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

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Autodefensas of Tierra Caliente and the Example of Cherán

A Member of the citizens’ council of the self-defense groups surrounding Apatzingán, Michoacán, January 2014.   
Photo By: Heriberto Paredes
By: Romeo LopCam

January 26, 2014- Given the voices who see the emergence and spreading of the armed Self-Defense Movement against organized crime and the government inaction against those in Michoacán, as a worsening of the problem of violence in the state, I would like to compare a series of arguments pointing in the opposite direction.

Everything indicates that the Self-Defense Groups or comunitarios (as they like to call themselves) of Tierra Caliente emerged on February 24, 2013, in an almost simultaneous movement carried out in two villages.  This is how it’s been stated in various interviews by two of the most famous people in the movement; Hipólito Mora of La Ruana and Dr. Juan José Mireles Valverde of Tepalcatepec.
As the latter has said, in a way, they took the example of the people of the P'urhépecha Plateau, particularly of Cherán, where the popular organization managed to expel not only drug traffickers, but also illegal loggers and political parties, who they say just divided the people.

Being a town where the indigenous people are the majority, Cherán is governed by a system of practices and customs (self-governance), therefore the city hall was replaced in 2011by a council of 12 members elected by an assembly and its Community Police has full legal recognition.  Today, although they are still harassed by criminal groups, the inhabitants of Cherán are living in one of the safest places in Michoacán.

If you would like to learn more about Cherán and how they operate watch the video below about the Guarda Bosques (Forest Keepers)

The towns in the Tierra Caliente region present, on the other hand, significant differences regarding the P'urhépecha Plateau, issues that give special characteristics to their corresponding histories but run parallel and are involved in similar problems.

The first is the composition of its population, the majority of the population are mestizos in the Tierra Caliente region; landless farmers form it, owners of more or less prosperous avocado and lemon orchards, as well as cattle ranchers, transporters, and traders.  Much of the economic activity in the region is oriented in exports.  Therefore, it seems that in these towns social differences are more pronounced, however this doesn’t prevent people from participating in the movement.  We have seen that people from all walks of life participate in this Self-Defense Movement. 

Crime basically follows money.  Thus, the second difference is that while in Cherán they tried to set themselves up after consulting with the sawmills, who were looking to access precious wood illegally, a multitude of production activities invaded the Tierra Caliente region through extortions and collecting dues, while also developing a management system and adjusting accounts that was corrupting and displacing public services.  That is, the scale and diversification of economic activities in the latter region influenced the extent and complexity of the actions of the criminal networks that practically co-opted every corner where money is produced and power is exercised.

Finally, the people of Cherán managed to change its form of government that would be recognized at the state and federal level.  Their decision-making, subjected to the sentiments of the community, proved to be less likely corroded by the power and money of the mafias; the indigenous tradition of community organizing reactivated in order to address organized crime.  However, in the Tierra Caliente region, the resistance seems to be like a process that doesn’t want to stay as a tradition but just as an immediate need arising from the atrocious situations.  It’s not looking to change the form of government, but wants the current government to function so they can go back to work in peace.  They should, however, explore this possibility.

Other differences, such as the structure that the groups of people who’ve taken security into their own hands and who respond to crime, as well as the material resources made available, are derived from the above.  More spontaneous and better armed, the comunitarios of Tierra Caliente have raised greater suspicion, even in some parts from the left, habitual critics who say that the Mexican state has failed in its strategy against the cartels. 

It is certainly relevant to also distinguish between “Community Police” and “Self-Defense Groups” as has been written by Francisco López Bárcenas:

“The Community Police are part of the governing structures of the towns and they obey them, they’re responsible for its operation; its existence and operation are part of the rights of the indigenous peoples.  The Self-Defense Groups however, are groups of citizens who organize and arm themselves in order to obtain security, and when they do, they disappear.  But this isn’t easy, because nothing guarantees that the reason why they rose up in arms will disappear altogether; and also, they don’t have control over what their members seek.  If they don’t disappear then they can become a problem or worse, be used by the government to control social unrest.”
Photo By: Heriberto Paredes
I think it’s valid to ask:

Is it only possible to have a Community Police in communities where the indigenous people are the majority?

Is it possible for the Self-Defense Groups to evolve, that is, to become a part of the governing structures who govern communities?

Is there any other alternative left since local, state, and federal governments are easily corrupted?

We must not forget our greatest fear, that the Self-Defense Groups can be manipulated and subjected to the agenda of an undesirable person—whether they be corrupt politicians, cartels, bosses, corporations, etc. — it’s already been fulfilled by several corporations of the State who were supposed to provide security to the communities, such as the Municipal Police, some federal sectors, and as well as the Mexican Army.

In that sense, the suspicion that such groups have been encouraged, or in the best case scenario, tolerated by the State or sectors thereof, in order to “stir the river and fish in troubled waters”, I believe creates excessive distrust in the ability of the people to rebel against a state of things that are obviously unsustainable.  Those who argue this forget that the alleged government tolerance has included several operations of disarmament directed towards the comunitarios rather than against members of the cartels, where in some instances people have been arrested and imprisoned, and even in a few cases, killed by Mexican soldiers.

Both the federal and state governments have accepted the existence and presence of the Self-Defense Movement very reluctantly, basically because they don’t have a choice; which is not to say that they won’t try to infiltrate it, use and modify it to meet their own agendas, implementing a kind of Colombian model.  Therefore, it would be desirable that its members reflect and study other experiences, with the aim of organizing and establishing their own form of self-government in their communities to meet their own needs, so that it would shield against harmful ambitions as well as against the resurgence of old and new mafias.

All of the politicians who put up a project that involves the management and control of the lives of others by an elite, bet on the failure of the Self-Defense Groups.  Why?  Because its success can give rise to the construction of self-governance in areas beyond security.  Given this, the fear of those who defend the “monopoly of violence” by the State, is an area for prey, which is greater than what any other cartel causes.  And such fear is real.

The fact that the Self-Defense Groups of Tierra Caliente in Michoacán call themselves comunitarios, and that they’ve established a Citizens' Council shortly after the state and federal government disarmed and imprisoned dozens of members of the emerging Self-Defense Groups of Aquila (where the majority of the population is indeed indigenous) who organized themselves in order to confront the abuses of a mining company; Suggests that the civil organization confronting against organized crime and the inaction of the State, such as those that have been developed in the P’urhépecha Plateau, like in the Tierra Caliente region, can come together to learn from one another and support themselves.

Source: SubVersiones


  1. don't fight it too much,the auto-defensa and the community police members, are:
    ---fighting together.
    ---they know each other.
    ---when they help other communities,the help and leave.
    ---they are widely supported
    ---the existing gangs of criminals are not wanted.
    ---the existing gangs have used corruption to get the complicity of existing government, police, military,"businessmen", politicians high and low.
    ---the existing government, which nobody is fighting, needs to get the fuck out of there, just watch the proceedings, collect the taxes, owed to the nation, do their job, make sure the accounting is right, take their good for nothing army and military officers, let self governance alone, te federal police should only come to protect the government envoys, and go with them as soon as possible,no more interference on local affairs from the federal government that has proved for 100 years they are a bunch of incompetent motherfuckers,the people deserve their freedom and will be watching each other, locally,and if there is new corruption,they will be able to do something about it faster and without selling out, leave them alone, and when epn's plenipotentates go back to the capital city, they need to take the garbage with them,or it will be disposed as the CP/ADsee fit.

  2. you have to watch this..

  3. According to the Mexico constitution, the linguistic/cultural/ethnic rights of the 65 indigenous nations are protectd. The govt. of Mexico has failed in implementing the laws of their constitution; on the contrary, certain members of the different levels of the govt. have aided and abetted criminal organizations, even utilized the nation's armed forces for that end, to harm its indigenous peoples. Mexico at the end of the day is a indigenous nation. Has been and always will be. It is the nation of the Mexica, Maya, Zapotec, Mixtec, Tarascono,Totonac, Olmec, Otomi. Of the Purepecha, Yanqui, Huixhol, Tohono Odham, Raramuri, etc. Of the so-called Mestizo who is really an assimilated indigenous. The people of Cheran are showing/leading the way in how to fight and get rid of the criminal organizations along with the state criminals(federal and state). They also successfully resisted the multi-national who wanted to destroy their environment; in fact, you could say the Purepecha people are human activist and environmental activist. If the self-defense and community police movements catch fire in all of Mexico the gabachos are going to need another country to use as a trafficking route to bring them their drugs. The supposed progressive parties who have failed to mobilize the masses to bring reform need to get out of the way. Why wait to the next rigged elections and complain how your victory was
    stolen to bring change. NGOs and NRA get out of the way also. The Purepecha, UPOEG, and CSADPCM don't need you. After seeing the PCs of Cheran would explain the reasons why the CTs didn't mess with them. Viva Mexico!

    1. UN NGOs who are strangely quit during these recent uprisings.

  4. Nomas no pidan mucho por que estos morros nomas toman mando de las plazas i surgirá un cartel a su nombre ...

    1. Tu ignorasian o falta de informasion es realmente de dar miedo. Aqui es facil , empezo con los españoles, despues el gobierno que quiere tomar los Recursos naturales. Mira la historia , mas claro no lo es. Pero claro gente como tu que no le afecta directamente solo abren la boca a lo estupido. Tal vez cuando te toque a tu Comunidad vas a buscar solusion, y vas a mirar a cheran como ejemplo. Es mas tu que arias ??? "Freedom isn't free"

  5. The problem is not if they can remove or fight off the mafias that prey on them but how long will this movement last? I mean didn't the Communitarios said that they will disarm themselves once the main leaders of the Templarios get arrested. But I doubt the aprehension of the main bosses will have much effect on the group. I mean the extortions and kidnappings won't disappear if La Tuta and the other leaders get arrested. Hell I think La Tuta is the only one helding the group back from extorting/preying further than the other leaders and eslecially the lower level plaza bosses and such. So back on topic, how long can the Communitarios financially sustain themselves? or how long till some Communitario members starting asking for a check or even worse yet, using their arms to steal? I think the most effective way to protect themselves is that every citizen or house hold is given a cheap legal gun and start building a more tight knit community to ward off criminals from establishing themselves. You don't need expensive assault weapons to scare off criminals. Just regular shot guns and hunting rifles will do. Also I'm not in agreement how the communitarios try to push and liberate towns like they are the army or even cartel sicarios. The way they agressively approach the situation can and will create conflict and hostility between the two groups. If it hasn't already. The self protection has to come within the community and not from outside sources. I think the reasons why the army has tried to stop the communitarios from advancing was because they knew it will create a war between these two groups. Which will complicate the situation and dynamics much more. I think the federal government fears that the people of Michocan will start supporting and believing in the Communitarios more than the government. Which is bad because that can create a militia that can oppose or replace the local and state government. Things might get interesting these up coming months and years.

  6. 10:29 waah waaah buuh!!!quit wringing your hands,the fucking government has never worried about anybody before, the ct have been abusing the general populationfor the last ten years,until the PRI took the state governorship and then the presidency, the only reason they are meddling now is to protect their sicarios, the ct and their state government allies.
    Nobody has a right now to come up and mention the "possible" takeover or infiltration by "new cartels", fuck that shit boy, grab your rosary beads and pray it won't be so...

  7. we are writing longer and longer books, ain't we?
    well, as long as they get posted it's ok i guess.
    chivaaa! i took a trip to the forum, i found a place like a billiards room, l am a bad player, i hate to lose, and i absolutely refuse to learn the many local, national, international rules of pool playing, but i found some DAMN GOOD postings there, inspite of some bitter people that quit and come back, i can't believe how many prima donnas are featured over there.

  8. 1:43 pon el tiempo del poster al que le estas contestando compadre,que tal si me enojo y te pongo como camote, eeh?
    de cualesquier manera,el gobierno de mexico son ahorita right now una bola de perritos falderos que le menean la cola a cualquier guey por una feria,y luego les entregan las nachas de todos los mexicanos habidos y por haber,recuerda compadre pon el tiempo, no seas ignorante como los otros posters de BB que no lo hacen porque tienen afectado el cerebro, de los dos lados y traen los sesos ladeados por la mitad, por andar comiendo "burriros" y hot dogs... vaya con dios compadre.

  9. At 408 am. Mira tienes razon. En siertas cosas. Sabes mexico, me recuerda ala pelicula, "apocalipto" el fuerte coje al devil. Pero en michoacan se le voltio el , el chirion por el palito. Jajajaja te imaginas que te tiren con un ak47. A mi en lo personal me excita mas las balas cuando me sumban por la cabeza. Y los de uniforme para mi son clientes. En fin vale verga , como decia zapata, "prefiero morir de pie, que vivir toda la puta vida de rodillas" pinche mexicanos agachados. Aprendan a los indigenas de michoacan.


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