Things That Matter

Mexican Cartels Are Turning To Avocados And Innocent People Are Falling Victim To Extreme Violence

When someone mentions Mexican cartels, we immediately think of drug trafficking. It’s inevitable – especially after the strict diet of cop shows we’ve ingested over the years. But what if we told you that there’s something else that’s probably just as valuable to the Mexican cartels? Something that, in their minds, justified the killing of 19 people last week. Something like … avocados?

Guacamole is good, but not that good.

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Sure, when you said to your amigas the other day that you’d kill for some good guac, you probably weren’t thinking on this scale. Thursday morning saw the residents of Mexico’s Uruapan awaken to the aftermath of a massacre. Nine semi-naked bodies had been strung across an overpass. Another seven bodies, which had suffered a combination of dismemberment and decapitation, were discovered underneath a nearby pedestrian bridge. And, three other bodies were unceremoniously piled on the side of the road. All of the victims were found with gunshot wounds.

The city of Uruapan is ground zero for this new outbreak of violence.

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The Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) took credit for the grisly scene by hanging a banner on the bridge where the bodies were found, warning locals of a similar fate, should they think about helping the gang’s rivals. “Kind people, go on with your routine. Be patriotic, and kill a Viagra,” the banner read. And no – they weren’t talking about a certain pleasure enhancer. One of the CJNG’s most notorious rivals are the Viagras gang.

But where do the avocados come into the story?

Instagram / @avocado.aj

While some authorities have connected the gruesome killings to the region’s drug trade, one International Crisis Group researcher, Falko Ernst, has suggested that there may be more to it. “The big magnet here is avocados,” said Ernst in an interview with the Guardian. The murders were intended to intimidate not only Mexican authorities, but also rival gangs and their families. The aim was to discourage their involvement in both the drugs and avocado trade.

With soaring prices, avocados have become big business in Mexico.

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It’s understandable why anyone would want a piece of the avocado pie, so to speak. It’s the lifeblood of Latinos and avocado-toast toting millennials worldwide, which makes it big business. Mexico itself produces 45 percent of the world’s avocados. The state of Michoacán, where Uruapan can be found, is where most of the avocados within Mexico are produced. In fact, Michoacán’s avocado industry is worth about $1.5 billion. Chances are its value is only going to increase, since the world’s supply of avocados is currently at a low.

This is wild! How are the locals coping?

Instagram / @viajaxmichoacan

At this point in time, there are three main groups struggling for control of the city of Uruapan. These are the Knight Templar cartel, Los Viagras, and of course, the CJNG. This means that it can be risky for locals to work in the industry, who may get caught in the crossfire between the gangs as they battle it out for control of the avocado supply. As many as four avocado trucks are stolen every day, presumably by the cartels operating in the region. It’s gotten so out of hand that the area’s avocado companies appealed to the gangs through an ad in a June edition of the local paper, saying, “It’s impossible to continue taking these losses … failing to stop the theft of these trucks will have an irreparable impact on the avocado industry.”

Locals are dealing with all sorts of violence, extortion, threats, and worse.

Instagram / @avocado.aj

Aside from stolen trucks and products, locals also have to contend with CJNG-linked extortion. A local tequila producer, Eduardo Pérez, closed his business in 2015, as he was unable to keep up with the cartel’s monthly payment demands. “They warned me that if I didn’t pay, then I’d be in trouble,” Perez said in an interview with VICE. That’s the reality of living in an area where gangs like the CJNG operate – and these recent murders have done nothing to quell any tensions in the area.

Brutal killing sprees like those that happened last week were designed to get as much attention as possible, and serve as a warning to anyone and everyone that the CJNG is unafraid of retaliating against people who would threaten their illicit activities. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that there’s some relief for the locals, soon.

Mexican Newspaper Slammed After Publishing Graphic Photos Of Woman’s Tragic Death

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Mexican Newspaper Slammed After Publishing Graphic Photos Of Woman’s Tragic Death

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In Mexico, the recent brutal mutilation and slaying of a 25-year-old woman are spurning conversations about the country’s efforts to prevent femicide and laws that protect victims from the media.

On Sunday, Mexican authorities revealed that they had discovered the body of Ingrid Escamilla.

According to reports, Escamilla was found lifeless with her body skinned and many of her organs missing. At the scene, a 46-year-old man was also discovered alive. His body was covered in bloodstains and he was arrested.

As of this story wasn’t troubling enough, local tabloids and websites managed to bring more tragedy to the victim and her family by splashing leaked graphic photos and videos of the victim’s body. In a terribly crafted headline, one paper by the name of Pasala printed the photos on its front page with the headline “It was Cupid’s fault.” The headline is a reference to the fact that the man found at the scene was Escamilla’s husband.

According to leaked video footage from the arrest scene, Escamilla’s husband admitted to stabbing his wife after a heated argument in which she threatened to kill him. He then claimed to have skinned her body to eliminate evidence.

Mexic City’s mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum, revealed that prosecutors will demand the maximum sentence against the alleged perpetrator.

“Femicide is an absolutely condemnable crime. It is appalling when hatred reaches extremes like in the case of Ingrid Escamilla,” Sheinbaum wrote in a tweet according to CNN. According to reports, Mexico broke records in 2018 when its homicide record reached over 33,000 people that year.

The publication of Escamilla’s mutilated body has sparked discussions regarding the way in which reports about violence against women are handled.

Women’s rights organizations have lambasted the papers that originally published photos of Escamilla’s body and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador also expressed criticism of the media’s response to the brutal slaying.

In a press conference on Thursday, President López Obrador expressed his determination to find and punish anyone responsible for the image leaks. “This is a crime, that needs to be punished, whoever it is,” he stated.

Conservationists At Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Reserve Are Being Murdered And Investigators Aren’t Sure Why

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Conservationists At Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Reserve Are Being Murdered And Investigators Aren’t Sure Why

Alan Ortega / Getty

Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Reserve is one of the world’s most famous wildlife hotspots. Hundreds of thousands come each year to view the annual migration of millions of beautiful butterflies that call Mexico’s Michoacan state home during the winter.

However, this iconic and majestic habitat for one of the world’s most endangered animals is now the backdrop for a dramatic murder mystery that is unfolding in international headlines. Two conservationists have been discovered dead just days apart and investigators still aren’t sure why.

A second victim has been pronounced killed by authorities in Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly reserve.

Credit: Alan Ortega / Getty

One of the world’s most beautiful wildlife spots is now the backdrop for a dramatic double murder after two nature activists are discovered dead at Mexico’s El Rosario monarch butterfly sanctuary.

The deaths of Homero Gomez Gonzalez, manager of the butterfly reserve, and Raul Hernandez Romero, a tour guide at the sanctuary, have sent shockwaves across the world of wildlife conservation.

Hernandez Romero’s body was discovered on Saturday near the highest point of the mountainous sanctuary, which sits 9,000 feet above sea level in the state of Michoacan, about 130 miles west of Mexico City, according to a statement from the Michoacan state prosecutor’s office. Hernandez Romero’s family reported him missing on Friday, officials said.

The new victim was found just days after the first victim’s body was found after being missing for 16 days.

Credit: Alan Ortega / Getty

Authorities discovered his body about three days after the Hernandez Romero’s body was found in a pond near the Central Mexico town of El Soldado, prosecutors said.

An autopsy performed in the presence of State Human Rights Commission representatives determined Gomez Gonzalez died from “mechanical asphyxiation” after suffering head trauma and being submerged in water.

Gomez Gonzalez, whose family reported him missing two weeks ago, was one of the region’s most prominent conservation activists and a vocal defender of the monarch butterflies. He had launched a campaign against illegal logging that threatens the butterflies nesting grounds.

Although petty crime and theft is common in these parts of Mexico, authorities don’t believe this to be the case in Gonzalez’s death. He was found with about $9,000 pesos (or about $500 USD) on him when his body was discovered.

Mexico’s Monarch butterfly preserve is a UNESCO Biosphere reserve that draws hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.

Credit: omgitsjustintime / Instagram

Each winter, millions of monarch butterflies make their home at the El Rosario reserve in Mexico — one of the best places in the world to see them. Local guides lead tourists up the mountainside on foot and horseback to where the monarchs cluster in fir and pine trees. Their bright orange wings flit amid the mild weather of Michoacán, and signs ask for silence as visitors enter the nesting areas.

The El Rosario sanctuary is part of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, which was enshrined as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008, calling the overwintering concentration of butterflies there “a superlative natural phenomenon.” It noted that more than half of overwintering colonies of the monarch butterfly’s eastern population are found in these specific areas of Mexico.

But the same forests that draw butterflies to migrate thousands of miles each winter are under threat from illegal logging and clandestine avocado farms.

Credit: omgitsjustintime / Instagram

Officials in the state of Michoacán said they were unsure if the two deaths were linked – or related to the men’s work in the butterfly reserve. The state has seen a rising tide of violence in recent years, and the region around the monarch butterfly reserve has been rife with illegal logging, despite a ban imposed to protect the monarchs, which winter in the pine- and fir-covered hills.

Some illegal clearcutting is also carried out to allow for the planting of avocado orchards – one of Mexico’s most lucrative crops and an important part of Michoacán’s economy.

The deaths again called attention to the disturbing trend in Mexico of environmental defenders being killed as they come into conflict with developers or local crime groups, who often have political and police protection.