Sep 2, 2011

Week's Top Articles on Mexico: August 26-September 1, 2011

Since last Friday, the news from Mexico has been dominated by the deaths of 52 Mexicans, mostly middle aged, middle class women, in the casino fire in Monterrey. During the past week, both Mexican and U.S. governments and Mexican citizens have responded to this tragedy.

President Calderon escalated both the verbal and military wars, calling the perpetrators "terrorists," for the first time and sending 3,000 more Mexico police and army into the state of Nuevo Leon. He also voiced his sharpest criticism of the U.S. for sustaining the drug market and weapons traffic. By Monday, Mexican officials announced the arrest of five people. Meanwhile, President Obama issued a statement condeming the perpetrators and said that the U.S. is "committed to continuing our unprecedented cooperation in confronting these criminal organizations."

While these government responses focused on "terroism" and transnational "criminal organizations," reports later in the week revealed that the attack was most likely a botched retaliation by extortionists  against the casino owner for not making demanded payments. The owner has apparently fled Mexico. 

Mexican citizens protested in the streets of Monterrey, calling for an end to the military strategy of the Mexico drug war and the resignations of municipal, state and federal officials. Where this tragedy and the government and citizen reactions to it will lead remains to be seen. 

And the latest: yesterday Mexican federal police arrested a Nuevo Leon state policeman, citing a video tape that showed him at the scene of the arson attack on the casino.

Mexico Drug War

Armed Men Set Fire at Casino in Mexico, Killing 53 Aug. 26," Armed men burst into a casino in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey on Thursday and set a fire that killed at least 53 people and injured several others, the authorities said. The attack, shortly after 3 p.m. at the Casino Royale, was the worst massacre, according to tallies by Mexican news organizations, since a crackdown on drug gangs by the authorities and infighting among the gangs exploded more than five years ago."

Mexico's Calderon berates U.S. after casino attack Aug. 26, (Reuters) "President Felipe Calderon declared three days of mourning on Friday and demanded a crackdown on drugs in the United States after armed men torched a casino in northern Mexico, killing at least 52 people.

... "It's clear that we are not confronting common criminals, we are confronting true terrorists," Calderon said in a televised speech after meeting his security advisers. He said the U.S. Congress needs to take steps to curb an "insatiable" demand for drugs and crack down on the illegal trafficking of weapons across the border into Mexico. "We're neighbors, we're allies, we're friends, but you are also responsible," a somber and angry Calderon said"

Statement by the President on the Attack in Mexico

The White House: Aug. 26, "I strongly condemn the barbaric and reprehensible attack in Monterrey, Mexico yesterday. On behalf of the American people, our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families at this difficult time.

The people of Mexico and their government are engaged in a brave fight to disrupt violent transnational criminal organizations that threaten both Mexico and the United States. The United States is and will remain a partner in this fight. We share with Mexico responsibility for meeting this challenge and we are committed to continuing our unprecedented cooperation in confronting these criminal organizations."

Mexico Sends in 3,000 Feds After Casino Arson Attack

InSight Crime: Aug. 29, "Some 1,500 army and air force troops and 1,500 Federal Police have been deployed in the state of Nuevo Leon, north Mexico, after an arson attack on a casino which killed 52 people."

Hundreds Protest Over Mexico Casino Attack

TIME: Aug. 29, "(MONTERREY, Mexico) — Hundreds of protesters demonstrated Sunday against the government in the aftermath of a casino arson attack that killed 52 people and has been labeled one of the worst crimes of Mexico's deadly five-year drug war. Clad in the white shirts that have been adopted at Mexican demonstrations against violence and crime, more than 1,000 people demanded that the Nuevo Leon state governor and the mayor of the industrial city of Monterrey quit."

5 detained in attack that killed 52 in Mexico

The Associated Press: Aug. 29, "Nuevo Leon state Gov. Rodrigo Medina says police have arrested five suspects in an arson attack on a casino that killed 52 people in northern Mexico"

Mexico Casino Arson Suspects Deny Intending Massacre
InSight Crime: Aug. 31, "Mexican authorities paraded five men accused of the Monterrey casino arson attack, who allegedly told investigators that they had not intended to kill so many people. Nuevo Leon Governor Rodrigo Medina de la Cruz told press that the men were members of the Zetas drug gang, and that they had confessed to lighting the blaze.

The suspects reportedly told police that they had intended to give a warning to the casino's owner to make extortion payments, but that "everything had got out of control." Prosecutors confirmed that the gunmen had told security guards to evacuate the casino before they set it on fire. This fits with InSight Crime's analysis, which pointed out that criminal groups would be unlikely to carry out such a deadly attack over an extortion payment."
Casino massacre in Mexico might be rooted in corruption
The Washington Post: Sept. 1, " When an arson attack killed 52 people at a casino in Monterrey last week, Mexico President Felipe Calderon called it the work of “true terrorists” and said U.S. drug users and gun dealers were partly responsible for his country’s violence.

... But a video and series of photographs showing the brother of Monterrey’s mayor receiving bundles of cash at a casino days before the massacre suggest its origins might lie in the old, familiar networks of corruption that have long plagued the country and nurtured the rise of organized crime."

State police officer detained in Mexico casino arson that killed 52 

The Washington Post: Sept. 1, " Federal police arrested a state police officer Thursday in connection with last week’s arson fire at a casino that killed 52 people in northern Mexico. The state police agent was caught in a surveillance video inside an SUV outside Casino Royale, presumably connected to the attack, said Mexico’s Attorney General’s regional chief Jose Cuitlahuac Salinas."

Tallying a Day of Death in Mexico's War on Drug Traffickers
Heart wrenching and all too real! Monterrey, Acapulco and Ciudad Juárez during one day, July 29, 2011. From the Wall Street Journal.

WSJ. Aug. 27, "In the last four years, roughly 43,000 people have been killed in Mexico in drug-related killings. Three Wall Street Journal reporters went to three of the country's most violent cities to tell the stories from a single day: Friday, July 29, 2011."

Immigration News 

Collateral damage of 9/11: Pragmatic immigration reform

A thoughtful column by Mary Sanchez, of the McClatchy newspapers, on how the "national security" panic that followed 9/11 has overrun immigration reform with xenophobic politics and the bureaucracy of the Department of Homeland Security. Aug. 26,  "... away from the solemn ceremonies at Ground Zero, beyond the appropriate mourning for the dead - including grief for military men and women killed in the wars that followed 9/11 - we need to begin a different sort of reflection.

We need to think deeply and critically about how the United States responded - and continues to respond - to the attacks, and whether the right choices have been made. We need to reflect on the way the attacks have reshaped public policy on immigration, security measures that affect our daily lives and commerce, and public perceptions of Muslim people, including those who are fellow U.S. citizens."

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