The World: The Sierra Madre's Amapola War

Out of the morning sun the helicopters come, flying at treetop level to avoid the treacherous downdrafts in Mexico's rugged, majestic Sierra Madre Occidental. A copter scarcely touches down before soldiers leap out, their Belgian FAL rifles at the ready. The troops belong to a 2,300-man special force drawn from the best units in the Mexican army. They are carrying out a mission, code-named "Operation Condor," that began last month. Their enemy is an empire where marijuana grows by the acre and the blood-red amapola poppy—the opium plant—flourishes.

In the U.S. alone, narcotics agents...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!