Extortionists torch school in Mexican border city

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ciudad Juarez (Mexico), Dec 7 (IANS/EFE) Extortionists set fire to a school in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez after the institute’s owners reportedly refused to pay protection money, authorities said.

The arsonists also scrawled obscene messages on the walls of the school in Ciudad Juarez’s San Antonio area, where teachers told parents that classes were suspended until further notice.

Authorities said the owners of the Constitucion preschool had earlier received a demand for money.

Teachers in the city were also being threatened with attacks on themselves and their students if they didn’t hand over their Christmas bonuses to extortion gangs.

The threats appeared in the form of letters left inside schools or graffiti messages painted on walls in Ciudad Juarez, which lies just across the border from El Paso, Texas.

Since then, some of Juarez’s around 1,500 schools have virtually shut down, as parents aware of the threats are keeping their children home.

While Juarez’s mayor, Hector Murguia, announced a special police operation to protect the teachers, the Chihuahua state education department said it would alter the procedure for the payment of the bonuses.

Instead of giving the teachers’ cash-filled envelopes at school, the department will pay them by cheque or direct deposit on undisclosed dates, department spokesperson Eva Trujillo said.

The department is also drafting a manual for principals instructing them on how to keep schools functioning in the face of threats, Education Secretary Jorge Quintana said.

He also said security cameras would be installed in the schools.

Ciudad Juarez has suffered over 2,700 homicides this year.


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