Tag Archives: Mexican drug violence

Organic Mexican Produce, Fair Trade and the Cocaine Market: A Discussion

With permission, I am sharing this email that came in to me today as a follow-on to the discussion about Fair Trade chocolate, and where Mexican chocolate comes from.  The following comes from a reader who only buys organic and who is frustrated with the demise of the small Mexican farmer as NAFTA drives down prices and drives up the production and sale of cocaine.

“The “organic” designation in Mexico is very difficult to get.  It is strictly given, but costs a fair bit to renew every year.  You can buy a number of Mexican products (I know a coffee grower in Guerrero) where the growers only get their “organic” designation every few years so the product might not be labelled.  It is simply too expensive to do every year.

“I can though buy “organic” Mexican limes that are small and irregular in colour and shape and very flavourful.  I can buy “organic” US limes which are the size of oranges and all uniform in size, and have a bland flavour.  I will bet that the Mexican ones are honestly organic, and that the US ones have chemicals and are GM (genetically modified).  Unfortunate that this is allowed to exist.

It is worth research as well, how much it costs to get “fair trade” designation. Large companies who can afford it, are more likely to have the legal right to use it than small producers.  There is a lot of trickery in these things…  one of the funniest ones I find now is people being “green” and advertising “organic bamboo” clothing for a higher price than cotton.  Fabric made from bamboo is actually “rayon” which has been sold for many years.  Since bamboo grows so quickly (I am sure you notice that in Oaxaca) it doesn’t need chemicals.  There is always a way to get more money than something is truly worth.

“I spend lots of time in Mexican markets, and lots of conversations with sellers – unfortunately because of the “free trade” agreements, foods like avocados from Mexico were banned from sale in the US for many years, in competition with those from California.  At the same time, most of the apples and pears that you find for sale in Mexican markets are from the state of Washington in the US.  It is all a mess, not just as simple as one might think.

“Mexico is losing its closest trading partner as far as produce goes.  The US is the largest user of cocaine and other drugs, so the so called “free trade” agreement is pushing people to get involved in the drug trade, a product that can easily be sold within the US.”
Central to this discussion, is the impact of fair trade in Mexico on the business of tourism.  As the demand for illegal drugs in the U.S. goes up, the drug trafficking in Mexico will also increase along with the associated violence.  I am hearing daily about the fear people have of traveling to Mexico.  And, while the violence is pretty much contained to the U.S.-Mexico border states, there is widespread fear of travel to all parts of Mexico, including Oaxaca.  Perhaps it is time to redefine Fair Trade?

Mexico Discourse: Safety, Drug Wars, and Fear

From Stephen to My Mother, age 94:

I very much enjoyed reading your email and the article about Mexico.  It is truly horrific. But so are the drug killings in this country as the drugs are dealt out. The same gangland shootings have been going on in the States, but here, the media’s white, and after a while nobody pays attention anymore.

Most of the people in Mexico are untouched by the violence, as are most people in this country.  Here and in Mexico, it’s largely the unemployed/unemployable despairing poor who run the risks of dying to make a way up and out.  We can never win the “war” on drugs. We need to legalize them immediately, thereby destroying the illegal manufacturing and transport industries that have grown up around them.  Your points about our nation being the cause since we’re the buyers of druga and the sellers of arms is a good one. Also about the thugs in the banks and on Wall St. And all the oil thugs, and the revolving door between corporations and the government, etc.

I wrote a colleague of mine who retired to Mexico last March on a one year trial. They are in San Miguel Allende, a mountain town north east of Mexico City, with a lot of Anglo expats, some in gated communities.  This is what I said and his response:

“Everyone here asks about the drug war and its impact on expats as the horrific slaughter mounts. What’s your experience and your take on the whole mess?”

He replied:

“In San Miguel one has absolutely no idea there’s a drug war going on with the exception that people are skittish about driving to and from the US.  When there is a visiting dignitary there are a lot of soldiers and body guard types in town but I have nothing to compare this to and it may simply be business as usual and nothing new.  For the celebration of San Miguel Day there must have been someone visiting town.  We counted 75 soldiers and bodyguard types walking home from our Spanish tutor and lots of streets around two hotels were roped off.  But this may be standard procedure.  People never talk about the narcoterrorism thing except to comment on the fact that people in the US are afraid to visit and tourism is down sharply and restaurants and boutiques are going out of business.

We went to Xilitla in the mountains east of here (above the Gulf of Mexico) to see Las Pozas, the 80 acre jungle mountain site  converted into a surrealistic park with amazing buildings and sculptures.  I’ll forward you some photos in a  separate email.”

The same thing is true in Oaxaca where the US market for drugs is destroying the local economy, most of which is based on tourism.  Local agriculture in the valley, both commercial and the smaller milpas people kept, have been made irrlevant by NAFTA: the price of US government subsidized corn and beans is well below the cost of locally produced Mexican corn and beans, so small farms are going under, just like in the States, and the land is being bought up by Mexican and US corporations. So the US has successfully exported monocrop pesticidal and herbicidal factory farms to Mexico.

Mexico and many other post-colonial countries may be rife with corruption, a residue everywhere of colonial occupation;  yet our country is not immune. We call it “bribery” in the third world. Here, we call it lobbying.

So, this has been enjoyable, but I need to get up, feed my pigs, thin my beets and carrots and focus on marketing my practice so some day I can retire.