Mexico university campus shuttered over gang threats

AP News
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Posted: Jan 23, 2015 1:33 PM

CIUDAD VICTORIA, Mexico (AP) — 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Valle de Mexico campus in the city across from Laredo, Texas, shut down Jan. 15 and security personnel have been withdrawn, a spokeswoman said Friday.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," said Sophie Anaya, vice president for corporate affairs and communications for the Universidad Valle de Mexico.

She said the decision was made in order to avoid a confrontation that could have repercussions for students and staff.

The Nuevo Laredo campus has about 700 students enrolled and is part of the network of U.S.-based Laureate International Universities, 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 alternatives so students can continue their education.

Last September, the Universidad Valle de Mexico's campus in Reynosa, across from McAllen, Texas, temporarily suspended activities because of a similar threat.

"We asked authorities to give us additional protection in order to restart classes, but that additional protection is not there yet," 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.

Also last year, the Montessori American School in Ciudad Victoria closed down due to extortion threats.

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Associated Press writers Alberto Arce and Peter Orsi in Mexico City contributed.