Threats of drug gang violence force Mexican schools to close

CHILAPA, GUERRERO, MEXICO (NOVEMBER 07, 2017) (REUTERS) – Threats by organised criminals against teachers and students have forced around 300 schools to remain closed for 48 days, in some areas of Mexico’s Guerrero state, one of the country’s states that is most plagued by drug-violence, the government has said.

Since September 22, classes have been suspended in several areas of endemic poverty after teachers and parents received threatening messages from criminal gangs.

Guerrero State Security spokesman, Roberto Alvarez, said the most affected municipalities are Zitlala, Atlixtac, Ahuacoutzingo, Jose Joaquin de Herrera and Chilapa, where “troops and police patrol the area day and night.”

In hard-hit Chilapa, seven dismembered bodies were found on the side of the road a few days ago, while the area has been plunged into violence due to the confrontation of two criminal groups – Los Rojos y Los Ardillos. All schools in the municipality remain closed. Checkpoints by troops have been set-up to patrol the area.

Local media reported that 59,649 children from pre-school, primary and secondary schools have been affected by the suspension, with the addition of about 3,742 teachers and administrative staff.

Although no violent events against schools have been carried out, state school authorities decided to suspend classes as a precautionary measure. However, they asked that classes be resumed on Monday (November 6) but neither teachers nor students returned for fear their safety is still not guaranteed.

Guerrero State Governor, Hector Astudillo Flores, said his government was working towards resuming classes “with the required conditions (of safety).” Teachers from schools in Ahuacuotzingo and Chilapa, said they received threatening messages via social media from criminal gangs, asking them to suspend classes until January, 2018.

Violence has spiked in Guerrero over the past decade as a growing number of criminal gangs vie for control of crops of opium poppies and for drug-trafficking routes.

Bodies are discovered almost daily across the state, tossed by roads, some buried in mass graves. In Ciudad Altamirano, the mayor was killed last year and a journalist gunned down in March at a car wash.

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