The forest guardians who beat back Mexico’s cartels

by J Michael Waller / The Daily Beast / September 24, 2016.

MORELIA, Mexico — One day in the late spring of 2012, Mexican police pulled over Efrén Olivares Valdez and told him he was delivering his truckload of raw pine resin to the wrong refinery. The grandfatherly driver, a leader of his indigenous tribal community, knew that the officers acted as enforcers for the murderous Knights Templar crime cartel.

“Look, sir, the refiner in Morelia has already paid for this,” Olivares told the policeman inspecting his papers. Ignoring his protests, the officer told him to deliver the cargo to a rival refinery in Ario, in the opposite direction. Faced with an unknown and possibly deadly fate, Olivares turned his truck around and did as he was told.

In this part of Mexico, where everybody knows the cartels, and everybody knows what they can do to you, even businesses that have no connection to drugs have to bend to the will of the narcotraficantes—or run risks that are difficult and dangerous to calculate. [Click here for the full article.]