Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 24th 2013 Contents A42
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Friday, May 24, 2013
ment of President Enrique Pena Nieto
says troops will stay in Michoacan
until every citizen lives in peace. But
the offensive, headed by Secretary of
Defense Salvador Cienfuegos, looks
a lot like failed operations launched
previously by former president Felipe
Calderon, who started his first assault
on organised crime in Michoacan
shortly after taking office in late 2006.
Calderon was trying to stop drug
cartels from morphing into mafias
controlling all segments of society.
But that s exactly what has happened,
as they maintain country roads, con-
trol the local economy and mete out
justice for common crimes.
In the Tierra Caliente, a remote
agricultural region, fire has been a
favoured weapon of the cartel. On
the highway between Coalcoman and
La Ruana, the ruins of three sawmills
torched by the cartel still smouldered
The owners reportedly had failed
to pay protection fees of 120 pesos
(about US$10) for every cubic metre
of wood they sold, the equivalent of
about ten cents for every two-by-
The Knights Templar also demands
that avocado growers pay 2,000 pesos
(about US$160) per hectare of trees.
Avocado warehouses were set afire
this month by armed men.
The heart of a conflict where a
mafia openly rules and the govern-
ment is largely absent is nowhere
more evident than in the lime groves
that cover the hot, hilly plains, miles
and miles of trees with the fruit yel-
lowing and falling into uncollected
heaps on the ground.
Mexico is the world s largest pro-
ducer of limes, according to the US
Department of Agriculture, more than
two million tonnes in 2012.
By late last year, the cartel wasn t
just extorting money from lime grow-
ers and packers. It had started charg-
ing per-box payments from lime
pickers, who make only US$10 to
US$15 per day labouring under the
With officials doing nothing to
help, self-defence groups started to
spring up in February to fight back.
Heavily-armed men in masks and
baseball caps began manning barri-
cades along highways and patrolling
the countryside, sometimes openly
battling the cartel.
Then the cartel shut the warehous-
es, forbidding brokers to buy limes
and cutting off work for the pickers
who had revolted.
Fruit broker Carlos Torres Chavez
watched on Tuesday as thousands
of fresh green limes poured down the
chutes from his plant s giant hoppers
into a 37-tonne truck for shipment
to a processing mill. It was his first
day open in two months, thanks to
the arrival of the army.
Torres Chavez sells to mills that
make lime oil. He usually gets yellow,
overripe, second-rate fruit.
But because of the growers des-
peration to make money, they were
selling him fresh green limes for a
peso per kilogramme (eight cents per
pound), a third of what the fruit is
"This is a waste. These are good
limes, they can be eaten. They
shouldn t be going to the mill," said
Domingo Mora, 54, as he picked up
one of the limes sifting through the
Mora s 24-year-old son, Daniel
Mora Torres, was arrested in March
along with 50 other young men from
the La Ruana self-defence force and
was sent to a prison in northern Mex-
ico.Authorities accused them of car-
rying banned assault rifles, and said
some had links to a rival cartel, Jalisco
Nueva Generation, which they deny.
The federal government sees both
the self-defence forces and the cartel
as dangerous enemies.
Mora says his son is just a lime
picker who couldn t work to feed his
family after the Knights Templar
banned the lime sales.
Meanwhile, in Mexico City, the
federal government recently declared
a lime emergency because prices had
doubled to about 70 cents a pound
(18 pesos per kilogramme). For a fruit
so central to Mexican cuisine, it was
The government announced last
week it would tackle the shortage by
importing limes from Brazil. The gov-
ernment attributed the local scarcity
to crop pests and "seasonal fluctu-
ations" in production.
Sergio Ramirez, president of a lime
trade group called Sistema Producto
Limon, insisted there is no shortage
and blamed the high prices on greedy
fruit dealers and government
bungling. His explanation doesn t
play in the Tierra Caliente.
"Isn t it ironic, Mexico is going to
import limes from Brazil, because
there isn t enough supply?" asked a
rancher wearing a baseball cap and
leaning back into his chair at the
headquarters of the local self-defence
group in Tepalcatepec. "Here, the
limes are falling to the ground,
because the lords of the Knights Tem-
plar won t let them be sold."
The last time the federal govern-
ment truly went after the cartel, then
known as La Familia, was in 2010.
Federal Police killed leader Nazario
Moreno Gonzalez in a gunbattle and
firefights followed for weeks in dozens
of spots. La Familia s leadership fell
apart, but one branch of the cartel
evolved into the Knights Templar,
which has consolidated control. (AP)
Continues from A41
In this May 20 photo, an
armed man belonging to a
local self-defence group
patrols from the back of a
pick-up truck in the town of
Buenavista, Mexico. AP PHOTO
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