Tancitaro, Mexico – Blood Avocados No More
Tancitaro, Mexico is a farm town that produces avocados – it is considered the capital of avocados in Mexico. At one time, the drug cartels forced farmers to pay blood money or be killed, with the cartels putting the dead bodies on display as a message. Over the years, 8,000 farmers were murdered in the avocado regions of Mexico. Tancitaro alone produces over $1 Million in avocados every day. It’s big money the cartels wanted for themselves. No more. Tancitaro now has avocado police.
“Throughout the 1990s, Mexico’s Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (Cartel Jalico Nueva Generación – CJNG) and the Cuinis criminal group pioneered the extortion and kidnapping of wealthy avocado farmers to fund their expansion…” Insight Crime Reported in 2017
Tancitaro is in Michoacan State- home to competing, violent drug cartels. But while some of those areas that had militias have “withered away,” this city has kept a solid police force. They have been going strong for 5 years, since the town rose up in 2013. By 2014, they had a force of 80 well trained personnel who began the process of ridding the town of its organized crime.
“The avocado producers wanted security, but that is expensive, and if they wanted the police force trained — well you have to invest money. …Because the police are going to face actual criminals who are sometimes better equipped…I told them that Tancítaro’s next police force would need to be different, to be a police force that is really trained and that is local — that we never again bring on more police from other areas.” Salvador Torres, City President to VICE news in 2014.
The town has a population of just 30,000. The police are paid partially by the farmers and partially the city. And they are paid well. Part of their success is that the force only allows trusted locals to be on it…and the demand for avocados world wide is high… from America, especially during the Super Bowl.
The force has armored patrol trucks, body armor, helmets and high powered rifles that are paid for by the state police. They have 8 checkpoints set up on the roads in and out of Tancitaro. They have a civilian volunteer force that works with them to provide information on any suspicious activity.
The mayor said crime has fallen since the community and police joined forces, although he said there were no current statistics available for the town.
Police Chief Sánchez says its success is due to the love and trust his officers have with the community. It also helps that worldwide demand for avocados remains high, providing a healthy income for officers and most residents too.
All of that for your bowl of guacamole.