A Mexican pre-school’s dream come true has spiralled into a nightmare after winning a state-sponsored lottery drew violence from a local gang.
The José María Morelos y Pavón kindergarten in El Nacimiento, Chiapas won about $940,000 in a lottery themed after President Lopez Obrador’s quest to sell his airplane. Families initially celebrated the win, planning repairs for the school and donations to their community.
Then a gang called Los Petules heard about the money. Instead of repairs, the criminals demanded that families use their winnings to buy them guns for an upcoming attack they planned on a rival gang. The families refused.
“We won 20 million pesos but the paramilitary gang, the Petules, said the money was for them to buy weapons and we didn’t agree,” one of the parents, Melesio López Gómez, told El Imparcial.
Soon afterward, Los Petules issued death threats on four members of the community. A fifth member, Marcelo Santiz López, says the gang shot him in the stomach and robbed him, stealing the credit card used to access the prize money.
After months of such violence, the entire community – about 28 families – was forced out of the town, seeking refuge in nearby San Cristóbal de las Casas.
“They threw us out of our homes,” Mr Gómez told Mexico News Daily.
By leaving their land behind, the families of El Nacimiento lost not only all their possessions, but the harvests and livestock on which they depend to make a living.
In San Cristóbal, the dispossessed families have protested, demanding that the government disarm Los Petules and make it safe for them to return to their homes.
They also say they’ve petitioned the Attorney General’s Office of Chiapas and other officials, but no one has responded, according to Insight Crime.
Crime is rampant in Mexico, where gangs and drug cartels control many areas. In some cases, the Mexican army has given up on enforcing the law and instead tries merely to keep the peace between rival criminal organisations.