A New York Times article reveals that Mexico’s opium harvest is more profitable for Mexican children than a school education would be. America is only just starting to wake up to the scourge of heroin abuse among Midwest middle class youth. The spread of black tar heroin and its rising popularity among a demographic that prefers the heroin high—and lower price tag—to Oxycontin pills is truly horrifying.
In a disturbing longform article for The New York Times, journalist Azam Ahmed details how it’s more important for children in tiny rural towns to work opium poppy fields than for them to go to school. Their families see it as a survival mechanism while the country of Mexico sees it as a national tragedy. One 15 year-old girl told Ahmed, “It is the best option for us. Back down in the city, there is nothing for us, no opportunities.”
Mexican opium production has increased by 50 percent in 2014, and opium poppy fields are starting to overtake marijuana crops in some parts of Mexico. Drug cartels adapt to the American market, and black tar heroin is becoming more popular with US drug users every year.
Ahmed draws a concerning parallel between the environment in Afghanistan that allows drug cultivation and trafficking to flourish. “It is not the drug production that generates underdevelopment,” said Antonio Mazzitelli, the head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Mexico, to the Times. “It is the lack of development that generates the opium cultivation.” In a place where extracting opium gum from poppy plants can be performed by kids and pays many times the money that traditional farming generates, this development should come as a surprise to no one.
Children have an advantage during harvest time in the opium fields. Growing the plant isn’t necessarily easy, and it thrives in areas that can be difficult to cultivate. “The steep grade and loamy earth make standing upright difficult, and on occasion adults tumble down the hillside and are injured, villagers say,” writes Ahmed. “That is where the children come in: Their slightness is an advantage come harvest time.”
Other young teenagers confirm the need for them to help support their families. Just getting to a school can be impossible based on the rural outposts where they live, and many who can attend school end up dropping out to help feed their families. Ironically enough, many of them aspire to be soldiers—mostly because they’re often exposed to eradication teams that roam the countryside. The sad truth is that many of these kids will forever be trapped at the production end of the deadly heroin supply chain to the US.
Sylvia Longmire is a border security expert and Contributing Editor for Breitbart Texas. You can read more about cross-border issues in her latest book, Border Insecurity: Why Big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren’t Making Us Safer.