By Chris Covert
A tense situation between two indigent Indian mountain communities in Michoacan state went hot Wednesday as eight individuals were killed in two separate shootings including an ambush, according to Mexican news reports.
Villagers in Cheran municipality were on patrol in Cerro Packjaracua forest Wednesday when they came under small arms fire from masked armed suspects. Six individuals were killed in the ambush including two who were immolated inside a pickup truck. A second exchange of gunfire took place near Cheran itself where five unidentified villagers were wounded and another two were killed.
Six of the dead were from Cerecito, and have been identified as Cristobal Magaña Gabriel, Cristobal Salmeron Magaña, Anselmo Gabriel Talavera, Jorge Magaña Geronimo, Antonio Gabriel Romero and Lorenzo "N".
Two of the dead were from Cheran, and have been identified as David Campos Macias, 45, Santiago Ceja Alonso, 50.
The conflict in Cheran municipality involves Cheran and the community of Cerecito, but the issues are unclear. Residents of Cheran claim that residents of Cerecito are in the pay of organized crime groups which are trying to make clearings in Cerro Packjaracua, presumably with the assistance of villagers from Cerecito. They also claim that organized crime traffics in lumber taken from nearby forests. Residents have also suffered from years of criminal activity against them by La Familia drug cartel.
Villagers from Cerecito have previously complained that an independent group in Cheran has set up checkpoints and have demanded payment of tolls. Other complains against residents of Cheran include auto theft, carjacking, fuel theft and failing to pay bus fare.
Residents of Cheran took 15 hostages Thursday including 11 members of an elite Michoacan state police unit and four ministerial officials. Residents have also closed all access to their area in the wake of the ambush, setting up checkpoints in the area.
Cheran is about 10 kilometers south of Mexican Federal Highway 15, about 15 kilometers north of Uruapan on Mexico Federal Highway 37.
According to reports, both Michoacan state police and Mexican Policia Federal units are in the area monitoring the situation. A call has been presumably made for the assistance of Mexican Army forces in the area. Michoacan is one of the most heavily fortified states in Mexico with 8,000 Mexican Army troops.
Michoacan is also under additional stress as members of the Jalisco Nueva Generacion drug cartel have vowed to move into Michoacan to destroy Los Caballeros Templarios drug cartel.
The conflict between the two communities came to a head last month when 12 individuals were kidnapped from Cheran by suspects allied with the Cerecito village. The abductions took place, it is said because of the criminal activities by residents of Cheran.
Cheran residents,however claim that people from Cerecito are allied with organized crime groups and are threatening forests that residents of Cheran want to remain intact.
All 12 kidnap victims were released the following day following negotiations by the Michoacan state government.
To read previous reports by the author about the the March conflict between Cheran and Cerecito, click here and here.
Mexican drug gangs often use indigent Indian mountain communities to grow drugs, treating the residents as serfs if they fail to go along using threats including arson and murder. Those communities are vulnerable because they are so remote.
Chris Covert writes Mexican Drug War and national political news for Rantburg.com