Friday, September 16, 2011
Teachers in Acapulco: "There's nothing to celebrate;" schools there remain closed
Two weeks ago I reported on the shutdown of hundreds of public schools in Acapulco on Mexico's Pacific Coast, just as fall classes were resuming. Here's my original story in The Yucatan Times: http://www.theyucatantimes.com/2011/09/schools-close-in-acapulco-over-narco-terror/. Teachers refused to return to work after criminals sent them anonymous text and email messages threatening kidnapping -- or worse -- unless they turned over half of their paychecks. That's right -- 50% of their earnings. That kind of brash extortion is routine with drug cartels.
Hundreds of schools have been closed since late August, affecting thousands of maestros and tens of thousands of students. The government is begging educators to return to work, but so far there's been no resolution. The Acapulco's teachers' union appears to be strong, popular with its members and determined to go the distance until major security reforms are put into place. Those include new security cameras in schools, "panic buttons" in each classroom which would enable a teacher to summon help in case of an emergency, telephone lines with a direct connection to local police and greater law enforcement vigilance around schools. The unstated but surely well understood fact is that none of those measures will protect a teacher from kidnapping or other acts of violence away from school property -- just where they're most likely to occur.
As I noted in my Times article, Acapulco has become a virtual war zone and is now one of the most dangerous areas in Mexico. Drug-related killings are weekly if not daily events. The tourist trade has suffered severe damage as a result.
Also on extortion: http://www.theyucatantimes.com/2011/09/life-sentence-for-mexican-extortionists-%E2%80%93-first-time-ever/
at 4:14 PM