The Avocado War

By Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryThe good news is that a growing number of farmers are beginning to see the blessings of growing avocados instead of marijuana. Many poor farmers had to turn in the past to growing marijuana because this crop promised more cash than corn or any other crops and meant that farmers could have some money to feed their families. The cartels paid and paid well in cash. Of course, the farmers risked government raids and cartel turf battles for their drug crops, but many of these farmers felt the risk was worth it. Now, avocados has become a crop that is both legal and promises more cash. Avocados are nutritious, are an important staple in the Mexican diet, and more important are in big demand in China, Japan, the United States and in the European Union. Many poor farmers in Chihuahua State are discovering the benefits of growing and harvesting avocados, and since avocados are native to Mexico, the knowledge of growing them is pretty universal.

The bad news is that some of the cartels are now seeing avocados as a source of revenue as well. The State of Michoacan, where 80 percent of all of Mexico’s avocados are grown, are being stolen in record numbers. It is estimated that four truckloads of avocados go missing a day. This is bad for the farmers who worked so hard to grow and harvest their crop, and it means that the state and federal Mexican governments are not doing enough to protect the farmers and their crops. If this is happening in the biggest avocado producing state, then what will stop the cartels from starting to steal avocados in all the other states? This is the dark cloud in what would be and should be a silver lining for all involved. But I think a good part of the problem lies in three facts. First, the Mexican judicial system is virtually toothless. It does not give hard sentences for crimes that destroy peoples’ lives and for murder. More often than not, criminals are almost never caught at all. Second, law enforcement is spotty, and so many of the farmers’ produce is never guarded. Farmers had in the past formed vigilante groups to guard their towns, but it is almost impossible to guard the vast stretches of road throughout the country where the cartels can simply size what they want. Finally, where a profit can be made, the cartels are there to do this. Hence, even with a legal cash crop, the cartels will go to any length to get their hands on something. And caught in the middle of all this are the poor farmers who are being forced to either go legal and grow avocados and maybe get their crop stolen, or go back to growing marijuana and deal with the cartels and incur the wrath of the government. What can poor farmers do?

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