Why The Price We Pay For Avocados & Other Produce Is Forced By Drug Cartels
A special report by Jack Dennis
During the Obama presidency, I was often reporting about the problems of illegal immigration and drug smuggling on the Texas-Mexico border. One of the most revealing interviews was with a man who had escaped cartel torture and death and was working at a downtown San Antonio restaurant.
I learned avocados and lime costs imported into the U.S. from Mexico were subject to a drug cartel tax, or “la cota.” Carlos, himself a former cartel member, revealed in 2011, provided I did not reveal his real name.
The then 28-year-old Mexican national moved to the San Antonio area to escape cartel torture, death and “before they killed the only family I have left.”
“I started out picking, ‘quadrillero.’ Later, I was being forced to turn over everything–my home–my family. They gave me a choice of plata o plomo, silver or lead,” he gestured with his finger touching his temple like a gun.”
“They charge those farmers and packers ‘la cota’ for each truck they send out,” Carlos explained. “And before the trucks make it to the distribution, they might get stopped three or four times for la cota.”
“Those rich drug traffickers bought out all or most of the avocado plantations, especially in Michoacán (state) where most of them are grown,” he said. “They make money many ways–selling and taxing, and laundering money too.”
Carlos described what happens to anyone that doesn’t pay the tax.
“They call it Mexican insurance,” he said. “They tell you they know who your wife is, or your mother, or your daughters and you better pay or we will rape and kill them.”
“They pay the cartels what they want, like a toll road,” Carlos observed. “We charged about 600 or 700 pesos for each truck about five years ago, but I don’t know any more what it is. It’s a common thing.”
“Americans think the drug gangs just make their money from the drugs, but they make money off of your food and imports that come from Mexico too,” claimed Carlos.
“Sometimes those terminals in Mexico and even here in Texas wait for the trucks to get there, but if the drug gangs don’t get paid, those trucks will not get there,” Carlos said. “You ask any of them (distributors or terminals) and they will tell you this is more common than people think.”
Carlos said the distribution companies have attempted to change their routes to prevent stolen equipment and kidnapping, “but halcones (or mules, a Mexican term for lookouts) are always watching.”
“They even use GPS (and other tracking technology) to know where the trucks are all the time,” Carlos elaborated. “Hell, they have hundreds of halcones here in Texas watching (Highways 181, 37, 35, 90, and 16 at the truck stops and gas stations coming into San Antonio all the time so they know where their drug shipments are and can tell them if the police or immigration is nearby.”
Carlos shook his head about what he sees on television news and from state congressmen and some mayors. sai
“That’s politician talk” and the reality is “those gangs are laughing at the Americans because you don’t think there is a war on you.”
“They recruit your kids.”
“They recruit your kids in the schools, they take over your ranches, they even make your food costs go up,” Carlos was serious. “They are buying up your policemen, your businesses, and laugh that you let it happen.”
Before the Trump administration began construction on Border Wall, almost two-thirds of criminal activity in Texas was gang related and Mexican cartels were escalating their recruitment of U.S. school-age children.
“Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment,” an independent study by former military generals Barry McCaffrey and Major-General Robert Scales noted, “They want these kids to do the dirty work.”
“They are sacrificial,” Carlos explained. “They pay them $500 or $1000 to cross the border into Texas because they know the patrol doesn’t think American kids are going to smuggle that much drugs in, but with that kind of money, and excitement, they can find students willing to do it.”
“When the other kids see someone driving a car and spending money and buying their girlfriends jewelry and clothes, it’s not hard to recruit others,” Carlos said.
In just 18 months, six of seven cartels established headquarters in Texas cities, according to testimony form the Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McGraw.
At least 22 murders, 24 assaults, 15 shootings and five kidnappings were traced to cartel activities on the Texas side of the border during that period.
Carlos says “these cartels are very sophisticated and are run like a military or a business.”
“They provide ‘insurance’ to the farmers,” Carlos outlined. “If the farmers continue to harvest and provide marijuana for a very cheap price, then their wives and children will continue to live. That is Mexican cartel ‘insurance.’”
“They pay a few dollars for a pound of marijuana,” said Carlos. “They have up to six levels of people on their payroll who make sure it gets into the U.S. cities because they can sell it in San Antonio or Houston for like $250 or $300 a pound, but in New York or Chicago, it might be $1500 or $1600, and that’s a big profit that no one is going to stop as long as the U.S. allows them to keep on going.”
The generals’ report stated the cartels objectives “are relying increasingly on organized gangs to provide expendable and unaccountable manpower to do their dirty work.”
“These gangs are recruited on the streets of Texas cities and inside Texas prisons by top-tier gangs who work in conjunction with the cartels,” the report continued.
During the Obama presidency, Department of Public Safety reports showed that in 2010, the Texas prison gangs associated with the Mexican cartels increased from four to 12.
When Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples released the report, it revealed these cartels were building a “sanitary zone” about one county deep within the U.S. along the Texas border. The plan was use this zone to escape Mexican law enforcement and provide an area of safe movement for drug smugglers and human traffickers.
Texas was the “tactical close combat zone and frontline in this conflict. Texans have been assaulted by cross-border gangs and narco-terrorist activities.”
“Washington keeps telling us our border is more secure than ever, but this detailed military assessment, by two of America’s top generals, offers proof to the contrary,” Commissioner Staples said about the Obama administration. “It’s time to shed the cloak of denial and protect our citizens and national security.”
“It’s time for Washington to uphold its constitutional duty to protect Americans on their home soil,” Staples added.
The report offered a military perspective on how to best use “strategic, operational and tactical measures to secure the increasingly hostile border regions” on the border.
“Under the Biden Administration, with Barack Obama’s instructions, the border crisis has returned with a vengeance,” said Eduardo Portales, a lifelong farmer located between Harlingen and McAllen, Texas. “My relatives and friends have resorted to banding together to keep a 24 hour watch on our property because of the increased break-ins, theft and crime this past year. I blame Obama and Biden. No wonder so many in the (Rio Grande Valley) voted for Trump.”
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