Thursday, May 05, 2011

Mexican Indian Town Fights to Keep Out Illegal Loggers

MEXICO CITY – A small Indian town in Mexico has blocked roads in an effort to keep out illegal loggers who are protected by gunmen from organized crime groups, an attorney told Efe.

Cheran, located in the western state of Michoacan, has been plagued for three years by the illegal logging of its forests, which residents use in a sustainable manner, attorney David Peña said.

Gunmen began guarding the trucks used by loggers about 18 months ago, when residents tried to stop the illegal activity, Peña said.

Nine people have been murdered and five others disappeared after they confronted the criminals, the attorney said.

Three people have been murdered since mid-April, when residents closed off access to the community because officials took no action to help them.

“If the government does not have the ability to protect them, they are going to take care of themselves,” Peña said.

Classes have been cancelled in the town of 19,000, the majority of whom belong to the Purepecha tribe.

Residents managed to get the gunmen out of Cheran and closed off the entrances to the town with burning buses.

One person was shot in the head during the clash and is near death, the attorney said.

A delegation from the town met with federal Government Secretariat officials and asked that Federal Police officers be sent to the town.

Nothing has been done to end the illegal logging and violence, even though complaints have been filed with state, federal and environmental prosecutors, Peña said.

Residents do not want state police to guard their land because they consider the force less qualified for the job and suspect that some officers work with drug traffickers, the attorney said.

Michoacan has been the scene in recent months of numerous violent incidents blamed on the La Familia Michoacana drug cartel and the newly formed Caballeros Templarios gang.

Illegal logging is a problem across Mexico, where organized crime groups are involved in the activity, contributing to deforestation. EFE

Latin American Herald Tribune article
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