ACAPULCO, Mexico (Reuters) – Mexican officials are teaching school children how to dive for cover if they come under fire from gangs fighting over the Pacific beach city of Acapulco as drug violence reaches deeper into everyday life.
At a drill in an Acapulco primary school this week, instructors used toy guns that simulated the sound of real gunfire.
"Get down, let's go!" shouted an instructor as children threw themselves on the ground in classrooms and the playground and then crawled toward safety, burying their heads in their hands.
As drug violence spreads across Mexico -- killing more than 31,000 people over the past four years -- schools and kindergartens have been caught in the cross-fire in flashpoints like Acapulco and on the U.S. border in Monterrey and Tijuana.
Car chases and gunfights can spill over outside schools, often when children are out playing, and thin-walled buildings are no match for stray bullets and grenades.
"Things happen. We could go out on the street downtown and be taken by surprise. Shootings happen everywhere in Acapulco," said Raquel Salgado, an official at the state public safety and civil protection ministry who is running the courses.
Most schools in Acapulco have not yet received the training and some civic leaders prefer to play down the violence.
But just as in Monterrey and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico's most violent drug war city, officials in Acapulco hope to extend the initiative to dozens of institutions.
Some 500 people have been killed in the port city in clashes this year between rival gangs, many of which fight over drug smuggling routes north to the U.S. border.
No foreign tourists have been directly attacked, but shootings have broken out on the resort's hotel strip, once a playground for Mexico's wealthy but increasingly shunned because of violence.
By Gerardo Torres Gerardo Torres – 08 December 2010