Pious sect goes to pot

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The Independent Online
TWO YEARS ago the strange crops on Isaak Enns's cornfields near Cuauhtemoc in northern Mexico turned out to be more than his God-fearing Mennonite brothers had bargained for. Seeking an answer from local authorities, the German-speaking Protestant sect was astonished to discover that the temptations of the world had entered its simple, traditional lifestyle. Brother Enns was growing pot.

Mexico's 80,000-strong Mennonite community left Canada 73 years ago and established settlements in Chihuahua state, 220 miles south of El Paso.

Since 1989 30 shipments of drugs involving Mexico's Mennonites have been seized en route to Canada .Customs officials say the trade accounts for nearly 20 per cent of the contraband entering the country.

Like the Amish in Pennsylvania, the Mennonites appear frozen in time: the men dress in overalls and straw hats and the women cover their heads with scarves and wear dark ,calf-length dresses.

Mennonites are traditionally great cheesemakers and furniture builders, and it is within these wares that many of the drug shipments have been found.

The most recent bust, of 31-year-old Jacobo Froesse-Friessen, occurred when sniffer dogs turned up 761 lbs of marijuana in the furniture he was taking across the US border.

Customs agents are now taking a closer look at Mennonite lorries. "Before we would simply be waved in, no questions asked," said Pedro Neufeld, 30. "Now,because we're Mennonites, we're all suspects."

When marijuana was discovered at Isaak Enns's farm,the community searched its soul and prayed for the evils to depart. They didn't, and Mexican military helicopters have sprayed the area with herbicides.

Gazing over the cornfields farmer Abraham Enns mused:"What happened here is tragic. But at least people know now that we're not perfect people.We're only human."