Photo by: El Diario
Extortionists set fire to a preschool in this lawless Mexican border city after the facility's owners refused to pay protection money, authorities said Monday.
The arsonists scrawled the phrase "Son of a bitch, pay us" on one wall of the school in Ciudad Juarez's San Antonio neighborhood, 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.
It emerged last month that teachers in Juarez were 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.
"Payment Nov. 30 Bonus" was the message received Nov. 11 at one high school in Mexico's murder capital.
Since then, some of Juarez's roughly 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 check 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 announced that 100 security cameras would be installed at schools in Ciudad Juarez.
Ciudad Juarez has suffered more than 2,700 homicides this year. Authorities blame the violence on turf wars among drug cartels.