U.S. halts avocado and mango inspections in a Mexican state after 2 USDA employees attacked, detained

The United States has halted inspections of avocados and mangoes in Mexico‘s Michoacán state following the attack and detainment of two U.S. Department of Agriculture employees, according to U.S. officials.

The workers with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service were recently attacked while carrying out their work inspecting avocados, and have since been released, U.S. ambassador Ken Salazar said in a statement Tuesday

His statement gave no further details on the incident. He said the inspections will be suspended until the safety issues have been resolved.

Michoacán Gov. Alfredo Ramírez Bedolla told reporters on Monday that Mexican authorities were in contact with U.S. officials and were working to resolve the situation, according to The Associated Press. In the meantime, Mexican exports were not completely blocked and the pause would not affect avocados and mangoes already in transit, according to Salazar.

Avocado plantations in Mexico
Avocados are sorted and packed in a plant in Morelia, the capital of the Mexican state of Michoacán, on March 16, 2022. 

Brian Overcast/picture alliance via Getty Images

The suspension follows a violent streak in Michoacán, which is one of Mexico’s main avocado exporters and accounts for the majority of Mexico’s avocado production. The state is plagued by cartel violence as fighting ensues between the Jalisco New Generation cartel and Michoacan-based gang, the Viagras.

The State Department issued a Level 4 travel advisory for Michoacán last week, advising Americans not to travel to the state due to concerns of crime and kidnapping. 

Salazar will travel to Mexico next week to meet with Bedolla to address security concerns, among other issues. 

“I have been closely monitoring the situation and remain in direct contact with Mexican state and federal government officials,” Salazar said. 

In May, 18 bodies were found in Michoacán, with nine of them containing messages addressed to a criminal group. In March, a police officer was reportedly beheaded and two of her bodyguards were killed in an attack on a highway.

Two years ago, the U.S. briefly banned avocado imports from Mexico following threats to a USDA inspector.

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