IN MEXICO, THE PRICE OF AMERICA’S HUNGER FOR HEROIN
Story by Joshua Partlow
Photos by Michael Robinson Chavez
“Mexico provides more than 90 percent of America’s heroin, up from less than 10 percent in 2003, when Colombia was the main supplier. Poppy production has expanded by about 800 percent in a decade as U.S. demand has soared. The western state of Guerrero is the center of this business, producing more than half of Mexico’s opium poppies, the base ingredient for heroin. Guerrero also has become the most violent state in Mexico, with more than 2,200 killings last year.
“These groups have transformed themselves into a super-criminal power,” said Ricardo Mejia Berdeja, the head of the security committee in the Guerrero state congress. “The anchor for organized crime is heroin poppy.”
Guerrero has produced marijuana and poppies for decades. But organized crime used to be more organized, with one main cartel in the state quietly paying off police and officials and moving drugs. The booming heroin business has encouraged the rise of new gun-toting trafficking bands, which in turn has triggered the rise of citizen militias.”