Parents at a Chiapas highway blockade yesterday. Parents at a Chiapas highway blockade yesterday.

Chiapas protest blocks cruise passengers

Parents demonstrate to press for repairs to schools damaged by earthquake

Highway blockades are a proven method of getting attention for a cause, but one in Chiapas yesterday gained international notice.

An estimated 1,000 tourists aboard the Holland America cruise ship Eurodam were prevented from touring Tapachula and several tourist destinations when parents shut down highways to protest the slow pace of rebuilding earthquake-damaged schools.

The ship arrived in Puerto Chiapas with 2,075 passengers aboard just as parents decided to pressure authorities so their children can return to school.

They say that most of the region’s schools have been closed since the September 7 earthquake, and that many have yet to be inspected for damage by Civil Protection officials.

Parents also claim that funds have been promised from a schools infrastructure fund called CIEN, rather than the natural disaster fund, Fonden, and the money will be advanced in the form of loans.

They say it’s part of an education reform-related ploy to privatize education.

But the state’s director of education infrastructure assured parents that reconstruction funds would be coming from Fonden and insurance policies on the buildings.

Meanwhile, cruise ship passengers denied access to tourism sites were treated instead to a cultural show including a gastronomical exhibition and an artisanal display in the port precincts.

However, Chiapas tourism spokesman Thomas Hau said it was unfortunate that the visitors were unable to enjoy their tours because of the economic losses it caused.

Tour operator Alexander Fleck estimated those losses to be at least US $500,000. Another worry is that the cruise line will drop Puerto Chiapas as a stop due to security concerns. It was the first time the Eurodam had stopped at the port.

Source: Reforma (sp), NVI Noticias (sp), Diario de Chiapas (sp)

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