Historically speaking, turning avocados into guacamole as a popular snack is not new. It has just merely been blown out of proportion in the past few decades. The NFL and Super Bowl has caused a rise in the number of avocado-eating Americans. In fact, the NFL Super Bowl is one occasion where avocado consumption is at its highest– even surpassing Cinco De Mayo.
Interestingly, a simple fruit that was eaten as part of a frugal diet in post-war Mexico has become a major hit in the past six decades, especially with its popularity as a part of health trends. However, it eventually gave rise to gang wars. Hence, this article will address the growing consumption of avocados and how a seemingly innocent fruit became a crucial player in turf wars among drug lords.
A Skyrocketing Consumption Curve
Avocados still remain one of the most prominent Mexican exports to the state of the US, and the demand for the fruit has been growing more and more since the 60s. The avocado industry contributes to an annual income of over three billion dollars to the Mexican economy. Over 1 million tonnes of avocados are shipped from Mexico to the United States every year.
Green Gold and Bloody Wars
The state of Michoacan almost totally depends upon avocado exports to run their economy, and surprisingly, this is the state which is the bloodiest in Mexico. Life is fragile in the state, and it has to endure brutal cartel wars which are solely focused on controlling profits. Historically, it has happened with cocaine, heroin and cannabis, and the cartel has now targeted the booming avocado market in the US due to the decline in heroin prices. These cartel groups use their power to tax the produce and control the market.
The irony of health-conscious Americans is juxtaposed with a group centred on extortion, torture, corruption, kidnappings and mass killings. Since more than 40% of global avocados are grown in Mexico, the fruit has earned the moniker of 'green gold'. Exports have surged over five times in the past decade.
Michoacan produces the majority of Mexico's avocados, which has brought massive benefits to the state's economy, albeit with a tremendous cost of life. In the early stages, the cartels were focused on laundering money through avocado exports. Still, they gradually branched ahead once they saw the possibility of higher profits. The cartels then stopped considering drugs as their primary market and shifted to other industries such as avocados and mining.
The Mexican president, Andrez Manuel Lopez Obrador, came into power by the promise of ending cartel violence, with his famous policy of "hugs, not bullets". However, the economy started to decay after the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in an increase in violence. This situation has brought about a reactionary change, resulting in some vigilantes taking up arms to fight the cartel members. To clamp down on the bloodshed that entailed in various parts of the country, the Federal Government made an accord with the vigilantes, allowing their chefs to join the police force. In return, they would provide information about their weapons and members. However, vigilantes are not keen on giving up their arms since they have little to no trust in the Government to dissolve cartels and gang wars all of a sudden. On the contrary, Federal authorities have almost always failed to tackle the situation as local vigilantes have.
A Way Out?
The US can take a holier-than-thou approach and order a complete ban on avocado imports from Mexico. However, the sad reality is that there is no clear way out of the gang wars that are happening in Mexico over avocados. Awareness could be the first stepping stone to control turf wars among drug kingpins. But in all honest it seems, an average American would be more inclined toward having a steady supply of avocados in the market.
Furthermore, it could also be difficult to completely cut the avocado imports from Mexico to curb drug violence. Such an action would not only hurt the economy, but it would make the cartels merely shift their focus from avocados to another industry. At the end of the day, the sad reality that grips us is that there is no end in sight to the gang wars in Mexico, and we need to be aware of it.