Mexico

The Mexican Town That Kicked Out the Cartels—and Told the Police and Political Parties to Get Lost Too

Five years of autonomy in Cheran

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Almost a thousand miles south of Houston, the Mexican town of Cheran was once afflicted by gangsters who had branched into the timber trade. They killed, they kidnapped, and they kept cutting down trees that they didn't have a right to take. And so, the BBC reports,

Eneas De Troya/Creative Commons

on Friday 15 April 2011, Cheran's levantamiento, or uprising, began. On the road coming down from the forest outside Margarita's home, the women blockaded the loggers' pick-ups and took some of them hostage. As the church bells of El Calvario rang out and fireworks exploded in the dawn sky alerting the community to danger, the people of Cheran came running to help. It was tense—hotheads had to be persuaded by the women not to string up the hostages from an ancient tree outside the church….

The municipal police arrived with the mayor, and armed men came to free their hostage-friends. There was an uneasy stand-off between the townspeople, the loggers and the police. It ended after two loggers were injured by a young man who shot a firework directly at them….

The police and local politicians were quickly driven out of town because the people suspected they were collaborating with the criminal networks. Political parties were banned—and still are—because they were deemed to have caused divisions between people….

Meanwhile armed checkpoints were established on the three main roads coming in to town.

Today, five years later, those checkpoints still exist. They are guarded by members of the Ronda Comunitaria—a militia or local police force made up of men and women from Cheran.

Now that the gangsters are no longer raiding the forest, the locals manage the resource, in what sounds like the sort of community-based system that the late Elinor Ostrom frequently wrote about. Meanwhile, the BBC's writer notes that "in the last year there have been no murders, kidnaps or disappearances" in Cheran, even as such crimes are common in communities just a few kilometers away. The place hasn't declared independence—various sorts of government funding are still flowing, and when serious crimes do occur the attorney general can prosecute them—but the town of 20,000 has achieved a remarkable level of autonomy.

To read the whole thing, go here. To read about some other efforts in the area to battle the cartels outside the state, go here—and to see how the state eventually absorbed those efforts, go here. And even further south, to read about a village in Colombia that kicked out all armed groups, from right-wing paramilitaries to left-wing guerrillas to officially sanctioned soldiers and cops, go here.

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  1. Can you imagine how the US government(s) would respond?

    1. No, not at all. I can’t imagine.

    2. Ruby something… come back to me.

      1. Waco … with drones and Hellfire missiles.

    3. Clark County Nevada, and Harney/Malheur Counties in Oregon.

  2. “Take thy penny and be on thy way.”

  3. You say “vigilante mob” I say “ad hoc government”.

  4. Good find Jesse. Thanks for sharing.

  5. They killed, they kidnapped, and they kept cutting down trees that they didn’t have a right to take. And so, the BBC reports,

    There was an uneasy stand-off between the townspeople, the loggers and the police. It ended after two loggers were injured by a young man who shot a firework directly at them….

    One of these stories is not like the other one. That or the descriptions of murder, theft, and kidnapping in Cheran aren’t consistent with descriptions of murder, theft, and kidnapping in other parts of Mexico.

      1. Mexico’s biggest cartel is leaderless, and drug violence may be about to intensify

        In mid-June, 150 armed men descended on a small community called La Tuna in the central highlands of Mexico’s Sinaloa state, looting homes and leaving multiple people dead.

        The gunmen, who are believed to have been affiliated with the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO), also forced Consuelo Loera, the mother of Sinaloa cartel chief Joaqu?n “El Chapo” Guzm?n, from her home.

        Hell, the standoff in N. Dakota was more violent and high tension.

        1. Well, the theft and murder preceded the standoff, obviously.

          1. Almost like the people who did all the murdering and kidnapping weren’t the loggers or the murdering and kidnapping were only incidental to the logging.

            This town didn’t take up arms and run off a cartel, it took up arms and kicked out the slaves and laborers the cartel left behind.

  6. So, brown people living under a strict gun control regime managed to not only acquire guns, but used them to defend themselves from armed criminals of both the badge-wearing and non-badge-wearing variety? This is like a progressive horror story.

    1. The fact that the loggers were deterred by fireworks makes it sound like James Franco could’ve flown in on a hot air balloon and liberated these people.

      1. “fireworks” covers a lot of ground. People used to use quarter sticks of dynamite as fireworks. I can only imagine what kind of improvised explosives I could make with gunpowder, ready made fuses and lots of magnesium. I’d be ready to roll against anything smaller than an MRAP.

        1. Isn’t the term du jour improvised explosive?

          Either way, fireworks to run off the lumberjacks is a different story than improvised explosives to route a cartel.

      2. you’ve not been in Mexico and explored the many fun (and thence deadly when used to that end) fireworks availble there. Why, even in states that allow the “unsafe and insane” sorts of stuff that make California politicians wet their Depends, there are plenty of things that can easily kill and seriouslly maim, and even if they don’t rise to that level of results, turn even most loggers “code brown” if landed close enough to them. I’ve worked with some legal pyrotechnics that can easily kill, and have done. An 8 ounce cheap chinese bottle rocket (probably about ten pesos at the time, there) has enough of a blast charge to kill if it deploys near enough the face/head of a human. I say “good on” the muchacho who rose to the occasion.
        Like Mas Ayoob is well known to say: any gun will do, if YOU will do. By extension, any other thing will do it you will use it toward your determined end.

    2. From “Mexico Shows That Tight Gun Control Laws Don’t Guarantee Compliance”:

      The Geneva-based Small Arms Survey estimated (PDF) in 2007 that Mexicans owned about 15.5 million guns, of which 4.5 million were registered in compliance with the law.

      Mexicans tend to ignore laws they don’t like?

  7. Meanwhile armed checkpoints were established on the three main roads coming in to town.

    Today, five years later, those checkpoints still exist.

    So are we for restricted movement and immigration now?
    Are there legitimate reasons to deny totally free movement to others?

    1. Only if you’re brown.

      If you’re a first would country not giving anyone free roam over your home if evil, or something.

      1. They’re living in the parts of Mexico that are flyover country for the people in this country who live in flyover country.

      2. I’m pretty sure no one is obliged to give anyone free roam over their home, in the US anyway.

    2. Well, if the town is the private property of the residents, and they all agree, they can do whatever they want.

      And if it’s necessary as a temporary measure for self defense, it’s certainly excusable if the alternative is violent gangs of criminals and crooked police running things.

      And I don’t think you will find that too many people, when speaking in practical terms, are opposed to having armed checkpoints on national borders, at least.

    3. you did not READ the article…. the checkpoints are there, not to impede passage, but to assure any who are passing have legitimate reason and are not equipped or disposed to destruction. I’ve driven through all of Mexico, and at the border of every state there are checkpoints, armed military or local police do stop every vehicle and “check”…..

  8. The police and local politicians were quickly driven out of town

    Gasp! Have these people not heard of…Somalia? ROADZZZ!!!!!

  9. We can’t do that here because fireworks are illegal.

  10. Political parties were banned?and still are?because they were deemed to have caused divisions between people….

    So we finally have a real libertarian moment, it happens in Mexico, and this thread only has 15 comments?

  11. Meanwhile armed checkpoints were established on the three main roads coming in to town.

    Today, five years later, those checkpoints still exist. They are guarded by members of the Ronda Comunitaria?a militia or local police force made up of men and women from Cheran.

    This is the kind of shit that warms the hell out of my heart. It’s also the kind of thing the UN gets jumpy about if a civil war breaks out, and in their hamfisted methods of trying to “stop the cycle of violence”, they would identify the leaders of Ronda Comunitaria as “warlords” (lumped in with every other group regardless of motivation) and demand they disarm.

  12. Proves that Communism works at the local level. Right?

    1. Just wait until the pigs and the horses have a falling out over how much timber revenue they need and how to spend it.

      1. Well pigs and horses don’t really like apples and butter but they need it to stay strong leaders.

  13. These are exactly the kind of anti-government grass-roots activists that we need more of in the U.S.

  14. For anyone with Netflix, this doc covers a similar movement in another part of the country.

  15. Mexican town of Cheran is one of the place people afraid of. So many times this place was attacked by terrorist. It is important to save the people who lives in this place. I am really sad to know about the activities they were done in Mexican town. I am working to Mobile app development and i am sure this will be successful one in my life.

  16. It is common in all places like Mexicon Town. we should aware of the things that will come to our place tio. As you know there are so many Online flower delivery Dubai you can see. It is important to choose the reputed one for fulfil your dreams with all your needs.

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