MORELIA, Mexico – Two residents of Cheran, a rebel city in the western Mexican state of Michoacan, were apparently kidnapped by rivals involved in a long-running land dispute, community leaders said.
Guadalupe Jeronimo and Urbano Macias are missing, an attorney for the Indians told Efe on condition of anonymity.
The two men may have been abducted by the rival community of El Cerecito, the Purepecha High Council, which governs Cheran under traditional law, said.
Relatives said the men left on Sunday for the mountains north of Cheran, where their plots are located, and have not returned, the attorney said.
“They always return as it gets dark, but this time they did not,” the lawyer said by telephone.
Urbano contacted his family on Sunday night and told them he and his friend had been abducted by people from the neighboring community, the attorney said.
Police are combing the area for the missing Indians, Michoacan state government spokesmen told Efe.
Cheran, where some 4,500 Indians live, is located 123 kilometers (76 miles) from Morelia, the capital of Michoacan.
The community is in the heart of the Meseta Purepecha, where Indians announced last year that they would no longer recognize the federal, state and municipal governments because officials could not protect their forests from the illegal loggers who work with organized crime groups.
Cheran and El Cerecito have fought for some time over the forests, especially illegal logging, with both communities claiming the land.
Eight Indians died in a shootout triggered by the land dispute on April 18.
The shootout started when some Purepecha Indians, the majority Indian group in Michoacan, were on patrol to prevent illegal cutting of pine and oak trees in the community of El Puerto.
Two Indians were killed and several others wounded by illegal loggers from El Cerecito, who opened fire on them with assault rifles.
Another group of Indians headed into the forest and engaged the illegal loggers in a shootout, killing six of them, including two who were found by police inside a burning SUV.
Cheran has been barricaded for more than a year to protect residents from organized crime groups.
The Indians, who do not recognize the illegal loggers as members of their tribe because of the damage they have done to the forests, have set up checkpoints at Cheran’s five entrances, even keeping out the police. EFE