70% of Local Schools Shut Down, Affecting Over 75,000 students
By Edward V. Byrne for The Yucatan Times
September 4, 2011
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In Mexico’s former tourism capital of Acapulco over 70% of the schools are closed, leaving 75,000 students idle just as fall classes resume across the country. Teachers are refusing to return to work after receiving an anonymous message which threatened them with kidnapping unless they turned over 50% of their salaries to unknown extortionists. The message was distributed August 25.
According to today’s CNN-Mexico report classes have been suspended at all levels, from preschools to high schools, and about 5,000 teachers are participating in the work stoppage. During a press conference union members said they will not return due to the extortion demand and the lack of security. They asked the media not to publish their names or broadcast video of their faces, citing a fear of reprisal. Acapulco has 870 schools with a total of 160,000 students, CNN said, and the strike may spread further next week.
Acapulco is located on the Pacific coast in the Mexican state of Guerrero. For generations it was a popular port of call and a prime destination for North American and European visitors. In recent years it has become a virtual war zone, and one of the most dangerous areas in the country. Drug-related killings are weekly if not daily events, often committed with a degree of violence shocking even to seasoned investigators and members of the press following Mexico’s five year old narco war. The local tourist trade has all but collapsed as a result.
Government officials are doing their best to get the teachers to return to work, and special security sweeps are underway in Acapulco. Mexican ground and naval forces are participating, as well as federal, state and local police. A Guerrero state official quoted by CNN said that “We’re looking forward to continue meeting with the teachers, to convince them to return to work. They’ve demanded security and we guarantee it.”
But one local teacher says she received another threatening message Friday (September 2). The woman told CNN, “We’re not asking for a special police force to protect teachers, we’re just asking for security.” Some union members expressed a lack of confidence in state and local officials, and said they will seek help from the federal government.