US Suspends Avocado Shipments from Key Mexican State, Flags Security Risk

Mexico said on Saturday the United States has decided to temporarily suspend avocado shipments on security grounds from the western state of Michoacan, a major producing region that has faced chronic problems with gang violence.

Mexico’s Agriculture Ministry said U.S. health authorities had notified Mexico of the decision after one of its officials, who was carrying out inspection work in the city of Uruapan, Michoacan, received a threatening call to their cell phone.

The ministry said the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is carrying out an investigation to assess the threat, and to determine what measures are needed to guarantee the safety of its personnel working in Michoacan.

The news is a setback to the administration of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, with United States the top consumer of Mexican avocados, snapping up many thousands of tonnes each year to make guacamole, a favorite Super Bowl snack.

The Super Bowl will take place on Sunday.

The announcement was made hours after the U.S. government expressed dismay about violence against journalists in Mexico, following the latest in a series of killings of reporters.

Michoacan has long been one of the most troubled states in Mexico and Lopez Obrador has struggled to impose himself against gangs that have kept violence near record levels on his watch.

The state has frequently been convulsed by turf wars between gangs, in particular the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), one of the most powerful outfits in the country.

Earlier this week, the Mexican Army said it had entered a part of Michoacan regarded by security experts as a stronghold of the CJNG, and restored order in 43 localities.

In the past six weeks, Michoacan exported over 135,000 tonnes of avocado to the United States, the ministry said.

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