Last year, an anonymous benefactor gave a $25 ticket in Mexico's "plane lottery" to a preschool in southern Mexico. It won a prize of almost $1 million, triggering a chain of events that has left more than two dozen families afraid to return to their homes. Parents with children at the preschool in the Indigenous village of Ocosingo, Chiapas state, were put in charge of distributing the funds but they soon received threats from an armed group that wanted the money to buy weapons, the BBC reports. Members of the parents' association say they were threatened by the the Los Pestules gang, which planned to drive a rival paramilitary group out of a nearby village.
The association says the threats increased and one man was shot earlier this year after they refused the gang's demands and instead used the funds to build a new roof for the preschool, per 9News. The families planned to use the rest of the funds to make improvements in the village. The association says 28 families had to flee their homes last month, leaving harvests and livestock behind, when members of the armed group attacked women and children in the village.
"We fear for our lives, we have death threats and they took all our belongings, the cattle we had are already being sold in the butchers, so it is urgent that the authorities disarm them, and no police are taking care of us," a spokesman for the families told El Heraldo de Chiapas this week. The plane lottery, with 100 prizes of around $1 million, was launched last year after plans to raffle off a luxurious government aircraft fell through, CNN reports. The $25 ticket price was too steep for many ordinary Mexicans, but many of the tickets were bought by benefactors who donated them to schools in impoverished areas. (Read more Mexico stories.)