By Deborah Bonello / Los Angeles Times
Mario moves quickly and easily down the steep forested hill. After a 30-minute descent the tree cover clears, and the sun shines down onto the hidden red and purple flowers dotting the hillsides in the Filo Mayor mountains.
Producers in Mexico’s Guerrero state call their clandestine poppy plots “gardens.” What they raise there is highly marketable – and illicit.
Small poppy “gardens” in Mexico feed a growing appetite for heroin across the northern border. The bulk of the heroin sold in the U.S. now comes from Mexico, according to the latest National Drug Threat Assessment Summary from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Heroin seizures at the U.S. border with Mexico have more than doubled in the last five years, and Mexican cartels are now the dominant players in the heroin business on the streets of Chicago and Philadelphia and have greatly expanded their presence in New York City.