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Michoacan Becomes Narcotics Hub of the Americas

Police forces burning drugs in La Venta del Astillero, Mexico
Police forces burning drugs in La Venta del Astillero, Mexico

MORELIA — The violence-plagued state of Michoacán on Mexico's central Pacific coast has risen to become the center of narcotics production in the country, according to an investigative report by leading Mexican newspaper El Universal.

Mexico is the world's leading supplier of methamphetamines, as identified in a 2014 UN report . And Michoacán, where some 460 clandestine drug laboratories were dismantled between 2006 and 2015, is the country's top center of production.

The El Universal investigation uncovers a complex market based on the state's strategic position on the Pacific coast and proximity to Asia — it is home to Lázaro Cárdenas, one of the country's largest ports — and the proliferation of rival drug cartels that have reoriented to the lucrative new meth trade, competing against one another to dominate the market.

The precursor chemicals necessary to produce the drug are shipped to Michoacán from Asia, and the meth is then produced in the state's numerous laboratories before traveling north to the United States or being shipped right back across the Pacific to Asia, where in some countries meth consumption is on the rise. The cartels in Michoacán are the central node of production and distribution in the meth trade.

La Familia, long the state's largest cartel, shifted its focus from cocaine and marijuana production to the meth industry in 2006. Five years later, the cartel split, with one faction forming a new, more violent cartel called the Knights Templar. The new competitors also increased production of meth, sparking a bloody conflict and firmly establishing the state as the country's major narcotics hub.

El Universal writes that the Pacific coast states of Sinaloa and Jalisco are also large centers of meth production. The Mexican government and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) signed an agreement in 2012 to destroy clandestine drug labs and tackle the region's growing narcotics trade.

But violence continues to rage in Michoacán between the warring cartels, the government, and local self-defense militias, and meth production has not abated. Morelia-based newspaper La Voz de Michoacán reports that the authorities demolished three meth labs in central Michoacán as recently as Oct. 26.

Meth remains Mexico's second most popular drug behind marijuana, with 17,565 kilos seized in 2014. Michoacán's cartels are tightening their grip on a thriving illegal trade, turning their country into the world's largest meth producer in the process.

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The Problem With Always Blaming Climate Change For Natural Disasters

Climate change is real, but a closer look at the science shows there are many factors that contribute to weather-related disasters. It is important to raise awareness about the long-term impact of global warming, but there's a risk in overstating its role in the latest floods or fires.

People on foot, on bikes, motorcycles, scooters and cars navigate through a flooded street during the day time.

Karachi - People wade through flood water after heavy rain in a southern Pakistani city

Xinhua / ZUMA
Axel Bojanowski


BERLIN — In September, thousands of people lost their lives when dams collapsed during flooding in Libya. Engineers had warned that the dams were structurally unsound.

Two years ago, dozens died in floods in western Germany, a region that had experienced a number of similar floods in earlier centuries, where thousands of houses had been built on the natural floodplain.

Last year saw more than 1,000 people lose their lives during monsoon floods in Pakistan. Studies showed that the impact of flooding in the region was exacerbated by the proximity of human settlements, the outdated river management system, high poverty rates and political instability in Pakistan.

There are many factors that contribute to weather-related disasters, but one dominates the headlines: climate change. That is because of so-called attribution studies, which are published very quickly after these disasters to highlight how human-caused climate change contributes to extreme weather events. After the flooding in Libya, German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung described climate change as a “serial offender," while the Tageszeitung wrote that “the climate crisis has exacerbated the extreme rainfall."

The World Weather Attribution initiative (WWA) has once again achieved its aim of using “real-time analysis” to draw attention to the issue: on its website, the institute says its goal is to “analyse and communicate the possible influence of climate change on extreme weather events." Frederike Otto, who works on attribution studies for the WWA, says these reports help to underscore the urgent need for climate action. They transform climate change from an “abstract threat into a concrete one."

In the immediate aftermath of a weather-related disaster, teams of researchers rush to put together attribution studies – “so that they are ready within the same news cycle," as the New York Times reported. However, these attribution studies do not meet normal scientific standards, as they are published without going through the peer-review process that would be undertaken before publication in a specialist scientific journal. And that creates problems.

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