US ambassador visits conflict-ridden Mexican state to expedite avocado inspections

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FILE - Avocados from Mexico are for sale at a grocery store in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, Feb. 17, 2022. The U.S. government has temporarily suspended inspections of avocado and mango shipments, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico said Tuesday, June 18, 2024, after two employees of the United States Agriculture Department were assaulted and temporarily held by assailants in the Mexican state of Michoacan. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey, File)

MORELIA – United States Ambassador Ken Salazar praised Mexico’s effort protect American agricultural inspectors in the conflict-ridden state of Michoacan on Monday, a week after the U.S. suspended avocado and mango inspections following an attack on inspectors.

Salazar traveled to the state, plagued by violence linked to organized crime, to meet with state and federal officials.

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Earlier this month, two employees of the U.S. Agriculture Department were assaulted and temporarily held by assailants in Mexico's biggest avocado-producing state, prompting the U.S. government to suspend inspections.

The diplomat told the press that last Friday that Michoacan authorities had agreed to a security plan to restart avocado exports. “We are going to continue working on this,” he added.

The U.S. said that inspections in Michoacan would resume gradually.

Mexico played down the attacks, but President Andrés Manuel López Obrador agreed to work with the United States to guarantee the safety of inspectors.

Many avocado growers in Michoacan say drug gangs threaten them or their family members with kidnapping or death unless they pay protection money, sometimes amounting to thousands of dollars per acre.

There have also been reports of criminal groups trying to sneak avocados grown in other states that are not approved for export through U.S. inspections.

In February 2022, the U.S. government suspended inspections of Mexican avocados for about a week after a U.S. plant safety inspector in Michoacan received a threatening message.

Later that year, Jalisco became the second Mexican state authorized to export avocados to the U.S.

The latest pause won’t stop Michoacan avocados that are already in transit from reaching the U.S.

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