Schools shuttered in Acapulco show impact of Mexican drug gangs on civilians
Schools in the city shut their doors for weeks after teachers became extortion targets for Mexican drug gangs.
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The Acapulco school closures also demonstrate organized crime's growing impact on Mexican civilians, as demonstrated by the general rise in extortion and kidnapping. The specific targeting of teachers is not entirely new, but it does represent a clear step beyond the targeting of wealthy businessmen, more traditional victims for kidnappers and extortionists. Furthermore, teachers are more reflective of the society as a whole, and more likely to provoke sympathy than, for instance, the owners of the Casino Royale, which suffered an attack in August that left 52 people dead.Skip to next paragraph
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The teachers are also more organized; with an estimated 1.4 million members, the teacher’s union in Mexico is the largest union of any kind in Latin America, and one of the most powerful political forces in the country. Should teachers continually suffer extortion attempts, it will likely generate a significant backlash against the groups responsible.
The threats against the teachers comes amid a broader decline in security in Acapulco. As InSight Crime has noted, Acapulco is among a few famous tourist areas wracked by organized crime violence, with 650 murders in the city through July. Earlier this month, five severed heads were placed outside of an elementary school in Acapulco in what some believe to be part of the campaign against the teachers.
The city has long been a target for different drug gangs. For much of the Calderon administration, the two principal groups fighting for the area were the Sinaloa Cartel and the Zetas. However, infighting within those organizations, especially the breakdown in relations between the Sinaloa bosses and the Beltran Leyva Organization, have helped open the field to a number of new players. The two best known of the newly emerging gangs are the Independent Cartel of Acapulco and the South Pacific Cartel.
It is not clear which gang is behind the extortion threats; the banners initially threatening the teachers were not signed by any group, which fed suggestions that the authors were not part of the largest networks. While many of the most notorious Mexican gangs rely on extortion, smaller bands also take advantage of the climate of insecurity, sometimes by passing themselves off as larger gangs.
--- Patrick Corcoran is a writer for Insight – Organized Crime in the Americas, which provides research, analysis, and investigation of the criminal world throughout the region. Find all of his research here.
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