Sunday, June 23, 2024

Winning the lottery turns into disaster for Chiapas preschool

A preschool in Chiapas might be questioning its luck after a lottery win brought a shooting and death threats to the community, forcing local people to abandon their homes and travel to a nearby town to protest. 

The José María Morelos y Pavón preschool in the Tzeltal community of El Nacimiento, Chiapas, won a 20-million-peso (about US $940,000) prize in the presidential airplane lottery on September 15, 2020. 

Parents at the preschool, which has just over two dozen students, began planning how to spend the winnings on upgrades to the school.

But the small fortune attracted the unwanted attention of a gang called Los Petules, who demanded that the parents spend the money on guns to attack villagers from the neighboring community of El Carrizal. 

They refused and spent part of the money on a new roof for the school. The parents decided to use the remaining 14 million pesos for public works projects in the community.

In response, Los Petules put out death threats against four people connected to the school, and one local resident was shot in the stomach.

The situation escalated further in October when the gang reportedly attacked women and children in the village.  

About 28 Tzeltal families traveled to San Cristóbal de las Casas, 80 kilometers west, to complain that they were forced out of the community. A spokesman for the families, Melesio López Gómez, said they were removed by force. “They threw us out of our homes,” he said. 

The families demanded that members of Los Petules be disarmed so they could safely return to El Nacimiento to tend to their lands and cattle. 

One member of the parents’ association said the community had lost “cattle, our homes, refrigerators, our corn and bean harvests, our chickens.”

A few days ago, Los Petules were accused of attacking the bases of militant groups that control large parts of Chiapas, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) and the National Front of Struggle for Socialism (FNLS).

With reports from El Universal and BBC 

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