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Cheran(BBC): In Mexico, organised crime reaches everywhere, even into the smallest village – except for one small town in the state of Michoacan. Led by local women, the people of Cheran rose up to defend their forest from armed loggers – and kicked out police and politicians at the same time.
The women met in secret to make their plans. They were sickened by the killings and kidnaps that had become routine and angered by the masked men who roamed their town demanding extortion payments from small businesses. And for more than three years they had watched, indignant, as truck after truck trundled past their homes piled high with freshly cut logs.
Mexico’s cartels once focused mainly on the drugs trade, but they have diversified their business model, and now seek to dominate any lucrative industry – including timber, the foundation of Cheran’s economy.
By 2011, the loggers were getting close to one of Cheran’s water springs.
“We were worried,” remembers Margarita Elvira Romero, one of the conspirators. “If you cut the trees, there’s less water. Our husbands have cattle – where would they drink if the spring was gone?”
Map of Mexico, with Cheran marked in red
A forest guard, and map of Cheran (in red), in Michoacan, Mexico
A group of women went into the forest to try and reason with the armed men. They were verbally abused and chased away. So their plan evolved. Now they knew it was too dangerous to confront the loggers in the forest at the spring, they determined to stop the trucks in town where they would have the support of their neighbours.
Early 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.