‘Blood avocados’ in the news amid Michoacán violence


The US Department of Agriculture on June 17 suspended inspections of avocados and mangoes in the Mexican state of Michoacán due to security concerns, halting the top source of US imports. The move was taken three days after two agents of the USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) were accosted during a protest in the town of Paracho, beaten and briefly detained. Michoacán is Mexico’s heartland of avocado production, but the trade has been notoriously co-opted by the local warring drug cartels to launder narco-profits, leading to charges of “blood avocados” in the violence-torn state.

This is not the first such disruption of exports. In February 2022, the USDA similarly suspended inspections after a plant safety inspector in Michoacán received a threatening message. The halt was lifted after about a week, and later that year Jalisco became the second Mexican state authorized to export avocados to the US. Aditionally, shipments of Michoacán avocados are already in transit, so the new suspension should not have a significant market impact if it is resolved shortly. Michoacán Gov. Alfredo Ramírez Bedolla told reporters that Mexican authorities are in discussions with their US counterparts to quickly address the situation. The Mexican Association of Avocado Producers & Exporters (APEAM) is also petitioning the US embassy to have the suspension lifted.

The protest in Paracho had actually been called to support local agents of the state police force (formally renamed the Civil Guard in 2022) who have apparently been denied promised bonuses. The protesters were also supporting their demand for the removal of police commanders said to be compromised by the cartels. It is unclear why the APHIS agents were targeted. (AP, Enlace Noticias, MiMorelia, PRI, InfoBae)

Underfunding and cooptation of the police force has become a contentious issue in the state. On March 18, the regional Civil Guard commander for Pátzcuaro, Kristel García Hurtado, was killed with two of her escorts when their car was ambushed on the Uruapan-Pátzcuaro higway. The car was burned and the bodies left beheaded. (TeleSur, SinEmbargo)

The violence in the state is basically a struggle for control by the rival Familia Michoacana and Jalisco New Generation Cartel. As the New Generation, based in the adjoining state to the north, encroaches on La Familia’s turf, both organizations are also seeking to expand into other neighboring states. Last Dec. 8 saw a horrific massacre at Texcaltitlán in México state, when apparent Familia Michoacana enforcers demanded that local farmers pay a protection fee for each square meter of their bean and pea fields. A meeting had been called to discuss the dispute at the town’s football field. When the farmonmers refused to pay, citing a bad harvest, the enforcers killed 14 with their machetes and firearms. (El País)

The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) this week placed sanctions on eight Mexican figures said to be affiliated with La Nueva Familia Michoacana cartel for trafficking fentanyl, cocaine and methamphetamine to the United States. (El País)

Map: Google