Photo taken by a drone shows the vehicles before their release on Saturday. Photo taken by a drone shows the vehicles before their release on Saturday. el universal

Michoacán teachers free stolen vehicles

They were only going to release 15 but plans changed after a confrontation with residents

Nearly 100 vehicles stolen during recent months by teachers in Michoacán were released Saturday, along with their drivers. But fewer would have been surrendered had it not been for a confrontation between teachers and local residents in the municipality of Nahuatzen.

Late Saturday afternoon, the leaders of the local teacher protest movement announced that about 15 vehicles would be released from property on the Nahuatzen-Uruapan highway where they were being kept.

But upon hearing this news residents of Arantepacua, allegedly armed with firearms and machetes, turned up at the site with the intention of pillaging whatever they could find.

The teachers and communal authorities decided to de-escalate the confrontational situation by releasing close to 100 of the retained vehicles, which included tanker trucks, passenger buses, and cargo and auto-transporter trucks.

Drivers of the stolen vehicles had remained for more than two months with their units, and it was they who drove them away Saturday night.

Andrés Hernández Hernández, driver of a passenger bus, had spent over a month at the makeshift campground.

Despite having suffered no mistreatment, Hernández remembered that the worst moments of his 33-day ordeal were at night, “because people came and went, and I knew no one . . . I lived scared and afraid of what they could do to me, but thank God everything’s fine now.”

Despite the tense moments between protesters and townspeople, the former managed to release the 93 vehicles in an orderly manner, under conditions that were assessed by a notary public to assure that both the vehicles and the drivers were being released in the same condition they were in when hijacked.

“We don’t want anyone to say that we looted [the trucks] or that the drivers were beaten and mistreated. All this was done as a courtesy gesture towards the state government, but if our demands aren’t met, we’ll mobilize again and will radicalize our actions,” said a spokesman for the protesters.

There wasn’t full consensus among the protesters as just five kilometers away normal school students blocked access to the town of Turícuaro, where they are keeping at least 100 more hijacked vehicles. Fifteen of those have been burned during several blockades throughout the state.

The thefts of passenger buses reached a tipping point last week for bus lines, which declared they were shutting down service to some parts of the state. But they recanted on Saturday and resumed service, indicating they did so as a vote of confidence in state authorities.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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