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Mexico and US agree on safeguards plan to protect oil explorers

Mexico and US agree on safeguards plan to protect oil explorers

Officials in Mexico and the United States have agreed to new safety rules to protect U.S. health inspectors of avocados and mangoes, after an incident earlier this month led to a pause in inspections, the governor of Mexico's main avocado-growing region said Monday.

Avocados, in particular, are a major Mexican agricultural export, bringing in billions of dollars each year, as demand from American consumers has steadily increased in recent years.

US inspections of the two fruits were suspended a week ago after a security incident in the western state of Michoacán, Mexico's main avocado-growing region, putting exports to its northern neighbor at risk.

After the meeting, Michoacan Gov. Alfredo Ramirez and US Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar told reporters that the two countries will work together to prevent illegal deforestation and environmental certification for agricultural products and labor issues.

“The Mexican government's plan is to work hand-in-hand with us to make sure every one of our employees is safe so they can do their jobs,” Salazar said.

Officials did not provide specific details on how the security will be implemented.

The meeting was attended by Mexico's Minister of Agriculture, Victor Villalobos. In the future, he suggested, Mexican inspectors could replace the American personnel currently conducting inspections.

Michoacán has spent years fighting extortion by powerful organized crime groups who profit from the lucrative agricultural trade.

Senior Mexican officials said the June 15 incident involving U.S. personnel stemmed from protests by local police who refused to allow inspectors. Ramírez has previously said the inspectors were “illegally detained”.

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Officials said Monday that the new security plan will also include coordination with APEAM, Mexico's main avocado export association.

APEAM declined to comment on the new security plan.

On Friday, Salazar issued a statement announcing that inspections would gradually resume, but important questions remained.