A close-up of the Mexican national flag.
In the Mexican drug war, casualties have citizens and the press running scared. (Photo Credit: CC BY/Esparta/Fotopedia)

Class was canceled Tuesday in the Garita neighborhood of Acapulco, México, after Mexican police found five severed, decomposing heads in a sack outside a primary school. BBC News reports that a series of handwritten notes were also discovered, each of which threaten Guerrero State Governor Angel Aguirre and local drug lords. It is unclear whether the severed heads at the school – and five headless bodies found elsewhere in Garita – are linked to extortion threats against teachers.

Schools closed to protect students

According to reports, more than 100 schools across México have closed since last month, as the threat of violence from the Mexican drug war has presented a severe risk to children. Messages promising future violence if extortion demands are not met have left educators, students and their families on edge.

Acapulco, city of resorts and senseless violence

A noted resort city on México’s Pacific coast, Acapulco, has seen its share of bloody drug gang conflict lately. Government action against drug cartels has lessened the outright gun warfare in the streets, but the fragmentation and financial drain this has caused the gangs has prompted them to resort to other methods of terrorizing the populace into compliance.

Extortion is among the more popular means in use to stir fear and generate cash flow. Teachers at one Acapulco school were ordered to hand over half their salaries to stave off violent retaliation. Aguirre has promised protective measures like increased police presence, security cameras and alarm systems. The continued safety risk has prompted many teachers to go on strike.

Remembering Maria Elizabeth Macias

The bag of severed heads and the threats against students are just the most recent in a long line of horrifying signposts marking the path of destruction of the Mexican drug cartel wars. NPR reports that recently, popular reporter Maria Elizabeth Macias was decapitated by cartel members in retaliation for blog posts she made on an anti-crime website called Nuevo Laredo en Vivo. Residents of the border town of Laredo used the site to give voice to their fears and frustrations over the drug war that has run amok.

Despite the gruesome slaying of Macias, one Nuevo Laredo en Vivo poster logged on as “anon9113” vowed to keep up the fight:

“If we want to regain our peace and our freedom, we always have to fight on. I wouldn’t ask anybody to take up arms, clearly, but with our reports, we can do them damage.”

Social media fills the void

Senior Americas program coordinator Carlos Lauría of the New-York based Committee to Protect Journalists told MSNBC that local Mexican media is too intimidated by the drug war slayings to cover the violence as it should be covered. Citizens have turned elsewhere.

“The press is terrified and in the absence of press reports, citizens are turning to social media to fill in the void,” Lauría said.

Acapulco no stranger to violent gang crimes


BBC News: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-15086909

MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44690198/ns/world_news-americas/#.ToNPvlmyBw0

NPR: http://www.npr.org/2011/09/28/140854544/education-is-latest-casualty-in-Méxicos-drug-war

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