Reports have emerged from Mexico’s turbulent state of Guerrero of children extorting their teachers and schoolmates under threat of attack, a stark display of the social depths to which organized crime can penetrate when the state is absent.
Ramón Navarette Magdaleno, the president of Guerrero’s State Human Rights Commission (Comisión Estatal de Derechos Humanos – CODDEHUM), said there have been various cases of minors extorting pocket money from their classmates, especially in the city of Acapulco, Milenio reported. In certain instances, students have also intimidated their teachers into paying this “derecho de piso,” or “protection fee,” claiming their parents are members of organized criminal groups.
This phenomenon is closely linked to the activities of the students’ parents, stated Magdaleno. “Without a doubt, [this practice] is a reflection of what they are experiencing outside” of school.
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Magdaleno likewise affirmed that the involvement of minors in such activities within schools has contributed to a rise in youth crime outside of school, and that many hired assassins and kidnappers were bullies in their school years.
While Acapulco is where most cases of student extortion occur in Guerrero, the head of CODDEHUM cautioned this may be due to the higher number of schools in the area, according to Milenio.
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The tourist city of Acapulco has been in the spotlight recently for its exceedingly high levels of citizen insecurity, and its schools have not been spared from this rise of crime.
Criminal organizations in the city started charging “quotas” from teachers, and later students’ parents, back in 2011. More recently, entire schools have been demanded to pay 20 pesos ($1.10) a week per student and 800 pesos ($45) every two weeks per teacher.
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Teachers have since become a common target for intimidation tactics and selective murders by criminal groups in the city — in 2014, 21 teachers were killed in only two months. Hundreds of schools in the area have consequently found themselves forced to shut down for months at a time.
Despite extortion and violence having been identified in 4,700 Mexico schools nationwide in 2012, effective national strategies to shield schools and their students from criminal activity are lacking. It is therefore little surprise that youth are becoming increasingly involved in criminal activities both inside and outside educational institutions.
In one recent example of youth crime in Acapulco, a 12-year-old boy was arrested while collecting extortion money from a taxi stand. He was also believed to have been involved in an armed attack at a funeral parlor days earlier.