August 30, 2011
This past week, in Mexico’s northern city of Monterrey, 52 people perished in a fiery conflagration at a gambling establishment known as the Casino Royale.
Monterrey is one of Mexico’s most prosperous cities. Its residents, known as regiomontanos, exhibit a strong work ethic and are known for their industriousness and thriftiness.
In recent years, however, the security situation there has plummeted, with the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas fighting it out.
On August 25th, 2011, a Monterrey casino was set ablaze by criminals.
As described by the Associated Press,
“Two dozen gunmen burst into a casino in northern Mexico on [August 25th] , doused it with gasoline and started a fire that trapped gamblers inside, killing 40 [later discovered to be 52] people and injuring a dozen more, authorities said.”
President Felipe Calderon called it “an abhorrent act of terror and barbarism.”
“These unspeakable acts of terror will not go unpunished” vowed Alejandro Poire, government security spokesman, though given the Mexican government’s track record, the perpetrators may get off scot-free.
What’s odd about this attack is that, apparently the gunmen didn’t mean to kill all those people, although surely they are still responsible.
Casinos are often targets of extortion by criminal gangs. It’s now believed that it was the Zetas who burned the Casino Royale. They could have targeted it because its owners didn’t pay up or was dealing with the other cartel.
According to the AP,
“State police officials quoted survivors as saying armed men burst into the casino, apparently to rob it, and began dousing the premises with fuel from tanks they brought with them. The officials were not authorized to be quoted by name for security reasons [another proof of the cartels´ fearsome power]. De la Garza said the liquid appeared to be gasoline.”
The AP continues,
“With shouts and profanities, the attackers told the customers and employees to get out. But many terrified customers and employees fled further inside the building, where they died trapped amid the flames and thick smoke that soon billowed out of the building…Monterrey Mayor Fernando Larrazabal said many of the bodies were found inside the casino's bathrooms, where employees and customers had locked themselves to escape the gunmen. In an act of desperation, authorities commandeered backhoes from a nearby construction site to break into the casino's walls to try to reach the victims inside.”
So the criminals told the people in the casino to leave, but many didn’t. It’s not surprising that they did not trust the gunmen, and rather than exiting, looked for what they thought were safer rooms in the interior. In a fire though, that was the worst place to be and most died of smoke inhalation. Most of the corpses were found still clutching their cell phones.
Of course, the attackers, and whoever sent them, are responsible. After all, they intentionally set the fire.
President Calderon is sending more security forces to the city, and offering a 2.4 million dollar reward, just for information leading to the criminals’ capture. But will they ever be apprehended?
As a witness, who works across the street, summarized the situation thusly:
"It means more fear, more terror, more lack of safety. There is no control. It's a revelation, proof that they are going to do what they want when they want in the hour that they want," she said.”
On August 26th, Mexican President Calderon laid part of the blame at the feet of the U.S.A.:
Calderon pointed out that part of the problem was the enormous amount of money that the cartels earn, and said that,
“Part of the tragedy in which we Mexicans live has to do with the fact that we are next to the biggest consumer of drugs in the world, and, at the same time, the biggest seller of arms in the world that pays thousands and thousands of millions of dollars each year to the criminals to provide them with narcotics.”
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Calderon made an appeal to the U.S. society, Congress and Government, “to reflect upon the tragedy that we are living in Mexico and many Latin American countries, in consequence, in great part, of the insatiable consumption of drugs in which participate millions and millions of Americans. The economic power and firepower of the criminal organizations that operate in Mexico and Latin America has to do with this interminable demand for drugs in the United States.”
Certainly, Calderon has a point here. As I have pointed out before, American drug consumers are the principal financiers of the Mexican drug cartels. Our “War on Drugs” has been an abysmal failure. Can we really reduce drug use in our society, or should we consider some sort of legalization?
At the same time, Mexicans should realize that, as long as the border is porous, there is going to be smuggling of drugs, weapons, and illegal aliens and who knows what else. An insecure border is insecure for both countries.
� 2011 Allan Wall - All Rights Reserved
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Allan Wall recently returned to the U.S. after residing many years in Mexico.