Acapulco, Mexico: 140 Elementary Schools Close Over Threats By Drug Gangs

30 Aug

By ADRIANA GOMEZ LICON – Associated Press | AP :

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Only one week into the school year, 140 elementary schools in the Pacific resort city of Acapulco closed Monday after teachers refused to show up for fear of extortion threats and kidnappings by drug gangs.

About 600 teachers in the slums on Acapulco’s mountainsides said they were intimidated by recent cases of extortion and abduction, said Julio Bernal, schools delegate for the southern Mexican state of Guerrero. Bernal said 140 of about 1,400 schools in Acapulco didn’t open.

Two teachers said at least four of their peers had been kidnapped on the outskirts of Acapulco in the past eight days. The teachers agreed to discuss the situation only if their names were not used, saying they feared for their safety.

One of the teachers, who works at an elementary school, said she had seen men drive by the school with rifles sticking out vehicle windows. She said fellow teachers had received extortion threats demanding they give half of their salaries or face attack.

The second teacher said dozens of his peers have asked the government to assign more police officers to schools of six subdivisions but their plight has been ignored.

“Authorities are turning a deaf ear,” he said.

Guerrero state police chief Ramon Almonte, who is in charge of school safety, didn’t return calls seeking comment. But Almonte previously told reporters that no teacher had reported abductions to police in recent days.

Schools in the region have been caught in the middle of a vicious turf war between drug gangs.

Teachers and school administrators in Ciudad Juarez, a border city across from El Paso, Texas, have also reported receiving threats and extortion demands in the past. Last week, gunmen attacked a group of parents waiting for their children outside an elementary school in Juarez, wounding one man and four women.

Both Acapulco and Ciudad Juarez have been hit with a wave of drug violence since Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive in December 2006 against drug-trafficking organizations.

Police in Ciudad Juarez exhumed the skeletal remains, including five skulls, of seven people in a cotton field Monday. The Chihuahua state Attorney General’s Office said officers suspected the bodies had been there for two years.

In southern Chihuahua state, police discovered seven bodies, of six men and one woman, buried together in a mountain town.

The victims were found in the town of Guachochi over the weekend. Authorities said most had been strangled, while one had been shot in the head. All the victims had their hands tied behind their backs.

The seven had gone missing earlier this month, authorities said Monday.

___

Associated Press writer Ricardo Chavez in Ciudad Juarez contributed to this report.

NEWS UPDATE: ADDITION:

Federal police officers check vehicles in Monterrey, Mexico, Monday, Aug. 29, 2011. Police in northern Mexico arrested five alleged members of the Zetas drug cartel suspected of setting a casino fire that killed 52 people, authorities said Monday. (AP Photo/Hans-Maximo Musielik)

Federal police officers check vehicles in Monterrey, Mexico, Monday, Aug. 29, 2011. …

Federal police officers, left, and soldiers patrol in Monterrey, Mexico, Monday, Aug. 29, 2011. Police in northern Mexico arrested five alleged members of the Zetas drug cartel suspected of setting a casino fire that killed 52 people, authorities said Monday. (AP Photo/Hans-Maximo Musielik)

Federal police officers, left, and soldiers patrol in Monterrey, Mexico, Monday, …

 

MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) — Police in northern Mexico have arrested five alleged members of the Zetas drug cartel suspected of setting a casino fire that killed 52 people, authorities said Monday.

Nuevo Leon state Gov. Rodrigo Medina said police were looking for two other suspects.

The five detained men, aged 18 to 37, confessed to participating in the attack Thursday at the Casino Royale and of belonging to the Zetas drug cartel, the governor said, and some had been arrested before for kidnapping or extortion.

Police are investigating whether the attack in the city of Monterrey was in retaliation for not paying extortion money.

The attack “was directed at the casino, not at the people,” Medina said in at a news conference where he also showed a video where two men are seen at filling large jugs with gasoline at a gas station near the crime scene.

Jorge Domene, security spokesman for Nuevo Leon state, said late Monday that he has asked for help from the Mexican government to track down brothers Raul and Jorge Rocha Cantu, who he identified as the casino’s owners. Domene said relatives told police that the men were in the U.S., but he said he didn’t know where.

A surveillance tape of Thursday’s fire shows eight or nine men arriving in four cars and carrying canisters into the Casino Royale. In little more than two minutes, the casino is in flames and choking black smoke churns from the building.

According to witnesses, the gunmen burst into the casino and shouted for people to get out, saying they were burning the place down. But people ran farther inside the building and many were found dead from smoke inhalation in offices and bathrooms.

President Felipe Calderon has offered a $2.4 million reward for information leading to the capture of the casino’s attackers, an amount comparable to rewards offered for the arrest of the country’s top drug lords.

The attack shocked Mexicans in part because most of the victims were middle class women who frequented the casino with friends.

Mexico’s first lady, Margarita Zavala, visited three of the 10 survivors at a Monterrey hospital on Monday.

On Sunday, hundreds of people clad in white held signs demanding an end to the violence, as well as the resignation of the governor and Monterrey’s mayor.

The city has seen a spike in drug violence since the split last year between the Gulf and Zetas drug cartels. The fight has left more than 1,000 people dead so far this year in Nuevo Leon state, compared to 828 in 2010 and 267 in 2009.

Nationwide, more than 35,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against drug gangs in late 2006, according to the government. Others put the death toll near 40,000.

(Editor’s note: – Each and every person that – buys, uses or plays any role in the production, trafficking and abuse of drugs is in equal ways responsible for this shocking situation and each of those people who act in common design in the commission of the acts of the production, trafficking, supply of,  abuse of,  illicit drugs must, either, sooner or later pay the penalty for their terrible crimes against our common humanity.)  J. P. 

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