Two Years of the Autodefensas Movement in Michoacán, Mexico: Persecution and Politics

(via Upside Down World)

autodefensas community self defense groups in michoacan, mexicoOn February 24, 2013, the citizens of the municipality of Tecalpatepec, in the heart of the Tierra Caliente region of the Mexican state of Michoacán, rose up in armed resistance against the Caballeros Templarios [Knights Templar] cartel. Sick of the violence, the abuses and the indifference and complicity with which the authorities were treating the narcotraffickers, the citizens decided to solve the problems that none of the three levels of government: municipal, state and federal, had dared to confront up to that date. The Autodefensas [Self-Defenses] of Michoacán had been born.

The news spread quickly, and in fewer than three months the municipalities of Buenavista Tomatlán, Coalcomán de Vásquez Pallares and Apatzingán de la Constitución, members of the regions of Tierra Caliente and Sierra-Costa also rose up. 2013 was, on the side of the citizens, a year of confrontations against the criminals; on the side of the governments, on the other hand, it was a year of reflection about the possible solutions to this crisis of legitimacy, which put in doubt nothing less than the monopoly of the State over violence.

In January of 2014, after a period of relative calm, the Self-Defense groups rose up again. The problem that the president, Enrique Peña Nieto, had tried to ignore in 2013 re-emerged in an even more urgent way: the fever of the armed fight had spread in the whole area and the municipalities of Meseta Purépecha, in the mountains [Sierra] and the coast [Costa]. Conscious that the armed movement could not be stopped in any way, the federal government launched a series of means to disarticulate it from within: it created a register for citizens who intended to continue fighting the Templars and detained all those who refused to register themselves in this list; it named a special Commissioner for the pacification of the State, Alfred Castillo, an obscure functionary who had never been involved in “Michoacán issues;” it founded a new police body, the Rural Forces, with the objective of coopting the armed citizens, giving them uniforms, and submitting them to the command of the State.

In mid-December, 2014, for the third time, an ample number of “legitimate” Self-Defenses rose up again and, with more than 30 highway blockades, manifested their disagreement with the governmental management of the crisis, demanding the liberation of the more than 400 members of the Self-Defenses that still remain in prison, the exit Commissioner Castillo and the extinction of the Rural Forces, which had soon revealed itself to be a perfect shelter for those ex-Templars intending to continue committing crimes and abuses, only this time with uniforms and permission to carry guns. A little more than a month later, the federal government satisfied two of these three petitions. Never the less, it was done in a way that, for the zillionth time, confirmed to the citizens of this region, the uselessness of turning to the authorities to solve their problems.

If, by the end of December, the Rural Forces had effectively disappeared, it wasn’t because there was an end to the assassinations, massacres and disappearances: according to the statistics of the Secretary of the Government, Michoacán in 2014 continued to occupy the second highest rate of homicides, with 2,634 cases, and was confirmed as one of the 10 states with the highest rates of kidnapping (121 cases) and extortion (275 cases). On the contrary, the Rural Forces was eliminated to permit that the creation of the “sole command,” a pillar of a pending police reform dating from Felipe Calderon’s “War On Narcotraffic” and inherited by Enrique Peña Nieto. The reform hopes to do away with the country’s 1,800 municipal police departments, putting them under the direct control of the state police of each region. The disrepute of many state police entities, like their proven participation in various crimes, causes the population to see the disintegration of the Rural Forces and the activation of “sole command” only as a subsequent re-structuring of special interests and forces in the countryside. […]

Read full article at: Valentina Valle Baroz. Two Years of the Autodefensas Movement in Michoacán, Mexico: Persecution and Politics. Upside Down World, 24 March 2015.

Popular resistance in Cherán K’eri, Michoacán: communal television & indigenous self-defense forces

Community-television-popular-media-cheran-michoacan-resistenciaIn April of this year, the Purépecha municipality of Cherán K’eri, Michoacán is celebrating four years of its uprising to end the presence of organized crime in its territory. Following the uprising, indigenous women and men not only managed to throw out to the narco cartel, but also expelled all authorities (police, local government and political parties) that supported the illegal activities in the community. They decided to retake their traditional forms of self government to start a long process of building their autonomy. A few months back they inaugurated a new weapon to continue defending their traditions and reaffirm their rejection of the institutional political method: a communal television.

When the community of Cherán K’eri began to organize, one of the fundamental demands of the population was security. The process of self defense that initiated and remains in effect today has results that cannot remain unnoticed: the smiles of the people and the life that animates the plazas and streets is noticeable starting at the entrance of the town.

Local youth conduct a televised interview with one of the members of the local community self-defense group.
Local youth conduct a televised interview with one of the members of the local community self-defense group.

“We now have confidence in our peace, our children walk to school without worry, as does everyone else. We no longer feel that fear that we once had”—shares one member of the community.”

The council of Honor and Justice is in charge of the security of the municipality: while the communal patrol (ronda communitaria) is controlling the city’s entrances and exits, as well as resolving the internal problems of the community. The “Guardabosques” (guardians of the forest), are in charge of protecting the rural zones furthest from the center of town, where the forest is. Each day and by turns, two groups of six people patrol the territory with their truck. It should be noted that for the indigenous Purépecha men and women, the protection and preservation of their forest is both a traditional and spiritual obligation, and therfore it is an essential part of their struggle. Their defense not only includes their security, but also the enormous work of reforestation, whose effects can already be seen.

Members of a community self-defense group (autodefensa) who are tasked with guarding the forest from illegal resource extraction, drug cartels, etc. The community of Cheran has kicked out the local police and government, and has created democratically run community self-defense forces in their place.
Members of a community self-defense group (autodefensa) who are tasked with guarding the forest from illegal resource extraction, drug cartels, etc. The community of Cheran has kicked out the local police and government, and has created democratically run community self-defense forces in their place.

In addition to having strengthened their system of communal security, the people of Cherán changed their entire system of governance. The main council, formed by a group of 12 individuals, lxs K’eris, coordinate the actions of the other councils and commissions. However the ultimate authority of the community is the assembly: in each one of the four neighborhoods that form Cherán, the communards come together to carry forth proposals and make decisions at the general assembly. “Previously, to my memory, never did a municipal president convene a neighborhood general assembly, and much less allowed the people to say what was on their minds. The people couldn’t give an opinion, they (the municipality) only did what was convenient to them.” commented a member of the community. Now, “the agreements come directly from the coordinators of the bonfires, from the bonfires, from the neighborhood reunions”, states another.

It is worth remembering that thanks to the community pressure that was also exerted in the legal arena, the municipality of Cherán K’eri was completely recognized on a federal level as an autonomous municipality. With this victory, Cherán achieved setting a national precedent so that other indigenous municipalities of Mexico can also exercise that right to free self determination.

Even though there has been great advancement in the construction of a new world, the residents of Cherán also know that their struggle is barely starting, and that surely they will have to confront more challenges in the future. The upcoming year is particularly critical: while the Electoral Institute of Michoacán had agreed that the appointment of the authorities of Cherán shall be created by practices and customs, the residents know that the political parties will try to take advantage of the municipal elections that will take place in the state to attempt to return to their community.

Nevertheless, their position is firm: they will do all that is possible to impede their entry. In a system in which the drug traffickers, political classes and transnational businesses work hand by hand to impose their control upon the territories and plunder the natural resources –in this case the forests- the residents are conscious that to return to a system of political parties would represent a huge risk for the defense of their territory.

“For us here in the town the political parties are dead, because they never did anything when we began to defend the forest. Why? Because all of the parties are backed by organized crime. And whoever does not want to see that wants to remain blind to what is happening. That is what I think of the parties: that they are shit.” declares one woman. A youth also comments- “They have asked me many times: What will you do the day that this town returns to the parties? What would I do? I would be the first fucker to return to the front and say “no fucking way here”. No to the political parties, no to that bad government, no to that narco-government”.

people's media producers in cheran - jovenes youth editing at computers video

goals and concepts of community media in cheran - resistance unity organization

[…]

Photos credit: Niñx Salvaje

Read the rest of the article at: El Enemigo Comun and see all of the photos from the series at Agencia Subversiones

Charles E. Cobb, Jr: Guns kept people in the black freedom movement alive

“I’m very much concerned with how the history of the southern freedom movement or civil rights movement is portrayed. And, I’m very conscious of the gaps in the history, and one important gap in the history, in the portrayal of the movement, is the role of guns in the movement. I worked in the South, I lived with families in the South. There was never a family I stayed with that didn’t have a gun. I know from personal experience and the experiences of others, that guns kept people alive, kept communities safe and all you have to do to understand this is simply think of black people as human beings and they’re gonna respond to terrorism the way anybody else would. …The southern freedom movement has become so defined, the narrative of the movement has become so defined by non-violence that anything presented outside that narrative framework really isn’t paid that much attention to. I like the quip that Julian Bond made…that really the way the public understands the civil rights movement can be boiled down to one sentence: Rosa sat down, Martin stood up, then the white folks saw the light and saved the day.”

–Charles E. Cobb Jr., “This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible”

Ayotzinapa protests awaken Mexico from a nightmare

(via ROAR Magazine)

Demonstrators march with crosses with writing that reads in Spanish "Narco Cops" in protest for the disappearance of 43 students in the state of Guerrero, in Mexico City, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014. Federal police detained yesterday Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca and his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda, who are accused of ordering the Sept. 26 attacks on teachers' college students that left six dead and 43 still missing.  (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)The political and humanitarian crisis in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero marks a new low in a country marred by corruption and drug violence. More than a month after the disappearances of 43 students there is still no sign of them, while official government search efforts are laced by ambiguities to say the least.

At the same time the disappearances have stirred up a hornet’s nest that has taken the form of an unparalleled and broad social movement in all corners of Mexico.

Mexico, with Guerrero at its epicenter, seems torn between despair and hope. Despair from the horror of the atrocious events in Iguala, and hope from the structural change promised by the societal response. Which social and political processes have erupted, exactly, and what does this mean for the possibilities of social change in Mexico?

 A breeding ground for revolutionaries

The entrance of the Rural Normal school in Ayotzinapa welcomes her students with murals of Che Guevara, Vladimir Lenin, Friedrich Engels, and Carlos Marx. The disappeared students come from a school with a history of left politics embedded in a special national education program set up to train primary school teachers. Started in 1920, this program has the express goal of social emancipation of the poor. The school has produced two of Guerrero’s most important guerrilla leaders in the seventies and, unsurprisingly, has gained the reputation of being a breeding ground for radical activism.

Contemporary students are the children of farmers and indigenous families living in the poorest and most marginalized areas of Mexico. The school’s position as a hotbed of activism has not gone unnoticed and has constantly forced students to face state repression in the form of chronic underfunding, police violence and criminalization.

 The disappearances

On September 25, a group of Ayotzinapa students went to the nearby town of Iguala to organize transport to the remembrance protest of the 1968 Tlatelolco student massacre. For lack of money, the students appropriated three buses on the fateful night; in response, the mayor of Iguala gave orders to stop the buses “no matter what.” Enforcing the orders, the local police opened fire on several buses, killing six students and bystanders and leaving 25 wounded. The night deteriorated into a head-hunt for the fleeing students, 43 of whom were eventually abducted in police vehicles never to be heard of since.

The response of the government was riddled with exceptional incompetence, as the following events reveal. The day after the drama, the responsible mayor of Iguala requested a leave of absence and went on the run. Meanwhile, the governor of Guerrero and the president of the republic have been involved in a ping-pong game of finger pointing to avoid responsibility. The respected human rights center Tlachinollan, located in Guerrero, has pointed out the serious deficiencies in the official investigation and the search for the students. Consequently, the parents of the disappeared students have announced to only trust the findings of a foreign team of investigators. Mexicans have lost all trust in the authorities to bring the crisis to a just end.

Graffiti spray-painted on the wall in Mexico-City reading ‘narcoestado’, or narco-state
Graffiti spray-painted on the wall in Mexico-City reading ‘narcoestado’ (“narco-state”)

 A public secret revealed

The Iguala events have irrefutably revealed ties between powerful drug cartels, the local police force and the responsible mayor. The interwoven nature of local governments with organized crime is no secret. But the revelations brought to light by the recent events have forced the government to break with their policy of official denial. As president Peña Nieto stated at a press conference, “the Iguala events have revealed the naked truth.”

Ayotzinapa has become the paragon of institutional ties with drug cartels and represents the sickness that has been ailing Mexican society in the form of corruption, extreme violence and impunity for years.

The movement that has risen in response to the Iguala events breaths a certain sense of relief. A family member of an Ayotzinapa student who disappeared a few years ago, relates how the movement has helped her: “Without Ayotzinapa our voices would still be shrouded in silence.”

Where people used to whisper, they now openly agitate against the narcogobierno [drugs government]. This sea change must not be underestimated in the context of the extreme violence and repression which would normally make a public expression of this nature a dangerous act. Ayotzinapa has finally laid bare this public secret.

Thousands protests in the streets of Acapulco on October 17, 2014
Thousands protests in the streets of Acapulco on October 17, 2014

 The perfect storm?

The disappearance of the students has mobilized and brought together diverse local groups from all social strata and regions of Mexican society. Committees of support have been set up in the most remote corners of Mexico, the Zapatistas have held a silent march in Chiapas and famous Mexican actors have declared their solidarity. However, the heart of the movement is located in Iguala, in the Asamblea Nacional Popular (ANP) headed by the parents and schoolmates of the disappeared students.

The strength of the Ayotzinapa movement is based in the coalition of student and teachers organizations. This coalition seems to be the recipe for a perfect storm. Both are at the forefront of the struggle and are flooding Mexican streets with staggering numbers, of which the 50.000 strong demonstration on October 22 in Mexico City has been the largest so far.

In Guerrero, epicenter of the struggle, highways are blockaded daily, government buildings are torched and radio stations occupied and taken over. Students and teachers of leading universities have called various strikes, and there is talk of a general strike to come. To top all this off, teachers associations have set themselves the goal of taking over all of Guerrero’s town halls. At the time of writing the count is set at 22 out of a total of 81.

In recent Mexican history, teachers and students have been the vanguard of social struggles, which has given them an important symbolic value. It also provides the current movement with the needed practical experience and organizational structures to build upon.

 Roots of the movement

Mexican universities are well known for their militant and radical student movements. The latest revival took place in the form of a national movement called #YoSoy132 (#IAm132). The movement started during the presidential election campaigns of 2012 when the students agitated for the democratization of the media because of their their partial reporting, which favored erstwhile presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto. The movement is organized horizontally and made up of 130 local and autonomous assemblies spread all over Mexico, coordinating in its national Interuniversitaria, which has now taken up the cause of the Ayotzinapa students.

Just like #YoSoy132, the radical teachers organizations besmirched the start of the presidential term of Peña Nieto with large-scale protests when he announced controversial neoliberal reforms in education, energy and telecommunications. The democratic section of the national teachers union CNTE, well known for their role in the Oaxaca uprising of 2006, has led the protests against the attempt to privatize Mexican education.

In Guerrero, these militant protests were led by the teachers organization CETEG, which has united the forces of farmers, indigenous people, students and community police, thereby broadening the struggle against the entire neoliberal offensive of the new government. Besides the education reforms, they protested the privatization of the energy sector, destructive mining projects, repression of political activists and the lack of public security.

The Interuniversitaria, CNTE and CETEG are the motor of the current Ayotzinapa movement.

 Banner reading “We are all Ayotzinapa”, “Don’t forgive, or forget”, “Punish those responsible”, “Alive they took them, alive we want them back”
Banner reading “We are all Ayotzinapa”, “Don’t forgive, or forget”, “Punish those responsible”, “Alive they took them, alive we want them back”

 Insecurity unites a diverse movement

“Alive they took them, alive we want them back.” Recurrent in all protests, this slogan expresses the most important demand of the movement: the unharmed return of the students and the punishment of all those responsible for their disappearance. Banners and social media also often show the hash-tag ‘#AyotzinapaSomosTodos’ [#WeAreAllAyotzinapa]. This sends the clear message that this ‘could have happened to anybody in Mexico’. This sad reality of the structural insecurity caused by the deep ties between the corrupt government and organized crime speaks to a diversity of Mexicans and is the glue that binds the Ayotzinapa movement.

A current in the movement articulates Ayotzinapa as a systemic problem. It is mainly the radical teachers organizations which are determined not to settle for the usual course of events in Mexican political crises, namely a reshuffling of the political cards and then back to business as usual. The protesters’ response to the resignation of Guerrero’s governor says it all. “It will not solve anything,” was the loud response after which the mobilization and protests continued with unrelenting zeal. Indeed, the appointment of an interim governor of Guerrero was answered immediately with the demand for his dismissal since he was not chosen by el pueblo, the people, but by the federal government. On their own terms, the Ayotzinapa movement demands the dissolution of the municipal, state and federal governments. As they say in Mexico, “The cob must be stripped of all its corn.”

The broad coalition that makes up the Ayotzinapa movement has its internal complexities and tensions. The issue of insecurity speaks just as well to people who want a properly functioning liberal democracy as to radical groups that would like to see far-reaching political change. This is evident from the following examples.

A few days after the disappearance of the students, shopkeepers and merchants of Guerrero’s capital Chilpancingo joined the protest demanding the resignation of the governor. The extreme violence in the region has been seriously affecting commerce in Chilpancingo, leading to this groups’ participation. Under a similar pretext of insecurity, 200 striking police officers in Acapulco joined the struggle. While the middle classes focus on the issue of insecurity, a group of socialist students of the Ayotzinapa movement choose a more fundamental focus.

The students have decided to temporarily occupy two mega-stores in Chilpancingo to hand out food and basic supplies. Electronics and luxury items remain untouched, which makes it different from ordinary plundering, but rather sends a clear political statement that inequality is at the root of the problems in Mexico. This message also resonates in many of the highway blockades, where the Ayotzinapa movement gives civil vehicles free passage but denies it completely to the trucks of multinationals like Coca Cola and BIMBO, symbols of the inequality of the capitalist system.

The different currents that feed the Ayotzinapa movement are its strength because of the broad support. At the same time, the divergent currents carry with them the risk of fragmentation.

 From de-escalation to militarization

During the first month of protests, the government was surprisingly peaceful in its response. Even when more militant actions occurred, like setting fire to government buildings or occupations of town halls, the authorities did not intervene. The government seemed to be hoping for a fiery but short lived movement that would burn out by itself. Besides, this de-escalation strategy was at the time the only realistic course of action since a new victim of state violence would only have heightened the flames of discontent.

However, the government did employ its usual tactic of discrediting the students and teachers by labeling them as dangerous and radical vandals. More recently they have even stooped to the level of accusing the Ayotzinapa students of being allied to a drug cartel. Strikingly enough, these accusations have not had the sought-after effect on the people.

On October 29, more than a month into the protests, the first violent confrontation with the military police forces took place when teachers of CETEG attempted to occupy the Casa Guerrero, the White House of Guerrero. Meanwhile, the government is taking over control of the cities of Guerrero as well as twelve municipalities. A large-scale militarization of the region is taking place, denounced by the teachers organizations as an attempt to suppress the movement. Now that more and more anger is directed towards the president himself, the chances of a violent intervention are growing by the day.

 Self-organization: leading by example

The long-standing community police forces of Guerrero are an inspiration to the Ayotzinapa movement. When people speak of real solutions to rising insecurity, they are quick to refer to the self-organized community police, “where the people do it themselves.”

Indigenous communities, mostly, have organized their police groups based on their own culture and organizational structures. The police are directly responsive to the community which governs and controls their activities. The areas where the community police is active are seen as the safest places in Guerrero.

UPOEG is one of the community police organizations which has gained a lot of respect by immediately organizing search parties for the disappeared students, coordinating their efforts with the parents. As such, UPOEG is filling the void left by the government and shows the power and possibilities of self-organization. Besides its policing role, UPOEG is also putting forward a plan to create a ‘fourth level of government’ next to the existing federal, state and municipal structure of Mexico. This would take the shape of a ‘council of community leaders’ with the aim of pulling political power to the bottom of Mexican society: the communities.

Self-organization in Guerrero is referred to by the Ayotzinapa movement as an example of what another Mexico might look like.

Satirical version of Time Magazine cover depicting president Peña Nieto as Death, with the accompanying text “Slaying Mexico”
Satirical version of Time Magazine cover depicting president Peña Nieto as Death, with the accompanying text “Slaying Mexico”

 The importance of international pressure

The fear that political instability will disrupt Mexican commercial interests makes the country highly susceptible to international pressure. This was apparent when the Zapatistas rose up in 1994 during the implementation of the NAFTA free trade agreement. The pressure exerted on Mexico as a response to the international solidarity movement was of crucial importance in the course of the Zapatista struggle.

The Mexican government does not want to lose her image as ‘stable’ and ‘open for business’. The protesters in Mexico are well aware of this fact. They have made a satirical version of the cover of the influential Time Magazine and spread it far and wide via social media. The image parodies an edition of Time with Peña Nieto ‘Saving Mexico’ on the front cover. The parody depicts the president as Death with a scythe in his hand, accompanied by the text “Slaying Mexico.” This is a firm call for international pressure.

International intellectuals supported the struggle with a critical open letter to president Peña Nieto signed by Noam Chomsky, Umberto Eco and more than two-thousand other academics.

Once more, it is of crucial importance that the eyes of the world are turned to Mexico to restrain its government from using all-out repression against the Ayotzinapa movement. The course of struggle is unclear, and a burst of violence lurks in every corner, just like the possibility for social change. One thing is certain: a diverse group of Mexicans is envisioning Another Mexico, which now more than ever, is possible.

Maggie Blanca is an independent journalist and PhD student in Cultural Anthropology.

Jeremy Crowlesmith is an independent journalist based in Utrecht, the Netherlands, with a background in student organizing and independent media.

Amazon indigenous warriors beat down illegal loggers and torch their equipment, in battle for jungle’s future

(via Earth First Journal)

amazon-logging-1

A group of warriors from Brazil’s indigenous Ka’apor tribe tracked down illegal loggers in the Amazon, tied them up, stripped them and beat them with sticks.

Photographer Lunae Parracho followed the Ka’apor warriors during their jungle expedition to search for and expel illegal loggers from the Alto Turiacu Indian territory in the Amazon basin.

Tired of what they say is a lack of sufficient government assistance in keeping loggers off their land, the Ka’apor people, who along with four other tribes are the legal inhabitants and caretakers of the territory, have sent their warriors out to expel all loggers they find and set up monitoring camps.

Last year, the Brazilian government said that annual destruction of its Amazon rain forest jumped by 28 percent after four straight years of decline. Based on satellite images, it estimated that 5,843 square kilometres of rain forest were felled in the one-year period ending July 2013.

The Amazon rain forest is considered one of the world’s most important natural defences against global warming because of its capacity to absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide. Rain forest clearing is responsible for about 75 percent of Brazil’s emissions, as vegetation is burned and felled trees rot. Such activity releases an estimated 400 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, making Brazil at least the sixth-biggest emitter of carbon dioxide gas.

(Photo Credit: Lunae Parracho/Reuters)
amazon-logging-5
amazon-logging-8

“In America, Young Black Men Have No Right to Life”

St. Louis County Police tactical officers fire tear gas in downtown Ferguson on Monday as crowds gathered to express their anger at the teenage student's death at the hands of police“There are lots of pictures coming out of Ferguson, Missouri, a two-thirds Black town just outside St. Louis, where a policeman shot down Michael Brown, this past weekend. The 18 year-old’s last words before dying were: “I don’t have a gun, stop shooting.” The cop kept shooting anyway. The pictures show Brown’s body in the middle of the street, where it was left for four hours in the baking sun.

Other pictures show Brown’s grief-stricken mother, and his stepfather carrying a sign that said, “Ferguson police just executed my unarmed son.” There are plenty of images from the two nights of disturbances in the town, where there isn’t really much to loot. However, I think the most poignant picture shows young Blacks blocking the street in front of the Ferguson police department, their upraised arms signaling surrender, just as young Michael did before the cop administered the coup de grace.

How different that picture would have been in 1966, when young Black people in California responded to murderous police violence with armed patrols of their own, under the newly formed Black Panther Party for Self Defense. The Party declared that Black people had just as much right to defend themselves as white people, including the right to defend themselves from the police, who act as an occupying army. Which is, of course, a self-evident truth.

Black Panthers bringing guns to capitol to protest gun control
On May 2, 1967, Black Panthers amassed at the Capitol in Sacramento brandishing guns to protest a bill before an Assembly committee restricting the carrying of arms in public. Self-defense was a key part of the Panthers’ agenda. This was an early action, a year after their founding. (source)

The Black Panther Party’s vigorous assertion of the right to self-defense prompted the U.S. government to double-down on its monopoly on the use of force – first, with a massive campaign of assassination and false imprisonment against Black radical leadership, many of whom still remain behind bars. Then, as the decade of the Seventies began, mass Black incarceration became the universal policy of the United States – north, south, east and west. A new class of Black politicians filled the void that police repression had created. These were men and women who were quite amenable to corporate rule and made comfortable homes in the Democratic Party. Even as the prison population rose to nine times 1970 levels, the Black Misleadership Class blissfully celebrated its own upward mobility.

Meanwhile, the Mass Incarceration State consumed millions of Black lives and consigned most Black communities to Constitution-free zones, where young Blacks could be arrested for nothing, or shot down in the streets with impunity, as was Michael Brown, and as happens to other young Blacks every day of the year.

The people who rule America no longer need Black labor. What they do need is a class that is forcibly anchored at the bottom of U.S. society, who can be scapegoated for whatever is wrong with America, and whose very presence serves as an excuse for massive urban dislocation and the steady erosion of civil liberties. Michael Brown and countless others have died in order to keep America deeply stratified. That’s the only use the United States has for young Black men.”

— Glen Ford (via Black Agenda Report)

 

Breaking the Curse of Forgotten Places: Reflections from the Comunitario Movement in Michoácan, Mexico

Comunitario at barricade in Michoacan, Mexico“The first successful strategy for community based self-defense against the Knights Templar cartel in Michoacán came about on April 15th, 2011 in the indigenous Purépecha community of Cherán, Michoacán. The implications of the success of this original uprising against the Knights Templar and the narco-government are immeasurable; however, what is evident today is that the strategy has spread contagiously throughout the state and has now even inspired non-indigenous mestizo communities to replicate it. Since February of 2013 a variety of communities, both indigenous and mestizo, have risen up in arms, evicted municipal police from their municipalities, have evicted the Knights Templar cartel from their territories, and have begun to engage in self-governing strategies founded upon a consensus-based general assembly model. Most non-indigenous mestizo communities in the state of Michoacán have been known to be racist towards indigenous peoples and communities of the state. To now see these mestizo communities exercise indigenous strategies for community liberation is truly historic and ground breaking. […] “

Read full article at El Enemigo Común.

Deconstructing recent propaganda surrounding “vigilante groups” in Southern Mexico

The corrupt local government was kicked out of the town, and replaced with a traditional indigenous form of communal self-governance, centered around democratic community assemblies.
The corrupt local government of Cheran, Michoacán, was kicked out of the town, and replaced with a traditional indigenous form of communal self-governance, centered around democratic community assemblies.

There is a lot of propaganda in the corporate media right now regarding community self-defense groups (“autodefensas”) in Mexico. Papers such as the LA Times, the Guardian, and Washington Post are calling them “vigilante groups” to give the image of random gangs of people running around with guns and arbitrarily shooting people they don’t like, and is talking about how the government is coming in to “restore peace”.

First of all, regarding the term “vigilante”, most of these groups are not random individuals with guns “taking the law into their own hands”. They are well-organized groups of trusted/respected citizens, who have decided that they want the cartels out of town. They have also decided that the police and government are controlled by the cartels, and so they need to go as well. Autodefensas are the result of community members coming together and deciding that they wanted to take their town back from the cartels, and that the only way to do this was to take up arms against them.This movement for self-determination and community self-defense is spreading like wildfire, in dozens of towns across southern Mexico.

Formerly housing the corrupt, cartel-controlled local government, this building has now been converted into a community building.
Formerly housing the corrupt, cartel-controlled local government, this building has now been converted into a community building.

Second, regarding the military coming in to “restore peace” — they are talking about the “peace” of living under constant terror from the cartels controlling these towns, people being tortured and beheaded, laws made by corrupt politicians and cops that work for the cartels. This is what the military is coming in to restore. The drug cartels, the rich, and the Mexican government cannot be considered as separate groups — at the top, you have the same people benefiting from all three. These criminal elites are terrified about what is happening in Michoacán — people taking back community power by force, kicking out the cops and governments that give the cartels/rich their power. This is why there is suddenly this wave of propaganda coming out of the corporate media in both Mexico and the U.S. trying to paint these groups as “vigilantes”. This is why the Mexican government is sending in the military to restore the “order” of their criminal syndicates controlling the towns. When you hear the corporate media say that the Mexican army is coming in to “restore order”, know that this is code for the cartel-dominated army coming in to put the cartels back in charge of these towns, and brutally kill all of the people who tried to take back their own communities.

Please, whenever you see your friends sharing these propaganda articles from the NY Times, Washington Post, LA Times, etc. regarding “vigilante groups”, help them understand the reality of the situation. Deconstruct the propaganda for them, and promote the use of the term “community self-defense” instead of the loaded term “vigilante”.

Here is a great documentary (~45 minutes) about the community self-defense groups in the town of Cheran, Michoacán: