Avocado cartels

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Because it’s 2019 and the world has gone crazy:

The cartel members showed up in this verdant stretch of western Mexico armed with automatic weapons and chainsaws.

Soon they were cutting timber day and night, the crash of falling trees echoing throughout the virgin forest. When locals protested, explaining that the area was protected from logging, they were held at gunpoint and ordered to keep quiet.

Stealing wood was just a prelude to a more ambitious plan.

The newcomers, members of a criminal group called the Viagras, were almost certainly clearing the forest to set up a grow operation. They wouldn’t be planting marijuana or other crops long favored by Mexican cartels, but something potentially even more profitable: avocados.

More than a dozen criminal groups are battling for control of the avocado trade in and around the city of Uruapan, preying on wealthy orchard owners, the laborers who pick the fruit and the drivers who truck it north to the United States.

“The threat is constant and from all sides,” said Jose Maria Ayala Montero, who works for a trade association that formed its own vigilante army to protect growers.

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“An armed avocado police force”. Jesus wept. Who the hell is writing the script for the current series of “Planet Earth”?

It is often argued that banning things creates a criminal underground to take advantage of the situation and legalising things – such as drugs – will destroy organised crime, which thrives on cultivating, smuggling and distributing illicit substances. There might be good arguments out there for legalising most or all drugs, but as the story above suggests, this isn’t it.

The essential problem lies not with the law with the human nature: quite simply, there are some people among us who are violent and lazy. They live for easy money (easier than earned 9-to-5) and being feared by others. Currently, they make a living and a killing (both literally and metaphorically) mainly off goods and activities that are illegal, such as drugs or human trafficking. But if the drugs were to be legalised tomorrow around the world, all these criminals won’t say “oh well” and start sending job applications for work at the local construction sites and restaurants. They will merely switch to other illegal pursuits, which might not be as profitable as cocaine or meth but still beat an ordinary paycheck. Alternatively, the organised crime groups will move into legal areas and apply their patented violent methods against their legitimate competition. This will drive the honest “civilians” out of the business or cower the remaining ones sufficiently that the cartels and the mafias will be able to set the terms and the prices to their advantage (and everyone else’s disadvantage), increasing their rents to cover shortfalls from the loss of previous lucrative businesses since devalued by criminal law reforms.

Organised crime on a scale that made Mexico into virtually a failed narco-state is a clear and present danger to its host and its neighbours. For the sake of people of North America I hope that something can be done to diminish its reach and influence, but it will take a lot more than taking “narco” out of narcos.

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