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Farmers of Poppy for Opium, Heroin Protest, 71 Detained

  1. perro-salchicha614
    Mexico- Outrage over dozens of arrests in the isolated highlands region of Mexico’s violence-plagued state of Guerrero, initially thought to be enforced disappearances, has re-sparked a debate on the legalization of poppy cultivation for medicinal purposes to help tackle serious insecurity and prevent an armed uprising in the highlands, where many depend on poppy production for their livelihoods.

    Guerrero Governor Hector Astudillo has reiterated his proposal to pilot legally sanctioned poppy production, the Mexican daily newspaper El Universal reported on Wednesday. The comments come after a unique protest in the highland area of Chilpancingo last Thursday in which local poppy producers blocked a highway and clashed with riot police. 71 people detained currently remain in jail with bail set at over 20,000 Mexican pesos, or over US$1,000 per person.

    Ricardo Castillo, director of the news organization Quadratin Guerrero, told teleSUR that the case is particularly interesting because the poppy growers launched the protest without specific motives, but later brought the demand for an end to poppy fumigation in the area to the forefront. “In this blockade by these people, at first there wasn’t a specific demand,” Castillo told teleSUR by phone from Guerrero. “But then some of the leaders said the demand they had was that (authorities) stop fumigating poppy crops and let them freely bring them down (from the highlands) in public transport, because that’s what they live off, it’s what they do.”

    The bishop of Chilpancingo-Chilapa, Salvador Rangel Mendoza, backed Governor Astudillo’s medical poppy legalization proposal and called on state authorities to open a dialogue with organized crime groups to help get a hold on the runaway violence in Guerrero, local media reported on Wednesday. Mendoza argued that legally sanctioned medicinal poppy production, which would help support the livelihoods of farmers in the highlands, is essential to fighting insecurity because “if they are not helped, there could be an armed uprising.”

    Family members initially believed that some 100 people were victims of enforced disappearance when security evicted the blockade. But according to Castillo, only one person, the leader of the protest, now remains unaccounted for, and it is thought that he is on the run as a fugitive. Although the poppy growers were not organized under any local social movements or civil society groups, discontent in the face of longstanding government neglect in the highlands is deep-seated.

    “Historically, the highland region of Guerrero has been one of the most forgotten by the government,” said Castillo. “They almost don’t make any roads, don’t develop public services, there almost aren’t any hospitals or schools.” Given the isolation of underserved communities, the demands of movements in the highlands in general tend to focus on access to basic services and better employment opportunities for the region, Castillo explained.

    But the government regards the poppy farmers – producers of a plant destined for the hands of powerful drug cartels – as part of criminal syndicates, making their protest easily susceptible to criminalization. Although authorities claim that all of the over 70 people detained were directly involved in the blockade, family members argue that some were indirectly implicated or may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    So far only two people have been released, a minor with Down Syndrome and another person who was attending an event at the time of the protest, after it was verified that they did not participate in the blockade. The remaining 71 detainees can be released on bail or wait for a judge to resolve the case.

    Ricardo Castillo
    May 5, 2016

    Author Bio

    Opium fiend, bon vivant, and all-around pain in the ass.

    Annoying others since 1982.


  1. gonzochef
    This is the product of the DEA's war on drugs, the forcible use of foreign assets to undermine ( however small and ridiculously targeted) cultivation. It's like stemming the tide with a dam of tissue paper, or putting a band-aid on a femoral breach. It's sad and stupid, small minded and bureaucratic, and accomplishes nothing but the degradation of small farming families and communities. I hate this.
  2. vervain
    In my opinion this article mischaracterizes or oversimplifies some of the dynamics there. Gonzo, I love ya, but that sort of reaction is what I was talking about in that other Mexico/opium thread - we tend to make a caricature of events like these that line up with our pre-existing ideologies. In this case "big mean War On Drugs persecuting small farmers". Not that there's not some truth to it but the situation is way more complex.

    The Guerrero highlands is one of those corners that the modern world forgot. It's kind of crazy, there are many areas there where even knowing fluent Spanish won't help you one iota because everyone speaks indigenous languages like Nahuatl (a pre-Columbian Aztec, incidentally gave us words like "tomato" and "peyote") and culturally they're a distinct entity. I've found a lot of gringos think of Mexico as this kind of monolithic classic Latin American population, but in many of these rural places you realize the Aztecs and Mayans never really left or got wiped out - they're still up there doing their thing.

    Very little infrastructure, very little lines of connection with the rest of the country, and yep, very few jobs. IIRC Guerrero is one of the primary origins of migrants coming into the USA. The Mexico government has just sort of let them do their own thing, but I'd characterize it more as willfully ignoring rather than benign neglect.

    And yes, a lot of farmers there who previously cultivated maize and I dunno, tomato avocado and similar, have had a hard time subsisting because of profit margins, partially because there are just no good damn roads to get their produce to market. So they turned to poppy cultivation for the cartels. Generally the farmers harvest the latex and then it's shipped down to Acapulco where folks like the Independent Cartel of Acapulco (CIDA) processes and smuggles it into the usual markets via speedboat. BTW this cartel is known for flaying off their victims' faces and leaving them at various locations. They are bad. Innocent bystanders are often killed and there's overall a culture of fear permeating everything.

    BUT... here's the kicker - despite the income not all of the indigenous farmers are pro-cartel and opium cultivation by any stretch. People sick of the violence and corruption and such have formed indigenous groups like FUSDEG, basically vigilante organizations trying to fight the cartels and reduce their influence/domination over these rural areas because aside from occasional endeavors like this poppy fumigation they get virtually no federal help.

    Of course some of these vigilante groups are also co-opted by drug lords and used to hit rivals even while being ostensibly against the drug trade. I wouldn't even be surprised if this latest fumigation & arrests are more the work of one cartel with federal influence trying to damage a rival, there are so many local scores being settled in these situations that to reduce it to "govt vs farmers" etc isn't a helpful way to look at things whatsoever. There are layers & layers of motivations and stakeholders, and very little happens in these areas that doesn't get the go-ahead from some organized crime group.
  3. gonzochef
    Well, now, that was very well put. I'm aware of how textured the landscape of this issue is, or can be, but had nowhere near the specifics you have brought up, Vervain. You always bring a sobering message to the conversations here, and I appreciate that. While I do stand by my previous statement, I will most certainly allow that there is almost always more to it than the simple answer when it comes to drugs and their socio-economic and cultural impact. Especially at the source. Prime examples are all over the S.E. Asian poppy trade and farming outfits. And let's not forget that while their exists a healthy black market in America for these drugs, it begs the question of where does your money go when you buy that bag? Certainly not to a poor farmer, not even pennies of it. The issue is rife with double standards and disappointing facts. The best way to "vote" is with the where and how you spend your dollars, so what do you want your dollars to support? As much as I love drugs, supporting the cartels is not an interest of mine even though I have done and will most likely continue to do until another option presents itself; hence my passion for new legislation for all drugs in the United States, even though anything resembling the Portugal model is probably decades away... (end rant).
  4. vervain
    Ha, "sobering" - not sure how I feel about that descriptor ;) I swear I'm not a buzzkill in real life!

    I hear what you're saying above. We're such an out-of-sight-out-of-mind culture. We demand our cheap consumer goods (I include drugs there) but intentionally try to avoid thinking about the circumstances of production because deep down inside we know it's probably fucked up and causing misery to poor folks half a world away. The garment industry, electronics manufacturing, heroin & cocaine, food production, etc, at their source all of them consist of people getting oppressed (sometimes horribly), environmental damage that we'd freak out about if it were happening in our backyard, the list goes on.

    We're in this cycle of expecting material luxuries but unwilling & largely unable to pay for said luxuries if they were produced in a manner (pay, work conditions, societal & environmental impact) that we'd be okay with after witnessing firsthand. With illicit drugs we don't even have that option. It'd be great to have the ability to pay a few $$ more for a bag of free-range heroin or some craft cocaine manufactured by a Colombian coca growers co-op, instead of the current single path of exploitation, bloodshed, destabilization, dishonesty and amorality that is the prerequisite for our fix.

    On second thought maybe I am a buzzkill.

    On a positive note, ever since weed was legalized in my area it's been fantastic to see that very option emerge. I can pick which store I go to - the one down the road from me is in an old house complete with fireplace with a pug and/or cat curled up in front of it, and beautiful women behind the counter - and also get info about the different growers. Now when I buy weed it's knowing that I'm supporting multiple very cool small local businesses. While I doubt the same warm fuzzy feeling would translate to a hypothetical coke dispensary, hopefully it'll get policy makers and the general public rethinking prohibition at least for certain substances.
  5. perro-salchicha614
    No, you're not a buzz kill. On the contrary, the points you make are very interesting, and I enjoy reading your posts. :)

    Americans who make anti-prohibition arguments tend to focus only on the violence and crime that stem from the War on Drugs in our own country without realizing the ripple effect that our policies have throughout the world in the less-developed countries that feed our habits. I think that the negative consequences of our failed drug laws need to be looked at from a global perspective and that there needs to be a sense of collective responsibility for how what goes on in this country affects the rest of the world.
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