Mexican Town Defends Itself From Drug Violence By Throwing Out The Police

The Christian Science Monitor on dreaming up alternative methods of community governance, via the successful case of an indigenous town plagued by criminal gangs from the outside:

The indigenous town of Cherán used to be like many places in Mexico, caving under the weight of drug-related crime and a police force that did little to stop it. But about two years ago, citizens here threw out the police, and took over their local government, running the town according to indigenous tradition. So far, they’ve had remarkable success.

The Purépecha indigenous people have lived in this area for centuries, relying on a mix of subsistence farming and selective timber harvesting. But eventually national political parties gained influence in the village, and five years ago, so did illegal loggers with ties to drug mafias. Eventually, the police intervened, but on behalf of the loggers. So the townspeople threw everyone out: loggers, police, and politicians, too.

The townspeople closed the roads into town, kept vigil around bonfires, and started dreaming up their own system of government, based on Purépecha traditions. They appointed a twelve member indigenous council – of which both Ramirez and Estrada de las Casas. About six months after, the Mexican state granted the town a degree of legal autonomy to govern itself on the local level, according to indigenous tradition.

At a checkpoint on the edge of Cherán, four members of the indigenous guard keep watch. They’re dressed in black cargo pants tucked into heavy boots, and black t-shirts, rifles slung casually across their chests. Santiago Rodriguez is 18 years old, and has been working here for almost two years. Rodriguez says that illegal loggers still pass through sometimes, and that they can be confrontational, but says kidnappings and attacks are mostly a thing of the past.

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  • jnana

    won’t be long before centralized gov’t crumbles and this kinda thing becomes normal(local governance, that is). Centralized gov’t becoming too much of a hassle, why don’t they just abdicate their power and let us take care of ourselves. We’re mature enough by now, right?

  • Juan

    Good for them. I wish them every success.

  • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

    Makes sense to me.

  • manlio310

    finally some people take matters into their own hands

  • http://www.facebook.com/420smokebreak Alice Masterson

    I hope them them the best of luck, may God be with them all. If they can just keep those crooked ass politicans out of their town, that’s how the cartels run things, through those people…who are working for them in govt. If they can keep them out, stick to their plan now…they can have a great community and thrive well beyond the other states in Mexico! When you have entire police dept getting fired, then you have some very big issues in govt…and repressing the media, reporters being killed, not being allowed to report on the real dealings and goings on in their towns, that’s a big time cover-up by the cartel! I sure hope this place will stay in control and not allow greed to take over their system.Best of luck to you all, may the Lord bless you greatly!

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