Mexico: Armed gangs plunder mango producers

Mango growers in the eastern part of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec assured that the theft of their gardens has become uncontrollable and regretted that there aren't harsher penalties for thieves in Oaxaca.

Farmers from Zapotec call the eastern part of the Isthmus the cradle of the mango, because there are over 2,000 producers operating there to serve the domestic market as well as the United States and Canada.

The farmers, victims of the theft, said that this crime was increasing year after year, between February and May, and that the thieves were taking up to 200 boxes of mangoes per acre; each box has a cost of 350 pesos.

They stressed that the thefts had increased in the last two years and that, currently, the thieves were armed and travelled in groups of 15 aboard trucks. According to the farmers, the situation is particularly serious in the municipalities of Chahuites and Zanatapec.

Some years ago, in Zanatepec, a gang that stole mangoes from a field that had a field watchman, were apprehended. However, they were not arrested for stealing the fruit, but because they had been shooting. They were taken to the Public Ministry and a week later they were set free. Hence, complained one of the farmers, we ask the Oaxacan government to make theft a serious offence because we are already tired of this situation.

The producers indicated that 4,000 hectares, out of the 20,000 hectares that are planted and that produce nearly 194,000 tons of different mango varieties, are plundered. They argued that they have identified about 400 suspected robbers, including entire families, and that nearly half of those involved are minors.

"They sell the mangoes that they have stolenl from our orchards, to illegal middlemen, who pay a very low price because they know where they comes from," they said.

José Antonio Ruiz Santos, mayor of Chahuites and mango producer, announced that his administration was working with regional farmers to apply a provision, so that any outsider who is caught stealing Mangoes will have to repair the damage made to the orchards and pay the owner for the stolen property.


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