Facing threats of extortion and kidnapping, about 600 teachers in the Mexican resort city of Acapulco are refusing to come into work out of fear, forcing 140 elementary schools to close just one week into the school year.
According to reports, teachers have received drug cartel threats demanding they turn over half of their salaries or face attack. At least four teachers have reportedly been abducted in the last two weeks.
Mexican newspaper El Universal reported one teacher in charge of handing out pay received a typewritten letter from a drug gang demanding the teacher send a list with "the name, address, cellular phone numbers and copies of every teacher's voter registration" within 15 days. The gang also demanded the teacher send a copy of the district's payroll.
"Tell the teachers that beginning Oct. 1, they will pay a 50 percent rent on their salary and holiday bonuses," the letter read. Those who don't like the terms can leave, it said, otherwise they know we don't mess around.
One local elementary school teacher told the Associated Press she had seen men drive by the school with rifles sticking out vehicle windows. Another said dozens of his peers have asked the government to assign more police officers but their calls have been ignored.
"Authorities are turning a deaf ear," he said.
A state police chief did not return AP phone calls, but had previously said no teachers had reported abductions to police "in recent days."
Teachers have also faced extortion threats in the northern city of Juarez, along the Mexico-Texas border. Gunmen attacked a group of parents waiting to pick up their children after school on August 25, leaving one dead and five injured.
The school closures also come just days after a massive cartel attack at a Mexican casino when two dozen gunmen doused the building in flammable liquid, locked the doors and lit in on fire, killing more than 50.