Photo: The Mexican state of Michoacán
An indigenous community in the western Mexican state of Michoacan has stepped up security measures in the wake of this week’s kidnap-murders of two of its members by suspected mobsters, saying state authorities have broken their promise to protect them.
A spokesman for the community of Cheran, a community that is made up of some 4,500 Purepecha Indians and located about 200 miles from Mexico City, told Efe that local inhabitants held a meeting Friday to determine the actions of its self-styled Resistance Movement.
A Cheran delegation that arrived Saturday in the Mexican capital, meanwhile, will press President Felipe Calderon’s administration to investigate the murders of Indians Urbano Macias and Guadalupe Jeronimo.
Both went missing last Sunday and two days later their dead bodies were found with gunshot wounds.
The killings stemmed from a long-running battle between Cheran and neighboring El Cerecito over illegal logging in the area, David Peña, an attorney advising the members of the former community, told MVS radio earlier this week.
Peña blamed mobsters for carrying out the killings. “In the last three years, that community (El Cerecito) has allied with organized crime and systematically exploited the forests,” the lawyer said.
Given the “dimension the Cheran conflict has reached at the national and international level” he said he was surprised to see authorities “go on thinking that it’s simply a fight for territory or for control of a zone, when in reality it’s a confrontation with organized crime, which is devastating a great part of this country, particularly in Michoacan.”
Groups of Purepecha Indians on Friday inspected the forests of Cheran and discovered a complete lack of police or military presence despite Michoacan Gov. Fausto Vallejo’s pledge that a contingent of 100 police would protect the area from illegal loggers and organized crime elements.
In response, roughly 1,000 Indians took over two toll booths on the highway linking Morelia, Michoacan’s capital, with the Pacific coast for several hours.
The Purepechas say 14 Indians have been shot dead since 2008 by suspected illegal loggers in cahoots with drug cartel mobsters and eight others have gone missing.
The ethnic group said it will hold demonstrations soon in Mexico City and Morelia to call attention to the violence.
The leaders of Cheran announced last year that they would no longer recognize the federal, state and municipal governments because officials could not protect their forests from illegal loggers.
In an interview this week with the newspaper Reforma, Gov. Vallejo urged the federal government to deploy more soldiers and police and provide more social development assistance to prevent organized crime gangs from continuing to dominate that highland region in the northwestern part of the state.
According to Vallejo, although there is a permanent army and federal police presence in that highland area, its topography complicates efforts to monitor the area.
He said the state government does not have the resources to combat the crime problem alone.