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
NYTimes.com: 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
... "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"
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
Hundreds Protest Over Mexico Casino Attack
5 detained in attack that killed 52 in Mexico
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."
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