Extortion of teachers causes the closure of 140 elementary and middle schools in Acapulco
Below is a copy of a letter sent to an administrator in the Acapulco public education system.
Greetings Professor (name redacted), we know you are the paymaster for the teachers in area (redacted)
Pay careful attention.
You have 15 days to give us a list of the following teachers:
1. Whoever earns more than $8,000.00 (8 thousand pesos) biweekly.
(underline in black whoever earns between 20 and 50 thousand pesos monthly)
2. Those who live from La Cima to KM 30 and Cayaco.
3. Names, addresses and telephone numbers (not cell phone numbers)
4. Legible copies of voter registration cards (on the reverse the names and addresses of schools where they work)
5. A copy of the payroll (of all area 32)
Note the name and school where they work of any person who refuses to divulge any information. Show them this warning.
Advise them that after October 1 they must pay a “tax” of 50 percent of their salary and annual bonus. Whoever refuses has the opportunity to leave, if not you all know we are not fucking around.
You and your supervisor are exempt from this tax as long as you continue cooperating with us.
The teacher who lives close to the jail named Cermeno or Cerdeno is also exempt because he has already cooperated.
If you have problematic teachers underline them in red and advise the principals that we are aware of the high cost to the heads of families and that they will receive a special visit.
We will be in contact.
More than 600 teachers have closed their classrooms this week in 140 Acapulco elementary and middle schools in the face of extortion threats delivered through pamphlets by members of organized crime that are charging a “derecho de piso”, or tax, of 50 percent of salaries and bonuses.
This was confirmed by the Assistant Coordinator of Basic Education with the Guerrero Department of Education for the Acapulco-Coyuca de Benitez region, Julio Cesar Bernal Resendiz, who has met with SNTE (teacher’s union) officials discuss the threats.
"There is talk of some threats in some areas, especially the 4th sector, including the colonias (neighborhoods) of Ciudad Renacimiento, Emiliano Zapata, Vacacional, Arroyo Seco and other colonias in the outskirts of the city.”
Bernal Resendiz admitted "there are cases of teachers who have been extorted and kidnapped and have filed complaints, but they're scared, do not want people to know and are afraid."
Two elementary school teachers in the 32nd zone spoke of what has happened since last Thursday.
"I am a professor in Acapulco, we are afraid about what is going on, we have received written messages that say they will take 50 percent of our wages and we are afraid." said one of the teachers.
“We agreed to stop classes since Wednesday until the authorities can resolve this."
“Several teachers have been kidnapped, or extorted and most do not want to talk, but we're tired of so much violence. I have fear there may be retaliation.”
A middle school teacher in Ciudad Renaciminto added, "It's very difficult to explain this, but the reasons why many coworkers are failing to go to their classrooms is because we are living this firsthand. We therefore call on the authorities to help us. Because we are being harassed, threatened, kidnapped.”
According to people with knowledge of Acapulco's underground both La Barredora and CIDA extort the working population. It is believed that the attempt to extort teachers is the work of the infamous Comando del Diablo, led by Jose Francisco Sosa Vasquez "El Capi Sosa" and Los Calentanos, led by Cleotilde Toribio "El Tilde". Both of these groups operate for La Barredora.
(A teacher and SNTE union official from the state of San Luis Potosi who had commented previously about a similar situation in Ciudad Juarez had stated that mass extortion attempts against teachers are fairly common but are normally ignored without any further problems. He stated, however, that in areas of extreme insecurity [like Acapulco and Juarez] these threats are much more credible, and the danger of retaliation may be real.
He added, “Extortion attempts are an everyday occurrence now, a feature of everyday life. Nobody answers the telephone if the number on caller ID is not recognized. You no longer give your name to strangers you meet. No phone numbers or addresses to casual acquaintances or even distant relatives. Never respond to street surveys or polls. Even bank employees can’t be trusted.”
“You only trust close relatives and very close friends. The ‘amistad’ that was a way of live here in Mexico is becoming extinct.”)
Predictably it is not only the teachers who are living in fear but also the parents of Acapulco schoolchildren.
“We fear what could happen to our children,” mentions a mother of an 8 and 10 year old attending an elementary school in the Vicente Guerrero housing district.
“No one is safe now, they kidnap rich and poor kids” says the mother, a housewife, who walks her children to school and back home even though she lives two blocks away.
After a summer with dozens of executions and gun battles parents now wait outside of the schools until the children enter their classrooms and crowd the school before classes end for the day.
“If anything happens or if you are let out early, call me,” says a mother to her 9 year old daughter attending a private school on the Avenida Farallon, a thoroughfare that has seen its share of decapitated and dismembered bodies. She explains that she bought her daughter a cellphone to keep in communication, “A cellphone is no longer a luxury, its a necessity to stay aware.”
The mother stated that 3 weeks earlier armed men had forcibly entered the school and abducted a 16 year old student who was later found murdered in the community of La Sabana.
“A line has been crossed,” she said.
(Guerrero is one of the states with the highest levels of poverty in Mexico. Cellphones are unaffordable for most children.
A mother from Monterrey was interviewed last year in San Antonio, Texas, where a large community of wealthy expatriate Mexicans with the means to obtain the correct residence visas live in the upscale Stone Oak section of the city.
When asked to describe the greatest difference between life in Monterrey and Texas, she answered that she simply could not comprehend that her children could walk home from the private school they were attending in safety. In Mexico her children needed bodyguards to ensure their survival.)