A university campus in the Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo has been closed for more than a week due to threats and attempted extortion by gangsters.
The Universidad Valle de Mexico campus in the city across from Laredo, Texas, shut down on 15th January and security personnel have been withdrawn, a spokeswoman confirmed on Friday.
“The campus closed in response to a threat received from a criminal gang that wanted to enter the facilities, and if not, (said) it would retaliate,” commented Sophie Anaya, Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Communications for the Universidad Valle de Mexico.
She added that the decision was made in order to avoid a confrontation which could have had repercussions for students and staff.
The Nuevo Laredo campus hosts approximately 700 students and is part of the network of the US-based Laureate International Universities group, which operates educational institutions in over 20 countries.
“The safety and security of our students is our number one priority,” said Matthew Yale, Laureate’s senior vice president for global communications.
Anaya said officials were working on a plan to offer alternative educational opportunities so students can continue their studies.
Last September, the Universidad Valle de Mexico’s campus in Reynosa, across from McAllen, Texas, temporarily suspended activities following a similar threat.
“We asked authorities to give us additional protection in order to restart classes, but that additional protection is not yet in place,” Anaya said. “We are continuing with classes there, but on high alert.”
Both Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa are in the Gulf Coast state of Tamaulipas, which has been a hotspot of drug gang violence in recent years. Other educational institutions in the state have also been affected.
In December, the Director of the Autonomous University of Tamaulipas’ Reynosa campus was abducted from his home by armed men; he remains missing. The Montessori American School in Ciudad Victoria also closed down last year due to extortion threats.
Additional reporting provided by the Associated Press.