Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Cheran and its Revolt Against the Michoacan Mafia

The autonomous municipality of Cheran refuses to be part of the business diversification of the narcotics trafficking cartels, who have used weapons, money and political power to subdue nearby towns. The Cheran people don't want to "partner" with La Familia Michoacana nor with the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar) to produce avocados or marijuana; they refuse to surrender [their] mountains so they can be stripped bare, or to allow [their] mines to be exploited illegally. But they are alone: precisely there, where the narco has mutated into a mafia that despoils natural resources, the federal government doesn't intervene. 

Marcela Turati

Proceso. 7-21-2012. San Francisco Cheran, Mich. Armed communal police go into the stripped and devastated woods. A group of them is already at the top, protecting the rest. Any incursion into the woods is dangerous these days. This is shown by the landscape of gutted hills, with barely one last rank of tree trunks that were scorched but still cling to the earth. In these places, now orphaned of the great, big trees, ancient and stout, which prevented the sun's ray from penetrating, there are shadows on the ground.

"As they advance they start fires, they cut trees down, they scare the people, sowing terror so that people will resign themselves and leave. They want to take over all the lands, they say they want to grow avocados and for us to just get used to it," explains one of the leaders of the communal patrol made up of volunteers that carry out police duties in this independent municipality, as we tour the San Miguel hill, north of the town.

The slaughter of trees is palpable a kilometer from the edge of town; this is how far the timber cutters got,  led by an individual known as "El Guero" , from Rancho Rio Seco, who controls part of the Purepecha Meseta for the Knights Templar. Some sources have said his real name is Cuitlahuac Hernandez.

The forest looks like an ecocide museum after three years of voracious looting, the burning like a key note and the terror generalized, until the community had had enough; it expelled the invaders, kicked out the complicit mayor and his policemen, installed its own perimeter and reorganized itself according to its and customs and traditions.

The cost of its resistance and refusal to submit has been 15 community members assassinated and five "disappeared", as well as 13 people kidnapped in three years of confrontations and ambushes. The last two --Urbano Macias Rafael and Guadalupe Geronimo Velasquez-- were abducted in the forest by armed men on Sunday, [July] 8, and were found dead the next day.

The fight that this Purepecha community has is not with the tree cutters from nearby communities, as state government officials claim, but against drug trafficking organizations and powerful people who promote deforestation and looting of natural resources.

"They tell us we won't last long, that they're going to take our lands and that they're even going to take our cattle, that they know us, that they have us on a list, that they're going to bag us, that they'll never find our bodies," says the leader of the volunteer police. He's one of the many rural inhabitants evicted from the forest and from his small farm plot. His 12 hectares (about 30 acres) were left in areas controlled by the timber cutters. He's been prohibited from going in there.

Cheran has been in the media's spotlight since April 15, 2011, when it revolted in defense of its forests. But its battle goes farther than that. It is betting it can prevent the expansion of the business model that drug trafficking groups have introduced throughout Michoacan; as soon as they come into a community, they embed themselves in the municipalities' presidencies (mayors), from which they give orders to personnel, control commerce and subdue businesses, impose "pago de piso" (extortion) on all productive enterprises, spread the sale, trafficking, production or consumption of drugs, sponsor illegal activities and take over the roads, forests, farmlands, mineral resources and even the water.

Cheran is surrounded by communities where this has already taken place. Huitzaco, for example, is a town inhabited by dozens of "owners" of working mines who are poor because they are simply fronts for the real owners. In San Juan Nuevo Parangaricutiro, the businesses there are being harassed into paying for "protection." The avocado growers in Uruapan, producers of the world famous "green gold", transferred their orchards to armed men who force them into partnerships and make them sell their crops to certain packing plants.

The timber cutters of the town of Tanaco pay for trucks loaded with  illegal lumber. The forests of El Cerecito are used to camouflage drug laboratories. In Paracho it is said they even control the water. 

This is the face of the Mexican "ecomafia." [It is] the diversification of the businesses of cartels such as Los Zetas, Los Caballeros Templarios and La Familia Michoacana who take over territories and their natural resources.

For total control

Cheran was going the same route until it decided to fight, without any help from the federal or the state government so far.

"Here, the climate, which is cold, is not good for growing avocados; that's not what they want the land for. But our lands are good for growing beautiful marijuana plants, like there are in nearby communities,  or to install drug laboratories in remote areas like those found in El Cerecito. Sand and gravel quarries are tempting. Our forests will produce lumber for them. What they want is more money. They even wanted to charge the community for the water we were drawing from the deep well," explains a woman communal member, who asks that her name not be used.

In April of last year, she and other women went up the mountain with their small children to try to talk to the men who at night brought in earth moving equipment to strip the forest and by day passed in front of them with loads of cut trees. Without their husbands knowledge, they approached these men to ask them to, please, show respect for the ancient trees around the spring, because they would cause the community to go thirsty. But they were called "complaining old hags" and expelled at gunpoint.

Enraged, at dawn on the 15th (of April) they stopped the first lumber trucks that went by that day and, because the tree cutters who were blocked responded with gunshots, the people came out to defend them. Since that day the Cheran people have not lowered their guard; the town is entrenched behind sand bags, it installed its own police force to make the rounds and every inhabitant became a vigilante.

"According to informants we detained and interrogated, organized crime was charging them one thousand pesos for each three-ton load of lumber they took down and they had to sell the wood to them. At night, you could see a huge number of lights on the mountain, like hundreds of fireflies, from back hoes cutting (trees) and making roads. If anybody from the community objected, they would beat them up; people started to disappear. In one year they cut down 40,000 acres. Until they got to the spring, and then the people had had enough," narrated the woman while she used her metate (grindstone) to grind a salsa made from onions, mint, corn and green chili.

(Abstract of a special report in Proceso.) 


  1. Keep fighting for your land.

  2. One thing is clear.
    Very clear.
    The Calderon is doing the right thing in declaring war on the drug cartels.
    But it is too stupid in its approach.
    It has wasted the whole term of office not doing the one thing that it must do to win the fight.
    It must involve all Mexicans in the fight.
    Nothing short of that will do.
    National service must be started and everybody must be conscripted.
    This will increase the forces available for the fight exponentially.
    Next, it must impose the death penalty for drug trafficking and murder and justice must be meted out swiftly.
    Next, it must declare martial law and curfews so that it is easier to control what's going in Mexico.
    And bring the war to all the areas where the drug cartels are found.
    Failure to do so will ensure that the whole country will be taken over by the drug cartels.

  3. Eventually they will all be killed. In a narco society there is no hope for anyone.

  4. This is sickening to read. Just like the pathetic government of Mexico. I can't even begin to comprehend how these folks must be living. These are some tuff Mexicans, and I'm sure they will fight to the end. These are the hard working Mexicans I want in my country. These are the Mexicans that Mexico is known for. Hard working and tuff like a mother-fucker. May god be with you citizens of Cheran.

  5. hollow words from behind a keyboard.
    "keep fighting for your land".
    i bet none of the people of that region will ever see the words we type from the safety of our homes.
    we need to fight first with what new york did after 9/11. If you see something, say something.

    Lance Orton, Times Square Car Bomb Hero: 'See Something, Say Something'
    Lance Orton, the man who alerted the NYPD of the suspicious vehicle that was later found to be loaded with a bomb, was not eager to speak to reporters today.

    The Vietnam vet did not want to give his name or comment on Saturday night's commotion. But Orton, a t-shirt vendor, did end up giving some sound advice to his fellow New Yorkers: "See something, say something."
    we all have cell phones well dammit call the local media and report. be the eyes and ears of local law enforcement. do not let people move into your subdivision without knowing who they are. think of things i have not mentioned be creative. do not give the criminals any rest.

  6. Fight for ur land.. shame on the Damn goverment for not helping this people... Mexico needs to fight back with agression towards cartels... Guns for Mexicans who want there country back...

  7. Come on Calderon. Come on Pena Nieto. What about it? If you do nothing you are the POS everyone thinks you are.

  8. July 22, 2012 7:08 AM Most likely you don't know, but Calderon did tried to bring out all the military to fight the Cartels and more, but congress didn't let him do it ( specially does PRI members of congress )

  9. How they keep there land and don't get slaughtered for standing up to the cartel

  10. And so it is anywhere that people can ARM themselves,DEFEND themselves without the BUNGLING corrupt State. The right to kick the State out and do it yourself, MUST remain absolute even when it demands a ARMED PUBLIC. WHY do liberals,progresives object to gun ownership and possesion by the public. No govt can do most things as well as the people can, never has it ever been!

  11. Intstead of making a big new sign Calderon should have given those guns to the people so they can actually defend themselves

  12. Those people have balls.People like this make General Villa proud.Todo mi respeto para esta gente.No se dejen.

  13. If one's back is pushed against the wall, what can one do?
    Fight back or just roll over and play dead?
    Since any which way you're going to die, why not take as many of the bad guys as possible with you?
    The choice is yours!!!!

  14. Fighting the drug cartels are exactly like fighting a war.
    There are many similarities.
    Let's hark back to the WWII.
    Now, supposed that when the Germans or the Japanese were to take over over your country and subject you to whatever whims and fancies that got hold of them.
    They can torture you.
    Take over your properties.
    Make you one of their slaves.
    Or any other dastardly acts.
    Would you just let them do that?
    Just roll over and play dead?
    That's exactly what they want.
    That suits them fine!!!!
    But does that suit you fine?

  15. hablar es muy barato(gratis) pero no he escuchado a alguien que diga:saben que?yo les voy a mandar dinero para la causa para que compren armas al fin y al cabo los que las venden no les importa si son Z`s,la familia,u otros carteles ellos tambien venden a todos los que traigan dinero.a poco nadien sabe eso?.

  16. Cheran is getting funds from the states, from people who have left Cheran and from people that are tired of hearing and reading of what is going on in Mexico.... Last year we sent over $20,000 to help them with supplies and what not.... This is just the beginning

    1. Please let me know how i can help.. I will help ypu with whatever i can. I'm tired of these bastatds killing our families..
      Atte malcolm mex

  17. It might seem like no progress, but resisting the cartel takes away cartel profits, one peso at a time. I hope the cost of doing business in Cheran becomes to expansive but remember, freedom is not free and is usually paid with blood.

  18. Got to Love Michoacano's, whether its La Familia resisting Zeta's, or CT, or Cheran resisting the Carteles of Michoacan, or the Tarascos resisting the Aztecs, Mofo's got their orgullo!

  19. see something say something....that only works when you say something to someone who is not fucking corrupt like most ppl in the mexican government. These people have a great model of fighting back. Mexicans will wake up soon enough.

  20. i should have said see something say something USA because the cartels are moving operatives into every city and state in the union.
    I know that in mexico it is too late for anything short of a revolution to make an impact on the situation.

    1. Why americans are so paranoid? The cartels would never invade the states. Serously. I heard ppl saying that mexicans would try to recover the lost territory like Texas, Cali, New Mexico, Arizona, etc... Give me a f break.

  21. The Mexican people will never unite and fight the Cartels on a Uninied Front. They are Too tied up on Materilaism and Greed to do that.

    The Poor people of Chiapas and Cheran have Great Organizing Abilities. They are a collective group that will alawyas fight to defend their land and resourses from the Local Scum Bags of both the Zetas and CDS.

    1. Uhhhhh they aren't fighting against either of those.. there fighting against the caballeros templarios

  22. FUNNY.HOW YABHAVENT NOTICE THIS IS A ACTUAL WAR, BUT TO CONTROL DRUGS BTW TWO COUNTRIES. One needs keep up with theblife style n expenses. N the other well. But it willbhurt more the north if the south wins. Because the north drug.economy.
    Why think Mexican Cartels united? To fight who? The Zetas. Who sponsors ,n trained th3 zetas? Dig deep. Is likereading about the.contras in Nicaragua all over again


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