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Avocado Farmers Threatened by Drug Cartels

Thoughts of avocado generally are associated with guacamole or Mexican feasts. Lately, there is also an association with drug gangs. A recent Reuters report noted that avocado farmers are now under the dark shadow of recent extortion and kidnapping by drug gangs.

Michoacan state drug lords have evolved from merely trafficking narcotics to menacing the prosperous avocado barons who typically reap the benefit of guacamole-hungry Super Bowl fans. These barons easily earn $150,000 a year – a fortune in Mexico.

Threats have reached all the large growers and packers around the city of Uruapan as well-armed cartels are searching for new sources of revenue, especially with pressure from a government crackdown.

"In the last two or three years it has gotten worse," a leader of the local avocado industry said, asking Reuters to not print his name. "It's not something we like to talk about. It's just something we live with."

Cartels are demanding regular payments, drawing the cash out of an industry that has brought hundreds of millions of dollars to the region over the last decade. As a result of this extortion and kidnapping, many growers are remaining clear of their prized land, afraid to farm it alone or in open daylight.

"Many of them give money, others don't," one manager said, also declining to be quoted by name. "If you don't give it, well, you are putting yourself in danger."

Michoacan is home to the La Familia drug cartel which is led by a brutal eccentric who justifies murder and beheading with passages from his self-written “bible” of macho dictums. Recently, the syndicate has branched out from drug trafficking into other crimes.

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