Sunday, December 1, 2013

Michoacán: "Blood Avocados"

Borderland Beat

Note:Michoacán is the leading producer of avocados in the world accounting for half of the world market.  Conditions in Michoacán are ideal for production of the preferred Haas avocado, rendering it non-seasonal, with year round "season".production.  Since the  health benefits have been widely known, the trade has increased three fold in 6 years, which in 2012  resulted in just shy of one billion dollars (0.9B) in shipped to the US alone. ...chivis

Vocativ/Jan-Albert Hootsen
The Knights Templar has brought kidnappings, murders, money laundering and fear to Mexico's prized avocado business
 
MORELIA, Mexico—There’s an almost Mediterranean charm to the rolling hills here in Michoacán, a state in western Mexico. Avocado farms occupy vast stretches of land, and the rows of low-growing trees resemble the olive gardens of southern Europe.
These idyllic farms grow millions of pounds of avocados that Americans consume every year. But there’s a dark story lurking beneath the surface of the fleshy green fruit—and the bowls of guacamole it produces. A drug cartel known as the Caballeros Templarios, the Knights Templar, has infiltrated the avocado sector, and now controls the local trade, from production to distribution.

In Mexico, the avocado is called aguacate. It has been a staple food here for thousands of years. It’s also Michoacán’s principal export: 72 percent of all Mexican avocado plantations are located in the state. More than 80 percent of Michoacán’s avocados are exported to the United States—the bulk of them of the fatty Hass variety. In the latter half of 2012 and the early part of 2013, the U.S. imported nearly $1 billion worth of avocados from this state. Not surprisingly, a common nickname for the fruit is oro verde, green gold, because it yields more cash than any other crop—including marijuana.

Few people here know more about avocados than Jesús, 50, whose family has been developing plantations and growing the fruit for generations. He took me on a drive around the countryside to show me the ins and outs of his trade, as long as I didn’t reveal his real name. Like many avocado farmers, he is afraid of the Templarios.

“The avocado used to make us all very rich people,” he says as we drive through miles of farms. “A single hectare, yielding one harvest every six months, can make a trader up to 1.5 million pesos ($113,000) per year. During the good years I easily made yearly profits of $1.5 million.”

The good years were the ’80s and ’90s, when Jesús’s family was among the wealthiest in Michoacán. Those days are gone. Last year, Jesús barely scraped together a profit of $15,000. Once, he had more than 100 people working for him. Now he has only seven. “The Templarios have ruined my business,” he says. “I don’t know how much longer I have until I go bankrupt.”

For decades, rich drug traffickers have purchased avocado plantations to launder money or to make legitimate profits. It wasn’t until several years ago, however, that the Templarios became further involved in the avocado business.

click to enlarge
The cartel derived from an earlier group of drug traffickers known as La Familia Michoacana. La Familia was founded by Nazario Moreno, called The Craziest One, a former preacher who reportedly wrote his own version of the Bible and recruited new members at drug rehab centers. Under his stewardship, La Familia gained thousands of followers.

Most were converts to Moreno’s strange brand of evangelical Christianity, which uses Old Testament verses to justify beheadings and other brutal tactics. Not content to traffic marijuana, cocaine and heroin, La Familia set up a variety of extortion rackets in Michoacán. The avocado business was one of them.

But after Moreno was reportedly killed in 2010, internal strife led to his gang’s dissolution and the creation of its offshoot, the Templarios. This new gang intensified Moreno’s forays into extortion and kidnapping, but went even further. Now avocado farmers and traders say the Templarios not only demand money, but they also actively take over plantations and packing plants.
Here in Michoacán, very few dare to speak openly about the Templarios. The farmers prefer to simply call them los malos, the bad guys. With an estimated 100,000 people working directly or indirectly for the cartel, lookouts abound.

“We are always being watched,” says Jesús, as we eat at a taco stand in Uruápan. He quickly changes the subject when a man in his 30s in a baseball cap sits next to him. On his elbow, the man has a tattoo of a sword, one of the symbols of the Templarios.

Templarios piso/tax receipt

A major part of the cartel’s success is its ruthless efficiency. Through the Michoacán State Committee of Vegetable Health, the authority that regulates the quality standards of farming products, the Templarios have managed to obtain detailed information about every avocado farmer in the area. All are required to tell state authorities how big their land is and how much they produce. Through threats and bribes, the Templarios have gained access to those lists.

The extortion usually occurs by phone. The narcos call farmers and tell them how much they have to pay: 10 cents for every kilogram of avocado they produce, $115 for every hectare of land they own. Those who export the fruit have to pay up to $250 per hectare. The Templarios collect the money—cash placed in a bag at an agreed upon drop off—once a year, usually in January.

The extortion fees are non-negotiable, says one farmer, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. “It’s no use trying to convince them to demand less,” he says. “They know exactly how much you own. If you lie to them, they’ll kill you or one of your family members.”

This farmer lost two sons last year. They were kidnapped in Guadalajara, the capital of neighboring Jalisco state, after he refused to hand over a plantation to the Templarios. “They demanded I pay $1.5 million. I sold everything I could,” he says, “my house, my cars, everything.” Even after paying the ransom, his boys were never released. He now thinks they are both dead. The Templarios tend to dispose of their hostages quickly.

Every link in the avocado production chain is a cash cow for the cartel, from the quadrilleros, or pickers (whose employment agencies are forced to pay $3.50 per worker per day), to those who buy, develop and sell plantations. The extortion racket is lucrative. In some municipalities, the estimated proceeds come to $3 million per year.

Jesús says the Templarios want to control everything—that the cartel is already stealing land and taking over packing plants. Fighting the group is pointless, many farmers say. The Templarios employ hundreds of lawyers and notaries to launder cash and falsify deeds and contracts.
Most white-collar Templarios are involuntary participants. They are given the choice between plata o plomo, silver or lead. Three weeks ago, one notary in Uruapán who refused to sign the deeds to his plantations over to the cartel was severely punished: His son was kidnapped and killed a few days later.

The extreme violence surrounding Mexico’s avocado business is relatively new, and so is the industry’s dominance in the states. In 1997, the U.S. Congress lifted an eight-decade embargo on Mexican avocados. Business has since surged, and a number of U.S. avocado traders such as West Pak and Mission have established footholds in Michoacán, among other places. I contacted both companies to see if the Templarios have affected their business, but neither responded.

Since January, the price of Hass avocados in the U.S. has climbed by roughly 20 percent, but it’s unclear if this spike is related to the Templarios. The cartel’s extortion of the lime industry, however, has led to increased prices of the fruit in Mexico City.

For his part, Jesús thinks the cartel is already hurting consumers on a local level and may also do so abroad. “Farmers, packers and shopkeepers lose so much money to the extortionists, that they raise prices so as not to go bankrupt.” According to him, there’s little any company, domestic or foreign, can do; the entire production chain is affected.

Over the past few years, as the narcos have infiltrated the avocado trade, the state has been plagued by a wider outbreak of drug-related violence. After the collapse of La Familia, cartels from other states tried to take over the gang’s territory. A turf war ensued, and the result has been a permanent state of chaos.

Yet for the farmers, the presence of the army and federal police has not changed anything. Many even quietly accuse them of colluding with the narcos. “There’s nothing we can do,” says Jesús. “The Templarios rule Michoacán now. We have no other choice but to pay.”

 

63 comments:

  1. This has to stop.

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  2. Bloody cuecumber!

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  3. well ... they may kidnap, sell drugs, and trade in illegal weapons - but when they break into the guacamole business ... things have gone too far !!

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    1. 1:45 the cabelleras kagadas made the zetas run to the north to their carwazhing buzinezz,they fucked up la familia michoacana too,that is how evil they are,and that was in their spare time,for their main hobby has been turning politicians blind to their shenenigans,all the way up to the presidents Fox,Calderon,and Pena Nieto,or at least a lot of their ministers and police and ginirals,their religious cult is one more proof that religious cults comen Santos,y cagan diablos (eat saints and shit devils)...
      But all the templarios and the familia michoacana,and los zetas put together are not as bad as the "big businessmen" behind them like Miguel Angel Gallegos,of Zicuarain and la Huacana,Michoacan.

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    2. Lol mess w the guack u gone to far hHahah

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  4. This provides a lot of perspective on why the autodefensas felt they had to take Tancítaro. Here's a story from El Economista dated Oct. 29, 2013.

    The report is from Tancítaro and it says the CT makes over 2 billion pesos a year (over 150 million USD) just from avocados.

    http://eleconomista.com.mx/seguridad-publica/2013/10/29/extorsiones-aguacateros-da-templarios-2000-mdp-ano

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  5. Agree, it has to stop now.

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  6. Ever since the desmadre in mexico has gotten bad I have noticed an increase of avocada use in food places everywhere in the us perhaps this drug war is a dirty war to take Mexico's good reasources

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    1. 3:27 according to the banana republic constitution and handling manual,Mexico is a banana republic,its products are being fiercely fought for,politicians are too busy getting their mordidas to their favorite foreign banks,and the apes in charge of the plantation,divided and defeated,are too busy fighting each other over the table scraps. All these rabid dogs chewing the Mexicans in the ass are sowing the seeds of their dismissal,there is no worse enemy of capitalism than greedy capitalists,and they greatly prove it in Mexico with their "chinese communist slave educatinization" fed with whips,sticks and r-15 and ak47,or rusty knives.but the banana republic must stand!!!

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  7. Bloody avocado lololol wtf Mexico please get ur shit together either call in the marines or just give the autodefensas the green light to exterminate these assholes

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    1. 3:34 the rabble needs no green light,just a target,and a lot of dogs for centinels,so they can sleep at night God lead them to victory,with the help of the despised proles

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  8. Wow. Their actions remind me of the union I used to be a member of. As long as my dues were paid, everything was great.

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  9. It's amazing how blind we were to the real live occurrance in michoacan. There was a time where I was proud to listen to Los originales and relate for being from michoacan. Now I'm embarrassed!

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    1. I'd be more embarrased admitting to listening to the originales the san juan

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    2. 11:51 Los razo se chingaron a los originales,pinchis charritos montaperros miados y cagados,se la pelliscaron con el chango,los changos siempre ganan...

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  10. Blood Avocados,,,,,,,,for fucks sake.Oh the pathos of it all.
    Cabbages of blood,oh the humanity,,,sheeeeitt.

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  11. I wont buy Mexican weed because it fuels murder and mayhem. Don't get me wrong, I love my weed but now only buy local.

    I also love guacamole. If I don't buy weed, it only hurts the narcos. If I don't eat guacamole, it hurts the Templarios, but it also hurts the farmers and those who work for them so I will still buy avocados.

    This sucks.

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  12. Man , this is more like the movie Escape from New York

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  13. As end consumers in the USA, we fuel the violence and increase cost of the fruit no matter the species of plant. Some deemed lega whilel the others illegal; it shows how entrenched organized crime is in society.

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  14. Sooo this is the reason i have to pay more than a dollar sometimes for one avocado haa you scambags cts stop this shit your messing with my huacamole motherfuckers!!!!!!!

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  15. The American "drug war" has given these cartels what they need to take total control of everything. The drug war is the work of SATAN.

    Drug abuse is a medical problem.

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  16. if you eat avocados,you are supporting the Mexican drug cartels ....I mean the "avocado cartels"

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    1. @7:30 p.m i freakin LOVE me some avocados but i will stop and not put one dime in them motherfuckers pockets!! I dont support them with drug use and i can refuse to buy avocados from mexico!! Let the good ppl of mexico arm themselves and rise up!! On our side of the border we have just got to stop this rediculous drug war that cannot be won!!

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  17. The mexican goverment won't stop all the crime because then where would their bribes come from. Its so obvious if they wanted to stop it they could. Mexico does have a strong army and could easily take these cartels out. These criminals don't hide they build lavish homes and buy exotic animals because they no the authorities arnt after them. The Mexican goverment is in league with the cartels plain and simple.

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  18. Avocados or olives ? They were/are both bleeding .

    About the time I saw the light of morning, a comradeship of heroes was laid
    From every corner of the world came sailing the Fifth International Brigade

    They came to stand beside the Spanish people to try and stem the rising fascist tide
    Franco's allies were the powerful and wealthy; Frank Ryan's men came from the other side

    Even the OLIVES WERE BLEEDING as the battle for Madrid it thundered on
    Truth and love against the force of evil, brotherhood against the fascist clan

    Chorus:
    Viva La Quince Brigada, No Paseran the pledge that made them fight
    Adelante was the cry around the hillside, let us all remember them tonight

    Bob Hillard was a Church of Ireland pastor, for Killarney across the Pyrenees he came
    From Derry came a brave young Christian Brother, side by side they fought and died in Spain

    Tommy Woods aged seventeen died in Cordoba, with Na Fianna he learned to hold his gun
    From Dublin to the Viva del Rio, where he fought and died beneath the Spanish sun

    Many Irishmen heard the call of Franco, join Hitler and Mussolini too
    Propaganda from the pulpit and newspaper helped O'Duffy to enlist his crew

    Chorus

    The word came from Maynooth support the Nazi's, the men of cloth failed yet again
    When Bishops blessed the Blueshirts in Dun Laoghaire as they sailed beneath the swastika to Spain

    This song is a tribute to Frank Ryan, Kit Conway and Dinny Cody too
    Peter Daly, Charlie Regan and Hugh Bonner, though many died I can but name a few

    Danny Doyle, Blasser-Brown and Charlie Donnelly, Liam Tumilson and Jim Straney from the falls
    Jack Nalty, Tommy Patton and Frank Conroy, Jim Foley, Tony Fox and Dick O'Neill


    Truth & love against the force of evil. That's what this war should should be about

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    1. 9:06 nice,good job! The people of Spain still lost the war,until today,the "king"Juan Carlos de Borbon keeps getting richer while Spain bleeds money,a few bloody drops of money get to the "king's" accounts all over the world,but he is doing his best to recover the former Spanish colonies,to keep the bloodsucking going.
      The Latin American press rolling the red carpets for his "visiting" son and princess wife like they were princess Diana's second coming.ignorant malinches reborn,again...

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  19. These mexiKANS should still strive 4ward w/ there autodefensas N eliminate these kowards caballeros templarios they keep getN more scandalous by the day fuck these guy's

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  20. God this is horrible! Tragedy is truly endless.
    Thank you very much for this report, I for one had no idea the depth of the extortion.

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  21. Great article. Terrible to see how entrenched their power is within the system. Might need a group like Los Pepes to dismantle the entire pyramid. Are there any legal tactics being undertaken by the Autodefensas against the Templarios legion of corrupt attorneys and ill-gotten gains?

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  22. Noting funnier than seeing a statue of a Mexican in a knights outfit. Awesome.

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  23. Old old old post, this came out a month ago.

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  24. Eat California avocados and when not in season then from Chile and New Zealand

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  25. Now Americans will be blamed for fueling the cartels, and creating death by purchasing avocados, and just about anything that grows in Mexico. It's the Americans fault!

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    1. 8:13 it is not the American people's fault if they don't know where their bananas come from,or their cost to produce,or where the banana republics are,or what banana republic means.
      Now as a payback the Americans will not be able to buy too many bananas or avocados,
      not without food stamps! They and we will be better off to let them sinful fruits rot on the vines or their trees!!!

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  26. The world just needs to boycott Mexico's tourism sector, and I guarentee that they will put an end to this blood shed. The people need to remember that it is thier country and not the goverments, an up riseing and termination of these crimmals. I read that Mexico's persident has an advisor from Panama "General" Send his ass back to Panama and finish his war on cocain and thats one less thing to fight in Mexico.

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    1. 8:26 Giniral naranjas,Colombia?

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  27. 6:45
    this article came out 11 days before I posted it. I had it ready in draft since day one but chose other posts to go with as I researched info on the industry and applied my images, and decided if to call for a boycott.

    It is not old, old , old...

    and since my posting of not even a day, it has several thousand views, 52 "likes" on facebook and retweets on twitter.. people that may not have seen this story otherwise.

    READERS:
    At this point we should not boycott Mexico's avocados. The impact would hurt the people of Michoacán economically.

    Unless Mireles says differently

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    1. 9:24 chivaaa! Without food stamps,the "austerity" in the US will hurt everyone, wether that is the idea or not,the rabble has no right to food or medical,or to a decent job and wages for having elected that black threatening guy to the white house.suckers!
      Until the royal republic gets back and on track, business goes on as usual,and then it will go on as usual,are we in a trap or sompin'?

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  28. to 6:45 a.m. : "old, old, old" , "a month ago" ??

    Today is the 2nd of December. The original story came out on November 18 - two weeks ago. There have been follow-up stories in health/consumer mags calling for boycotts over the last two weeks.

    What REALLY upsets you about this story?

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    1. 9:31 it is upsetting that you chiva,go as annonymouse.
      BB has so many "old" stories that we can't possible read all of them,and many are well worth the search,like Don Alejo Garza Tamez,who nobody would be remembering if it wasn't for my,mine, mine! Bringing it up. Those that want all new newest popo, make your own,and post a pic,I doubt anybody will see, much less comment on it

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  29. Chivis, you beat me to the 6:45 a.m. comment by minutes!

    O.K. No boycott. For now.

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  30. don't boycott avoacadoes that's how I make a living
    uruapan born and raised

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  31. BOYCOTT:
    Today I will write to Mireles, but I have thought about a boycott and some well meaning blogs have already called for it.

    This is the big reason I took my time to post this, I wanted to think about it and get the stats. My conclusion is that a boycott would devastate the economy further in Michoacán. Boycotts work when it impacts the government, not the people or cartels. Narcos will move to something else to gain revenue, the government will do nothing, and the state is corrupt and in support of narcos.

    Though the narco extortion is severe, a boycott would destroy the livelihood of producers and the income of their employees. Dimishing food supplies have driven prices up already, a boycott would make the situation worse.

    Any boycott must be organized and leader driven, not just throwing well intention reaction at an atrocity and hope that it helps. Often, the very people we hope to help are further harmed.

    I recall as a young person, marching in the central valley with the movement against grapes. My father was a farm worker until the age of 19, my grandparents also, so farm workers always are in my heart. But the grape boycott worked because it was so well organized and our leader the great Caesar Chavez was a strong leader, plus we were working in a country that allowed such rights as to protest and challenge what was.

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  32. Most templarios adhere to their "?Strange Brand of evangelical christianity?" More like Strange brand of Roman Catholicism.

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  33. We have something similar in New Jersey...It's called our local government tax system followed by the Obama Administration's and IRS. The only difference and it's a big one, is no kidnappings.

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  34. If you stop and think about it, how many dead people are buried under or around the avocado trees? Then you eat the avocados.

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    1. 1:15 and the zetas butchers use the same knives they use to quarter people to quarter the cows and pigs their meat plants "process" to export to the US...and they sharpen their skills on people as on the animals...

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  35. to 10:25 a.m.: "Most templarios adhere to their "?Strange Brand of evangelical christianity?" More like Strange brand of Roman Catholicism."

    I know a lot of Evangelicals in both Mexico and the US blame the Catholic Church for all of Mexico's problems, but it's very well documented that both La Familia Michoacana and, now, the CT take their strange, cult-like ideology from US Evangelicals. Just Google "Wild at Heart" along with "familia michoacana" or "knights templars."

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    1. 11:41 the Catholic Roman Apostolic church of our latest days,I have never in my life seen to promote the blinding jihadism that so many other cults promote,whether political,religious,social or whatever.
      nobody is amazed and wondering to the high heavens why you did not attend mass,or if you are really paying your 10% to the estaca or to the halcon in charge... ooops,estaca? meaning stake?where did I see that word?...
      I seen some people badmouth Obama care in faux news,like the CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY has a better health plan,ask john travolta's son...beyotch!

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  36. Sad fact is that so many Mexicans suck the narco tit and they don't complain until their family is a victim, too many people involved, a good portion of the country, and the government and police are a combination of lazy, corrupt and inept. A whole generation is learning crime pays, and they won't change unless they are locked up or killed, they won't take a pay cut and work honestly

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  37. Does anyone know if things got out of hand after they busted Los valencias and took out Nacho Coronel. I heard they had Michoacan under control.

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  38. @10:26 Obama been in office 5 yrs and the drug war how long? So how does Obama have anything to do with food stamps or the drug war he's just a pawn like every other president.

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  39. We have been told for a long time that "When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns." But what we never realized was part two. When the outlaws have money too, then the government will never be able to stop them due to the corruption and power acquired by the outlaws. May God have mercy upon us.

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    1. 5:33 the people can always expropriate their guns,their property and their money,for the common good...

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  40. I don't suppose that the US Congress can say to Enrique Peña Nieto that they will reverse the lift on the avocado embargo if he doesn't clean up his shit in his country? You know....in an attempt to fight this so call war on drugs?

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  41. I see that they have borrowed techniques from a variety of effective and diverse historical sources, including Pablo Escobar, Che Guevara and the Taliban. Specifically regarding the taliban, they use the technique of more or less subtly entering a community with good acts (like 'protecting' the area against robberies) then begin to intervene in personal issues when asked (like public drunkenness, even adultery), little by little they become the law in the community dealing with all issues. the punishments are Sharia-like. For example for robbery - first warning for robbery, get beat up and told to stop; second offense, get hands cut off, third offense, head cut off. Moreno was/is crazy and also smart and exposed to many cultural sources. has anyone read his 'Red Book'? In one two page section he actually associates himself to Jesus, Buddha and Che Guevara. Kind of fascinating...I mean, besides terrifying and horrible.

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  42. America for the Americans,the Monroe doktrine did not apply to the reaganauts,or to nixxon whose secretary of state Henry Kissinger was working for the foreign enemies of the former colony,all the domestic enemies of the country are living on the fiercely fought over trickling downs of thatcherism,the keepers of the flame of augusto pinochet's billionaire savings.
    With Rupert Murdoch,that convicted Australian eavesdropping dingo,at the helm of faux news,and his able staff of well paid ass kissers...
    I am sorry,I don't really mean any of all that,it's the grifa,when you mix rattling spiders,that's what happens...

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  43. Lets start farming it here in the US :)
    Bunch of illegal ex avocado farmers are already here.

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  44. 10:59 only if they pay more than mota.
    Dang! it is so nice to be able to be free to move around and pick your jobs.
    I guess the Chinese need the Mexicans gone,they seem to be ready to take over the land

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  45. Dear Chivis,

    I wish you would ban more of these cartel deniers and cheerleaders, they make the discussions of serious issues, degenerate into name calling rants and petty fights over time issues. "Old old old post, that came out a month ago". @ 6:45 AM

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  46. Sorry, I forgot to add: Please read "Redditt science forum banned climate deniers. And why can't all newspapers do the same?" By Nathen Allen.(you'll have to goggle it)

    It's an excellent article on paid internet trolls/industry deniers.

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  47. How are the laborers treated in the avocado fields?

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