Hello and good day!
The northern most Peruvian territories are currently under a declared state of emergency.
This includes Cajamarca, where both my brother and I have in-laws, and also the district of Huarango, where our cacao buying and processing operation is located.
You may have read in the news about the Ecuadorian gunmen who took over a television studio live on air.
I don't follow the news much, so I am not all the way informed about this story.
What I know comes from conversations with my Peruvian family members and from our team members in Huarango.
It sounds like narco gangs in Ecuador are running wild, killing, kidnapping, and terrorizing. The Ecuadorian government is moving to put down the violence.
The Peruvian government is attempting to close the Ecuadorian-Peruvian border so that narco fighters can't cross the border and escape into Peru.
Most of our family members live up in the mountains, far from Ecuador, and are not in any immediate danger.
However, where we buy and process cacao is about an hour from the Ecuadorian border and is located in the jungle where the terrain is dense with trees.
Securing the border there is challenging because it runs through vast wilderness where there is ample cover for sneaking through.
I chatted last night with one of our team members named Oscar Ayala. Oscar has been with us since the very beginning, going on 16 years now. He leads our cacao buying team and is out in campo visiting cacao farms just about every day.
He knows the pulse of the community better than anybody else.
I asked Oscar how things are looking, and he said that he doesn't think the Ecuadorian war will spill into the district of Huarango.
That is good news.
The bad news is that the city of Jaen is becoming very dangerous. Jaen is the closest big city to Huarango, where the nearest real hospital is located, and where we put our cacao on a big freight truck headed for the coast to port in Lima
Oscar says that petty theft and truck robberies are on the rise and that the people carrying out these crimes are mostly immigrants from Venezuela.
There has been a long running immigration crisis in Peru as Venezuelan refugees flee the communist dictatorship in their own country and settle into surrounding South American countries.
Peru is not a rich country and doesn't have the resources to support the roughly 3 million Venezuelans who illegally immigrated.
There wasn't enough work for all these people, and many turned to a life of crime.
For several years, this problem has mostly affected Lima, but now the crime is spreading out to other parts of the country.
Before continuing on, I better say something about Venezuelan people.
We have two Venezuelans working for our company, on our kitchen team. We have several Venezuelan families who are chocolate shop customers.
One of our favorite restaurants in town is a Venezuelan restaurant owned by a fellow who recently immigrated to the United States.
Most people, I'd say 95% of all people, Venezuelan or otherwise, are good everyday folks who want to work so that they can provide for their family and get ahead in life.
Strong and free economies can absorb immigrants and immigrants are a very good thing as long as they produce more than they consume.
All that being said, many Venezuelans in Peru have become criminals.
The trend in Jaen worries Oscar. But what was really weighing heavy on Oscar's mind last night was his son. His boy is 21 years old and has decided that he wants to be a police officer.
Given the state of things in Peru, the government is expediting the young man's police academy training and putting him out in the field as soon as possible.
It's a dangerous time to be a police officer and Oscar is worried that something bad will happen.
I told Oscar that I think he has a very brave and heroic son.
It is widely underappreciated how important a good, honest, brave, and uncorrupt police force is for maintaining prosperous societies and economies.
The more I read about history and think about the world, the more strongly I believe that peace is the most important meta goal.
Peace spawns everything else that most of us hold dear.
War, violence, and crime make life, work, and progress impossible.
And police are the people in this world whose job it is to keep the peace.
The first person to help me to this viewpoint was a retired Seattle police officer who buys dark chocolate from us. He explained to me that most people misconceive what a police officer's job ought to be.
According to our customer, the police are supposed to make it so that citizens can enjoy their city without having to worry about crime, and also the police exist to protect our constitutionally guaranteed liberties.
He says that the term "law enforcement" has ruined police work.
What happens when there are too many laws to enforce and when laws are passed purely because of political grandstanding?
What happens when police spend most of their time prosecuting victimless crimes? The most important part of the job fades away.
For that reason, he prefers the phrase "to protect and serve".
He hated how much the city of Seattle depended on traffic violations as a source of government revenue. It took police away from doing what they were supposed to be doing.
If Jaen descends into chaos because police can't keep criminals at bay, then we can't safely ship cacao.
This puts the income of our 500 cacao farm partners at risk. It puts the livelihood of our 35 team members in the district of Huarango at risk.
It puts the jobs of our 15 employees in the United States at risk.
But if peace prevails, we can expand production and create more jobs and make more chocolate.
Peace provides the preconditions for a self-reinforcing positive upwards cycle.
Here is a concluding thought about all of this.
One of the things I've learned after almost two decades as a business owner is that the main thing is to keep the main thing--the main thing.
The most important key to having success in the chocolate business is to make delicious chocolate.
If that falls away, nothing else really matters.
This part of your operation can never falter.
Accordingly, governments darn near shouldn't move on to doing anything else if they aren't successfully maintaining peace in the territory under their jurisdiction so that citizens can enjoy their city and live a free life.
Culturally, members of a community should treat police work as a noble and worthy profession, something worth aspiring to.
There is not a single place in the world that doesn't need good and honorable police officers.
I asked Oscar to let his son know how much I respect his career choice.
Oscar said he'd pass the message along.
Thank you so much for time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!
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