The Lime Emergency

LA RUANA, Mexico (AP) — The farm state of Michoacan is burning. A drug cartel that takes its name from an ancient monastic order has set fire to lumber yards, packing plants and passenger buses in a medieval-like reign of terror.
The Knights Templar cartel is extorting protection payments from cattlemen, lime growers and businesses such as butchers, prompting some communities to fight back, taking up arms in vigilante patrols…

By late last year, the cartel wasn’t just extorting money from lime growers and packers. It had started charging per-box payments from lime pickers, who make only $10 to $15 per day laboring under the scorching sun.

With officials doing nothing to help, self-defense groups started to spring up in February to fight back. Heavily armed men in masks and baseball caps began manning barricades along highways and patrolling the countryside, sometimes openly battling the cartel.

Then the cartel shut the warehouses, forbidding brokers to buy limes and cutting off work for the pickers who had revolted…

Meanwhile, in Mexico City, the federal government recently declared a lime emergency because prices had doubled to about 70 cents a pound. For a fruit so central to Mexican cuisine, it was a crisis.

The government announced last week it would tackle the shortage by importing limes from Brazil. The government attributed the local scarcity to crop pests and “seasonal fluctuations” in production. 1

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  1. Not to be totally scooped, the New York Times ran an article about the lime shortage this past Sunday. Amusing tidbits included:  since 1970 US lime consumption has quintupled; the same cartel appears to controls the all the avocado trade; the current lime crisis will probably be temporary – there should be plenty of limes this summer.

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