The municipio of Cherán is located in the Mexican state of Michoacán, which is situated in the central western portion of Mexico. Like many other Michoacán communities, Cherán was under the yoke of organized crime, bribed politicians and corrupt police. Kidnappings, extortion, murders, and illegal logging of the local forest--the lifeblood of the community--were part of daily life.
In 2011, residents, most of them indigenous and poor, waged an insurrection and declared self-rule in hopes of ridding themselves of the ills that plague so much of Mexico: raging violence, corrupt politicians, a toothless justice system and gangs that have expanded from drug smuggling to extortion, kidnapping and illegal logging.
As a community leader explains; “To defend ourselves, we had to change the whole system — out with the political parties, out with City Hall, out with the police and everything. We had to organize our own way of living to survive”. Thus, on April 15, 2011 a group of women and men using rocks and fireworks attacked a busload of illegal loggers. The loggers were armed with machine guns and associated with the, one of the drug cartels. The community assumed control over the town, expelled the police force and politicians and blocked roads leading to oak forest on a nearby mountain which had been subject to illegal logging by armed gangs supported by corrupt officials.
The new autonomous government is composed of councils elected directly by the people. Following lengthy legal battles, the Mexican government is treating autonomous Cherán as a legal self-governing indigenous community. In this unique form of government, the real power lies wholly with the people. There is not a single decision taken without consensus, from who will get a local job in construction, to the allocation of public services and overseeing the spending of the budget. The authority of the community’s assembly is above any other local governmental body.
Cherán's version of direct democracy provided "a simple solution to the vote-buying and patronage which plague Mexican democracy." Direct democracy, according to one community activist, not only saved the forest, but brought peace: Cherán in 2017 had the lowest homicide rate in the entire state of Michoacán and perhaps even in the entire country of Mexico.
The people of Cherán have one of the most important tools needed to achieve liberty; Courage. Courage to stand against oppressors. Courage that dilutes fear and leads to the freedom.
Here at Freos, we believe in supporting freedom in all it forms, especially supporting those that work against the odds to regain and maintain it for themselves, their family and their community. To that end we have set-up a fund for the town of Cherán and encourage our members and friends to donate what they can. You can donate by using the link below.
We’ll keep you updated on the progress in Cherán and other projects we are supporting. If you know of something we should be considering, please contact us @ firstname.lastname@example.org