Mexico suffered the criminal attack with the highest number of civilian casualties in its near history recently as a group of 10 to 12 armed men entered the two-story Casino Royale in the city of Monterrey, doused it with a flammable liquid and threw Molotov cocktails in the first floor. The exact details are still sketchy and the real death toll might never be established (there are inconsistencies in numbers reported by authorities, witness accounts and morgue registries) but unofficially the number is above 50, most of them women. The full motive behind the attack will probably never be determined, but the local media’s investigative reports point toward non-compliance with a criminal gang that had demanded a cut of the business’ profits in exchange for “protection.”
Gruesome as the attack was, the reason for the elevated number of victims sadly has more to do with institutionalized corruption than with the criminal act itself. Survivors to this tragedy have testified that other than the main entrance to the establishment (which was blocked by the attackers), four non-labelled service doors were locked and the only supposed emergency exit to the place was fake and had a concrete wall behind it. The amount of suffering and emotions the victims must have felt when they thought they would be able to escape the fire and faced a wall in front of them, is horribly unimaginable.
Casino Royale received its license to operate as a restaurant and betting house in 2007, during the administration of Mayor Adalberto Madero, who in 2011 was officially kicked out of the PAN party for corruption charges and tainting the party’s image (he was later reinstated due to a technicality). Ironically enough, Rodrigo, José Francisco and Ramón Agustín Madero (Adalberto’s cousins) are members of the administrative board of the company that owns Casino Royale.
The matter becomes worse when we learn that during 2011 the establishment had already been subject to two other criminal attacks; the venue was not shut down permanently after the follow-up investigations even though it was not up to code. As if that wasn’t enough, videos showing Monterrey Mayor Fernando Larrazabal’s brother going into the Casino and suspiciously receiving wads of cash in cell phone boxes were leaked by the local and national media, furthering social outrage.
Today, a city and a whole country continues to mourn. Frustration is at an all-time high and is manifesting itself in different ways. On Twitter users heightened their continued demands for both Larrazabal and Governor Rodrigo Medina to resign. The local soccer teams held minutes of silence before their recent games. Masses honoring the victims have been held and peace rallies are the current talk of the town, though actual turnout has been surprisingly low.
Seven individuals were identified by Mexican authorities on Monday as suspects in the massacre of 72 migrants in northern Mexico, whose bodies were discovered during a raid on August 24. Three of the suspects were killed by navy personnel during the raid, while another three were found dead near a highway shortly thereafter. All suspects, including a seventh that was arrested last week are believed to be part of Los Zetas drug cartel and were identified by one of the three massacre survivors.
The bodies of the 72 mostly Honduran, Salvadorian and Ecuadorian migrants were discovered in the town of San Fernando in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas on the Texas border. As of Tuesday, 27 victims had been identified and are being repatriated to their home countries.
The massacre is the latest example of drug-related in northern Mexican states along the U.S. border. According to Alejandro Poiré, the government spokesman for security issues, the mass-murder “confirms that criminal organizations are looking to kidnapping and extortion because they are going through a difficult time obtaining resources and recruiting people willingly.”
Mr. Poiré’s comments come less than a week after the U.S. government announced it would withhold about $26 million in funding to Mexico’s anti-narcotics efforts over concerns that Mexico has not done enough to protect its people from cartel and police abuse.