- Banners are left at four schools in Santiago, local officials say
- The officials think organized crime is responsible
- There were no specific threats, the mayor's office says, only "that we needed to be careful"
Authorities in the Mexican city of Santiago have confirmed that four banners were left recently at various schools with threatening messages. The banners were anonymous, but local officials think organized crime is responsible.
Without specifying their content, Gustavo Duncan, spokesman for the Santiago mayor¹s office, said the banners contained threats "against society in general. They were not directed specifically to someone or something. The message was that we needed to be careful, but there was nothing specific."
Santiago, a municipality with a population of 40,000, is just 30 kilometers (under 20 miles) from Monterrey, Mexico¹s industrial hub and a metropolis of 1.1 million people.
The threats have caused panic among people in Santiago, especially parents of students who attend the schools where the messages were posted.
"We¹re treating the threats very seriously. Because of our location, there could be multiple hidden cells of criminal organizations. We have increased the presence of security forces and we believe the banners are retaliation for that," Duncan said.
The state of Nuevo Leon, where Santiago is located, shares a border with Texas. Drug violence has recently increased in the state as two rival drug cartels, Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, battle for territory.
According to Duncan, Santiago Mayor Bladimiro Montalvo requested additional security from the federal government. The Mexican Army sent 60 troops to patrol the areas where the messages were found. An emergency meeting was called to address security concerns, Duncan said.
This is the second case of threatening messages appearing at schools in Mexico. In the beach resort of Acapulco, teachers at 140 schools have refused to work after messages appeared threatening violence.
The messages were posted outside the schools at the beginning of the school year in late August. In some cases, armed men entered the schools and delivered the messages. Thousands of teachers took to the streets to demand more security while officials implemented a security program known as "Safe School."
Just as Acapulco, Santiago is also a tourist destination, although on a much lesser scale. It's a popular weekend getaway for residents of Monterrey. In 2006, the Mexican government designated Santiago as "Magic Town." The designation is given to colonial towns rich in Mexican history, culture and traditions.
Last year in August the town was shocked when Santiago Mayor Edelmiro Cavazos was brutally murdered. The 38-year-old¹s body appeared two days after he was kidnapped from his home. His hands were bound and his head was wrapped in tape. He had been in office only eight months.