Americans spend a lot of time discussing issues taking place all over the world. Something about us as the world’s last remaining superpower has us feeling responsible for what happens pretty much anywhere else. There’s a reason we remain fixated on things like the protests in Hong Kong despite it having absolutely no bearing on our lives.
However, not all of the world’s problems are half a planet away. Some are practically on our doorstep. Namely, the Mexican drug cartels.
And, it seems, they’ve diversified. They’re making big bucks off a crop that’s selling in every supermarket in the U.S.
For Mexico’s avocado producers, the explosion in their crop’s popularity has brought a veritable green gold rush, but it also has a darker side. So rich in nutrients they are widely labeled a “superfruit,” consumption of avocados in the US alone has doubled in the last ten years to make for a $2.4 billion market.
As a result, everybody from producers down in Mexico, which provides 80% of what is consumed in the States, to your local Whole Foods has been making a killing. The issue: so has Mexican organized crime, literally. Above all in the state of Michoacán, which exports 90% of Mexico’s avocados, the bloodshed is no longer “just” about drugs. It is also about avocados.
The reason for the shift away from drugs is twofold. First, it’s easier – think not having to ship merchandise for thousands of miles through hostile terrain, not having to bribe officers along the chain and still risk losing it all to law enforcement and not having personnel arrested or killed. Second, there usually is no state actor capable or willing to keep a criminal group from going after licit crops and other resources.
Hence, Mexican organized crime has turned to extorting whoever does well in a given sector or taking over businesses directly – be that logging, mining, agriculture, public transport, or even mom and pop tortilla shops.
This is where avocados come into play. The super fruit is a big magnet for the warlords, the more so due to the recent explosion of demand and prices on global markets.
Honestly, that’s pretty damn fascinating. I’m not a consumer of avocados, so I never had any reason to consider any of this, but it makes sense. While they’re strong-arming growers, they’re breaking the law, but once the product ships there’s absolutely nothing to prevent it from arriving at its destination.
So, it seems, Americans and their love of avocados is helping to fuel the Mexican cartel violence.
The answer appears to be simple, right? Well, according to the writer, there’s only one potential answer.
Meanwhile, precisely because conflict avocados are but a symptom of larger dysfunction, a boycott would do more harm than good. Avocado production sustains thousands of hard-working, peaceful families in Mexico. No longer consuming what they produce would mean pulling the rug out from under their feet, and most likely prompt criminal groups to prey on civilians even more aggressively to make up for lost income.
Finally, addressing the role of the US guns in keeping deadly conflict in Mexico ablaze is another necessary remedy. The guns Mexican organized crime uses to threaten and kill avocado producers are predominantly made in the US, flowing south from gun shops in the border area. Domestic pressure to curb the tide of guns into Mexico could go a long way in making Mexico a more peaceful place.
Boycotting Mexican avocados would not.
So, let me get this straight. We should continue funding the Mexican drug cartels by buying a product created by an industry the cartels have essentially hijacked and instead infringe on the God-given rights of American citizens?
First, the guns are not predominantly from the United States in the first place. That’s a gross misunderstanding–at best–of a study that found most traceable guns were found to originate in the U.S. However, what gets missed is that only a tiny fraction of the guns were traceable in the first place. Plus, this was also during the era when Operation Fast & Furious was literally forcing gun dealers to sell firearms to people they suspected were going to carry them to Mexico.
Let’s also keep in mind that even if the guns were coming from the U.S., there’s absolutely no reason to assume the cartels wouldn’t find an alternate source the moment they needed to. They have a lot of money and no scruples with regard to who they’ll do business with. Someone, somewhere, will sell them guns aplenty.
And continuing to buy Mexican avocados just gives those same cartels more money with which to buy those guns.
Claiming an avocado boycott would hurt the people who had their industry taken over by the scum of the Earth may well be the second dumbest thing in this story. The dumbest is to think we should curtail our rights because of the acts of people who break the law as a matter of course.