A Mexican preschool won $950,000 from a government-backed lottery initiative designed to assist struggling communities and their educational systems. Yet, things went from a moment of triumph into a nightmare soon after as a local paramilitary group found out about the money and demanded payment to purchase weapons.
“Los Petules” are just one of the many extortionists and criminal groups that challenge authorities and law enforcement and now they have taken an issue with the winners. The parents and preschool owners, who live in the Ocosingo municipality, have been evicted from the preschool and their living quarters by the group. Some 28 families in the community have been impacted and they now seek government assistance to stop the terror on their children, school, and themselves.
According to El Heroldo de Chiaps, a local media outlet, the family is now living in Ocosingo City and hiding from Los Petules who have carried out several attacks on their properties and relatives in a bid to force payment from the family. While the family is trying to avoid the criminal outfit, there have been no updates about their living situation nor about assistance from the government.
A Sweet Win That Quickly Turned Sour
The winnings were handed throughout the airplane lottery hosted by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador who organized it as a token of good will to demonstrate that Mexico is going to sever its ties with corruption and favoritism among the rich and powerful.
To this end, he sold the luxury plane of his predecessor, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and promised the money as an award. While the lottery didn’t go according to plan, it was quickly replaced by an anonymous alternative where benefactors could buy tickets of different value, allowing authorities to aid poor schools around the country.
While all went well at first, and a list of 100 winners was announced and publicized in 2020, criminal groups were quickly tipped off and went after the winners. In this case, Los Petules were determined to force the parents and lottery winners into paying them, but they refused, arguing that they were going to invest in fixing the school and community infrastructure.
Los Petules turned violent right after they had been refused payment and began carrying out attacks. In one such incident, a gang member shot a local official in the abdomen, local media outlets reported. So far, the central government has been oblivious of the plight of the local community ironically brought on by the lottery money that was supposed to change things around.