Mexican indigenous community takes on armed gangs

[One minute video (en espanol) showing the protest in Cheran, Michoacan, last week. — Frontlines ed.]
May 03, 2011

Mexico City: Around 17,000 people from an indigenous group in western Mexico have blocked access to their community and declared a “state of siege” against armed groups protecting illegal loggers, a spokesman said.

“It’s a desperate measure” faced with the lack of security from federal authorities, a spokesman for the Purepecha community told a news conference yesterday in Mexico City, wearing a face mask to remain anonymous.

It was a “self-imposed state of siege” that started April 15 in the village of Cheran, in Michoacan state, not far from famous sanctuaries for migrating Monarch butterflies, the spokesman said.

The community started the blockade after armed men fired on some of its members after they captured illegal loggers to hand them over to the authorities, he added.

An armed group entered the community on April 27 and killed two people. Since 2008, nine have been killed and five others have disappeared, he said.

Illegal loggers have deforested 80 percent of some 30,000 acres (12,000 hectares) of the region’s forests in more than three years, according to the community.

“But during the past year, the groups seem to be supported by organized crime groups,” the spokesman said.

Michoacan is one of a string of regions hit by rising violence blamed on drug gangs since the launch of a government offensive on organized crime in December 2006.

PTI

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