Showing posts with label Mexico. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mexico. Show all posts

May 20, 2018

Cleaning Up after the Cartels

Firs have been cut or limbed to allow more sunlight on the grow site. Drip irrigation lines fed
the individual plants. Given the thin, poor mountain soil, heavy amounts of fertilizers are used.
On an untypically (but helpfully) foggy May morning in the Wet Mountains of southern Colorado, two camouflaged US Forest service agents, armed with pistols and an AR-15 rifle, scouted up a ridge.

They reached their target area, a placed used by Mexican cartel* marijuana growers for several years, armed growers who had been arrested the previous October.

Finding no one re-using the site, they marked the faint footpath up from State Highway 165 with orange flagging and notified another agent waiting at the Forest Service work center in San Isabel.

BHA volunteer and trash.
Before long, the other agent hiked in too, accompanied by a dozen members of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, a conservation group with a de-centralized, "boots on the ground" approach to issues.

We all set to work — stuffing abandoned sleeping bags with trash, tearing down the crude buildings made of fir saplings and baling wire (kitchen, sleeping quarters, drying shed), and pulling armloads of black plastic pipe from under the forest duff and fallen trees.

With the plants gone, shelters gone, and the irrigation system gone, maybe this site would be less attractive in the future. Maybe the word would go back to Michoacán: Virgilio and Erik are doing time in an American prison. Maybe.
Interior of the kitchen area. White plastic buckets are camouflaged with paint.
Some people will say, "The growers arrested were just low-level 'grunts.' Why bother with them?" Low-level or not, they still do bad things, all of which I saw signs of or was informed about.

It takes a little time to free a tree
from wraps of wire.
• Putting pesticides and insecticides into the watershed (I saw containers)
• Diverting water illegally
• Cutting and injuring trees illegally
Killing animals (deer, bear, etc.) illegally
• Potentially posing a threat to other public-lands visitors in order to hide their activities

I don't want any of that in your/my/our national forest, period full stop.

In 2012, I supported Amendment 64, which legalized recreational cannabis and limited home growing. I have joined the multitudes using CBD products for health support.

But passing Amendment 64 did indeed attract people who thought that they could grow outside the regulatory frameworks and somehow not be noticed. 

Some were from inside the USA (mostly from Miami, curiously enough). They tended to buy or rent houses, stuff them with plants, and then be caught when (surprise) the utility company tipped off law enforcement that the split-level house at 428 Comanche Drive** was using fifteen times as much electricity as its neighbors. Others grew on private land, sometimes combining a legal operation with an additional illegal one.
Some of the collected irrigation pipes and drip tubes.
To generalize, the public-lands growers tend to be Mexicans. Maybe it's a rural-tradition thing, to spend your summer in a jacalito held together with twine and baling wire. Preferred locations are away from developed recreation sites, have a tiny stream that can be diverted, and a south-facing slope for light and warmth. Yet from the site we cleaned, we could see and hear the state highway, not more than half a mile away — they don't want to carry those propane tanks and coils of plastic pipe and batteries and supplies and trays of clones too far.***

Compared to what legal growers produce, it seems like a lot of risky work for a lesser product, but there's the rub: some people don't want to pay legal retail prices. (California in particular, according to some, is keeping the black market alive by over-taxing legal cannabis.) Or they can sell it outside Colorado.

Finally, all the pipe and trash was collected  in the most-open area, where a National Guard helicopters will be able to lift it out.

Helicopter lifting bundled trash from a different grow site
(US Attorney's Office).
* Law-enforcement officers and prosecutors avoid the word "cartel" in public statements. In private, they use it. After all, if groups of men, mostly from Michoacán, are caught hundreds of miles from home, with someone planning the grow sites, supporting them logistically, and moving the product, that all suggests an organization, not a bunch of freelance growers.

** Fictional address. 

***Some bright person should have (or has) created a GIS overlay to identify potential grow sites, just like wildlife habitats.

December 17, 2017

Why Are Avocados So Expensive? You're Buying These Guys' Ammo

M. has been fuming at the grocery store. Avocados, $2 apiece. It seems like a lot — and I know that many are just thrown away or, sometimes, end up in the donations for the bears at the wildlife rehab center. (We watch the cartons unloaded with undisguised envy, but those furry guys need the calories!)

There is drought. And there is organized crime. (I am surprised no one is talking about "blood avocados.")

From the BBC: "The Avocado Police Protecting Mexico's Green Gold."

"Police" is a bit of a misnomer: These are local growers' militia, or autodefensa as they say. Some apparently receive official support on the municipal level, so I suppose that makes them "police."
Mexico produces about 45% of the world's avocados and Michoacán is Mexico's largest avocado-producing state.
From here alone, nearly two billion avocados are shipped to the US every year.
And because the industry is a lucrative one, it has been the target of organised crime.

As you enter Tancítaro, there are a series of checkpoints. They are known as filtros, or filters, by people here.
Some are more informal than others. One has a few sandbags and some elderly men sitting on a broken car seat outside a hut.
We pass another one with several pickup trucks standing outside. I notice a man with a rifle across his back. This is a well-armed town. . . . .
The police force is part-funded by avocado producers, who pay a percentage of their earnings depending on how many hectares they own (emphasis added).
Oh, didn't you know that Mexico has very strict gun control? Why, there is only one legal gun store in the entire country! Yet Tancírito is "well-armed." Imagine that.

What Tancírito must have is a public relations agent, because here is a very similar story by a different report on another site! "Mexico's Vigilante Groups Are a Force to Reckon with for Drug Cartels and Army."
The autodefensas have been returning houses and farms to the original owners or their families, because in many cases they were murdered after signing a deed at gunpoint, leaving the farms to the criminal bands' leaders, who assaulted the properties bringing a public lawyer, who many times also by gunpoint validated such operations.
Think of all this when you're in the vegetable aisle at Megafoods.

October 18, 2016

Take These Links with 100% Agave Tequila

¶ Without bats, no tequila? There is some motivation for conservation!
Aside from consuming loads of crop-destroying insects, bats are plant pollinators, and Medellín's prized lesser long-nosed bat pollinates the cactuslike blue agave plant, the single plant species from which Mexican tequila is produced.
Habitat destruction has been especially harmful to the lesser long-nosed bat, first listed as a threatened species in Mexico in 1994. By 2008 it was well on its way to recovery, thanks largely to Medellín, a tireless advocate who's been dubbed the "Bat Man of Mexico" for his work with bats. (Medellín, a Rolex Laureate and National Geographic grantee, has also worked to help a variety of other plant and animal species.
 ¶ A study showing that bear spray works better than bullets for stopping bear attacks.  Yes, there are exceptions. Some bears don't read the rule book. But we are talking about statistics here, not about individual bears.

Link to a video on fire in California forests, set by Indians (and some early Anglo settlers too!) until the Forest Service put a stop to "light burning," as it was called a century ago. Now the term is "cultural burning.

¶ Silly tourists and professional nature-fakers: the ugly side of wildlife photography.
In 2009, the image of a “jumping wolf” by photographer José Luis Rodriguez won for him the prestigious wildlife photographer of the year award conferred by the British Natural History Museum. It was later discovered that the wolf was trained for the shoot. Rodriguez was disqualified.

April 21, 2016

Volcanos and the End of Our Civilization


Well, no, not quite yet.

Popocatepatl erupted last month. You probably did not hear about that in the American news media.

But that is nothing. You want lying-awake-at-night material, think about the Yellowstone caldera.

If that blows, I will post one last message saying, "Thanks for all the fish."

This about all the End of Civilization as We Know It material That I can handle at one time. I promise no more for a while.

Unless, of course. . . . Yellowstone.