4 Cartels Threaten Avocado Farmers w Extorsion

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Yaqui for Borderland Beat from: BajoPalabra y SinEmbargo

Every day at least four trucks are stolen full of fruit in that state. In addition, theft of avocado crops swarms.  From: InSight Crime:  


Four rival drug cartels extort money from avocado growers in Michoacán, Mexico, a sample of how this fruit is becoming more important as a source of illicit income in the context of the evolution of criminal dynamics in the state. 

The Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel (CJNG), the La Familia Michoacana Nueva, the Cartel de Tepalcatepec and the Cartel de Zicuirán participate in this buoyant criminal economy, according to the attorney general of Michoacán. Michoacán produces more than 80% of Mexico’s avocados, with annual exports worth about US $ 2.4 billion, which have earned the fruit the nickname “green gold”.

The cartels charge a monthly fee for protection to avocado producers, which is calculated based on the hectares cultivated or the kilograms exported. Those who do not make the payments can be kidnapped or killed. A farmer’s daughter was recently killed at his doorstep, the Cartels steal at least four trucks full of fruit in that state every day, so says The Guardian.

The competition for these criminal gains has motivated a wave of violence that currently plagues the state of Michoacánand especially Uruapan:

In August of this year, 2019, 19 people were massacred in the city of Uruapan, the center of the avocado industry in Michoacán. And their bodies were exhibited in three different points of the city. The authorities linked the heinous act to a territorial war between the CJNG and Los Viagras, armed wing of the La Familia Michoacán, for the control of the city’s criminal economies. 

Extortion to avocado growers in Michoacán is not new, but rather a resurgence, which reflects how there is a boom in the profitability of that activity, while weakening other criminal economies in the state. Michoacán and its neighboring Guerrero have long been places coveted by criminal groups, such as centers of heroin production in Mexico. 

But the rise of synthetic opioids has caused a collapse in the price of opium to less than a third of its value in 2017, which left drug cartels moving through alternative sources of income. 
Avocado extortion in parallel, the avocado industry in Mexico has quadrupled its value over the last decade, due to the growing popularity of fruit in the United States and Europe. The country’s avocado exports to the US market  grew 16 % between 2018 and 2019. 

Several criminal actors in the state have experience in extortion from the avocado industry. It is said that the CJNG has used that tactic to finance its expansion since the 1990s, while La Familia Michocána entered the business around 2009. They and their dissidents were therefore in a good position to complement the fall in opium profits, thus tightening the rope around the necks local avocado producers. 

The resurgence of this criminal economy also reflects the weakening of self-defense groups in Michoacán:

These arose in 2014 in part in response to these extortive practices and gave temporary respite to producers in some regions. In the following years, however, many of these same groups were infiltrated by criminals, and so local industries have once again been at the mercy of the cartels.
Only Weeks Ago:
According to national media information, it was disseminated that US personnel responsible for certifying their avocado orchards were victims of criminal groups in the area, as a group of USDA inspectors were detained and their vehicle was stolen. So the Secretary of State Agriculture warned on September 9 that, in the event that a similar event is presented again, they will cease to certify the crops.
Michoacán has fallen in spiral of violence due to the fight between 4 cartels and extortion: 
The insecurity events suffered by US personnel responsible for certifying avocado plantations in Michoacán  have ignited the alerts and jeopardized the avocado export cycle , said the President of the Council National Agricultural, Bosco de la Vega.
In an interview with the media at the end of the meeting of the National Council of the Business Coordinating Council, De la Vega described as “unfortunate” the treatment that the Mexican Army has received so that the action of the rule of law is necessary to provide security .
“It is an alarm for the agri-food sector, it is a warning that if the violence continues, they will stop the export cycle and certification at source, that is, they will stop certification in the field, if they do not authorize you, you cannot export “he stated.
Regarding the warning issued by the United States Secretariat of Agriculture, to stop export, De la Vega referred to it as “very bad news.”
“It is very bad news and it is a sign that in the field we are having a very bad time on issues of kidnapping, theft of machinery, fertilizers, agrochemicals, floor “piso” rights. So violence in the country, as far as I know, is growing. Airs of impunity are being perceived, that is the worst news, ” said the head of the CNA.
For his part, Silvano Aureoles, Governor of the Michoacán, claimed that he will meet with the avocado producers to review the security protocols they have. During a conference, Aureoles indicated that he will meet with the Members of the Association of Producers and Packers of Mexico (APEAM) the following days.
“I hope not that avocado export is broken. We will review in detail the protocol of this alert that they have sent to see the investigators, ”said Aureoles.  Certainly in these next few days we will meet with the APEAM colleagues and other groups that run the route, but I do not see that the avocado export is at risk. We will review in detail what is to be met, what is true , in the reasons or criteria they have taken advantage of anyone, and we will give the corresponding treatment. ”
The Govenor of Michoácan stressed that the problem of insecurity is typical of each country, although the United States emphasized the lack of security is more pronounced in Mexico.
“But we will review it very carefully,” said Governor Aureoles.

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