Things That Matter

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

Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación en el Estado de México #Edomex

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.

In An Effort To Eliminate Food Waste We Will Soon Have Access To Avocados That Stay Fresh For 30 Days

Culture

In An Effort To Eliminate Food Waste We Will Soon Have Access To Avocados That Stay Fresh For 30 Days

Apeel Sciences / YouTube

American demand for avocados is so great—and the supply so precious—that restaurants have had to cut guacamole corners in recent months. Like it’s seriously getting tough out there. 

We’ve got taquerias from LA to Mexico City spreading fake guac (aka mock guac) on our tacos and burritos. While white folk from Australia to the UK are suffering from an epidemic of so-called ‘avocado hand.’ And cartels are killing farmers for their agricultural lands hoping to get in on the avocado boom. 

Avocados have long been a favorite of people around the world but all of us have often shared one common complaint – our lovely avocados spoil way too damn fast. Well, finally, one company is trying to fix that issue and it looks like 30 day avocados could be here in the very near future.

Because every last avocado counts, grocery store chain Kroger has debuted avocados sprayed with a new, plant-based coating designed to keep produce fresh longer.

Credit: Apeel Sciences

Kroger announced this week that the powdered coating comes from a company called Apeel, and when mixed with water and sprayed onto produce, it keeps oxygen out, prolonging the time before the fruit or vegetable spoils. It’s also being applied to asparagus and limes in a small percentage of Kroger stores. The company hopes the longer-lasting produce will eliminate food waste not only in people’s kitchens, but in the stores themselves.

Apeel Sciences has figured out how to extend the salad days of fruits and vegetables — and it’s bringing the technology to the avocado aisle of 1,100 Kroger grocery stores in the US, starting this month. 

Credit: omgitsjustintime / Instagram

The extra longevity comes from Apeel‘s special, plant-derived formulation that’s applied — like a second skin — to a variety of produce. The process can double or, in some cases, triple shelf life. The companies expect the partnership to prevent millions of avocados annually from ending up in landfills.

Kroger, the largest grocery retailer in the US, began selling Apeel avocados exclusively in 109 of its stores earlier this year. Because of the resulting reduction in waste, Apeel says its avocados cost the same or less than other avocados. 

A video posted in March compares the lifespans of Apeel fruits and vegetables — including asparagus, tomatoes, strawberries, apples, bananas and limes — with that of their untreated counterparts.

So far, Apeel has developed formulations for about 50 different kinds of produce including apples, artichokes, bananas, beans, blueberries and tomatoes. The company also announced today that it would begin selling limes and asparagus in Kroger’s stores around Cincinnati, Ohio, later this fall. 

Kroger and Apeel both cite lofty aims with their collaboration. Kroger has promoted the initiative under its “Zero Hunger/Zero Waste” program that raises money to mitigate hunger and reduce food waste. In the US, roughly one in eight people struggle with hunger and between 30% and 40% of the food produced is thrown away

There are also environmental benefits.

Credit: Unsplash

Apeel and Kroger expect the partnership to help prevent millions of avocados from ending up in landfills, which should help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. They also predict that the deal will save over one billion gallons of water and help preserve dozens of acres of farmland.

Although not everyone is happy about the idea.

Credit: Fruitnet.com / Screenshot

One Twitter user said: “My issue isn’t that grocery store avocados go bad, it’s that they never ripen at all. I bought a bunch of avocados yesterday and I’m hoping I’ll have ripe ones by Spring.” 

Ok, by Spring? That might be a little dramatic but I think we can all relate. You get to the market and they either have mushy, brown, already spoiled avocados covered in flies or they’re hard as a rock and that delicious guacamole you planned on making tonight to go with those tacos just isn’t happening. 

Cartels Are Targeting Migrants Forced To Stay In Mexico Under Trump’s ‘Remain In Mexico’ Policy

Things That Matter

Cartels Are Targeting Migrants Forced To Stay In Mexico Under Trump’s ‘Remain In Mexico’ Policy

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’d know that the Trump administration has had the bright idea of forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico until their cases are heard in the US federal courts. While there are definitely parts of Mexico that would be great to stay in for a week on break, this is no holiday for these asylum seekers. In an effort to profit from some of the most vulnerable people in Mexico, cartel violence has specifically targeted the areas where migrants are being temporarily housed. 

The violence has gotten so bad that some have abandoned their asylum applications.

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At this point, it’s hard to keep up with what’s happened so far to threaten the lives of migrants. In Nuevo Laredo alone, there’s an entire laundry list of incidents that have made asylum seekers uneasy. Last week, shooting broke out between gang members on the main boulevard to Nuevo Laredo’s airport. An educated guess would say that The Cartel of the Northeast was responsible for the trouble, since they dominate that area of town. It’s not uncommon to see them riding around in armored cars emblazoned with “Tropas del Infierno” across the sides. It’s their constant presence that keeps migrants constantly anxious and alert.

The government is offering bus trips to other cities outside the border zone.

Instagram / @altavozmx

In an effort to alleviate tensions, the government has provided free bus trips for asylum seekers to places such as Monterrey and Tapachula, which are around 3 and 36 hours away from Nuevo Laredo, respectively. However, the trips have been disrupted by gang members, who take it upon themselves to stop the buses and abduct the passengers. Abductions give cartels hostages that they can use to blackmail relatives in exchange for payouts. It’s clear that it’s not safe for migrants to stay in this environment. And apparently, it’s barely even safe to leave through provided channels. This has resulted in asylum seekers abandoning their applications to return to the relative safety of home – despite the fact that the dangers there had prompted them to leave in the first place.

Aid providers say the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP, are to blame.

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So far, the MPP have resulted in approximately 35,000 migrants being sent back to Mexican border cities to wait for their day in court. In fact, 4,500 people have been sent to Nuevo Laredo alone. What essentially happens under the MPP is that, once asylum seekers reach US ports of entry, they are sent back to Mexico with a date to return and make their case for asylum via video link. Migrants can be stuck waiting for that day from anywhere between two to four months.

So why did Mexico agree to the MPP in the first place, when it’s had some very dire outcomes?

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Well, Trump had threatened Mexico with tariffs if they didn’t agree with the MPP. Now, it’s all well and good to say that Mexico could have done a China, and dived head first into a trade war. But Mexico doesn’t have that sort of economic power. Most of its trade is conducted with the US. China, on the other hand, has diversified its trade relationships. As a result, it doesn’t depend on business with the US to keep the Chinese economy running. Mexico, being backed into a corner as it were, had no choice but to agree to the terms of the MPP.

There are a few reasons why the Trump administration has pursued this course of action – and none of them are good.

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There are two main reasons why the Trump administration has developed the MPP: money, and the strict enforcement of immigration law. Where money is concerned – it costs a lot to employ the 150 judges who oversee immigration cases, and whatever other staff and facilities are needed as part of both detaining and processing asylum seekers. It’s must less expensive to just not do that.

With these type of policies, many worry violence could begin to spread.

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As far as strict enforcement of immigration law … well, we’ve seen a lot of that already with the overflow of inmates at border detention centers, and the exponential increase of ICE raids and arrests. What’s been discussed less by the media is the fact that, in 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions enacted legislation that determined migrants could not apply for asylum based on the threat of domestic or cartel violence, because it’s too hard for the government to verify. So, why even bother allowing migrants to leech off US resources, if you’re pretty much planning to deny their request for asylum anyway?

All of this is great news in light of the agreement that’s in the works between Guatemala and the US. Should it be ratified, Guatemala would be set to be the next Mexico, and also house asylum seekers while they wait for their applications to be reviewed by the US. This could potentially mean a rise in cartel violence in Guatemala, too.