.

"This is a critical priority for the Biden administration, and the Treasury Department is taking decisive action in close collaboration with the Mexican government," said Yellen, who arrived in Mexico on Tuesday for a visit that will last until Thursday.

The sanctions were issued through the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

Yellen will hold meetings with representatives of the banking sector, the governor of the Bank of Mexico, Victoria Rodríguez, and officials of the government headed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

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The goal of these meetings, according to a statement from the Treasury Department, is to establish actions to tackle the multibillion-dollar profits of Mexican cartels that send fentanyl to the United States.

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"While we focus on the immense human impact, the (fentanyl) epidemic also takes a significant toll on our economy," Yellen said.

In her comments to the press on Wednesday morning in the Mexican capital, Yellen detailed that opioid consumption has caused damage to the U.S. economy in 2020 for about $1.500 billion.

"Communities in both Mexico and the U.S. suffer from the violence, addictions and misery caused by the Beltran Leyva organization and other cartels," Yellen said. "Over the past year, we have used Treasury's powerful sanctions to expose and disrupt the financial flows of traffickers such as the Beltran Leyva Organization, the Sinaloa Cartel, and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel."

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A statement from the Treasury Department released Thursday highlights the collaboration between the U.S. and Mexican governments, through the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador did not address Yellen's visit on Wednesday, but he did on Tuesday. "It's like Mrs. Janet is coming now ... we are going to deal with issues that have to do with the economy, with finances, but we need to have a constant relationship with the U.S. government," he said at the time.

CNN reached out to the FIU on Wednesday for comment on the Treasury Department's announcement and is still awaiting a response.

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