Uruapan (Mexico), Feb 9 (EFE). – By Inés Amarelo
As the United States prepares to eat several thousand tons of avocados this weekend during the 58th edition of the Super Bowl in Las Vegas, a terrible security crisis is unfolding under the threat of organized crime 2,700 kilometers from the neon city in the Mexican state of Michoacan, the world’s largest exporter of avocados.
An EFE team rode with Michoacan’s Civil Guard (formerly the state police) along the trails that run through avocado fields, where the Guard and municipal police usually patrol every day, and where in recent days they have had confrontations with people identified by their clothing as members of the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación.
During a stroll through his avocado plantation, Cuauhtémoc Montero, a chemical engineer and the owner since four years ago of Rancho La Luna in the municipality of Morelia, explained to EFE that police presence has been made difficult in the areas where the crops are grown, which are mainly rural.
The success of the avocado, known as “green gold,” has further complicated the situation.
In light of this and a wave of violence that has included, especially in the municipality of Uruapan, dozens of bodies hanging from bridges, posters with threats between criminal groups, and endless shootings, the government has deployed all of its various security forces to the region.
“We have had confrontations because, in the end, the groups that are there (in the hills and fields), are also armed. That is our job,” Jose Ortega, undersecretary of police operations for the Secretariat of National Security, told EFE after an operation in Uruapan.
Michoacán, the violence continues
The state has a tragic history of violence in recent decades. It was one of the epicenters of the so-called “War on Drugs” initiated by former President Felipe Calderón (2006-2012), which resulted in high levels of violence throughout the country, but especially in the region.
Michoacán, in western Mexico, was the third most violent state in the country in January, with 156 homicides, and during the first week of February alone, 21 murders have already been recorded.
According to the National Public Security System, in 2023 the state ranked sixth in the country in terms of homicides.
Despite the current president Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s slogan “Hugs, not bullets,” the authorities themselves admit that in states such as Michoacán the number of homicides is not decreasing, despite a 20% decrease in homicides at the national level.
At the end of the 1990s, the state of Michoacán was able to meet US requirements to export avocados to the neighboring country. For this year’s Super Bowl alone, Mexican customs officials estimate that approximately 110,000 tons of avocados will be shipped.
In recent years, criminal groups have diversified their activities, moving from drug trafficking to other activities involving the transfer of large sums of money, such as avocado production, which has continued to grow steadily.
Meanwhile, locals decided to take charge of their own security and armed civilian groups called self-defense groups emerged in Michoacan to confront criminal groups such as the Familia Michoacana, the Caballeros Templarios, and the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación.
“It is difficult to have security, but in recent years we have had more: the one we have given ourselves,” Montero said under his avocados, adding that he believes that the situation will not improve until there is a change in mentality and corruption ends. EFE