Mexico Deploys Troops to Areas Where Gangs are Extorting Lemon Growers

Mexican authorities have deployed soldiers to the Michoacán province where violent incidents have been recorded that are believed to be linked to a recent increase in extortion rents for lemon growers.

Lemon Tree PxHereThe state of Michoacán is one of the leading lemon producers in Mexico. (Photo: PxHere, License)Shootings were reported and three stores and five vehicles were set on fire over the weekend in three municipalities, according to the Michoacán Attorney General's Office.

Local media reported that several towns in the province woke up on Sunday to shootings, barricades and burning stores and vehicles. Police detained six people, among them three minors, who were allegedly involved in Sunday's violence.

The Ministry of National Defense sent troops to the region to establish peace and ensure freedom of movement.

It was not an isolated incident in Michoacán.

Organized crime groups announced two weeks ago a high increase in extortion charges for lemon growers. Since then, armed men have been attacking lemon trucks with explosives. Farmers had to suspend work and requested the help of the authorities. This crisis threatens the country’s market with possible price increases and shortages of the fruit.

The Government of Michoacán filed a formal criminal complaint with the State Attorney General's Office (FGE) last week, in which it described the difficulties citrus growers in the region are facing. However, violence continues.

Several criminal cartels operate in Michoacán, such as Carteles Unidos and the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation. Local media report that this event is the result of a dispute for control between the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (CJNG) and Los Viagras, a criminal organization that emerged from the fragmentation of cartels. This organization would also be behind the extortion and attacks of lemon growers.

This is not the first time Mexican cartels have taken over Michoacan's agricultural sector.

In 2019, OCCRP reported how cartels were fighting over avocado export control. The cartels hijacked avocado shipments and kidnapped drivers to fuel the growing demand for avocados in countries such as the United States. In August of that year, nine people were found hanging on a bridge decorated with avocado murals along with a banner that contained a message threatening residents.