Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Mexican army, feds raid casinos after arson attack

Saturday, August 27, 2011 |



Photos: Gabriela Pérez Montiel

KATHERINE CORCORAN,Associated Press
PORFIRIO IBARRA RAMIREZ,Associated Press


Hundreds of soldiers and federal agents are raiding casinos in this northern city, authorities said Saturday, two days after an arson attack on a gambling house killed 52 people and stunned a country that had become numb to massacres and beheadings.

Security forces had so far confiscated about 1,500 slot machines at 11 casinos in Monterrey and its surroundings and arrested three people, Mexico's tax agency said. It said the continuing operation was meant to verify whether casinos had paid taxes or introduced slot machines illegally.

Thursday's arson attack by gunmen was a macabre milestone in a conflict that the government says has claimed more than 35,000 lives since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against drug cartels in late 2006. Others put the death toll over 40,000.

The torching of the Casino Royale has raised questions over Mexico's regulatory controls for fast-spreading gambling houses.

Authorities have not been able to reach the owners of two companies pointed out as titleholders of the casino. Jorge Domene, security spokesman for Nuevo Leon state, said an order to appear before state police has been issued for owners of the two companies, CYMSA Corp. and Vallarta Attractions and Emotions.

During the raids, which began Friday, about 700 soldiers, federal police and Treasury Department agents seized slot machines and put them in moving trucks.
Authorities did not say the raids were related to the arson. But one of the casinos searched was also registered under Vallarta Attractions and Emotions, according to the gaming unit of Mexico's Interior Department. Information of the other locations was not immediately available.

Federal police spokesman Juan Carlos Buenrostro said additional security forces were being deployed to this industrial metropolis of more than 4 million people Saturday. Buenrostro did not specify what actions police would carry out or the number of agents who would arrive to the city.

Mayor Fernando Larrazabal said the Casino Royale and other 12 casinos violated municipal laws and were allowed to remain open after obtaining federal court injunctions.

The casino had been attacked twice before, including an incident in May when gunmen strafed it from the outside. Last month, gunmen killed 20 people at a bar in Monterrey.

Cartels often extort casinos and other businesses, threatening to attack them or burn them to the ground if they refuse to pay.

Authorities have not blamed a specific drug-trafficking organization for the casino attack. But the city has been ensnared in a turf battle between the Gulf cartel and its offshoot, the Zetas, and is on track for record levels of killings this year.

A surveillance tape showed the Casino Royale building engulfed in flames in little more than two minutes after eight or nine men arrived in four cars carrying canisters into the building.

Authorities said they were still investigating whether the casino's emergency exits were blocked. But many bodies were found in offices and the bathrooms, indicating the victims were expecting a shootout.

"They sought places to protect themselves from firearms," said Jorge Camacho Rincon, the state civil protection director. "They went running to closed areas."

Most died of smoke inhalation and were found clutching cellphones, a law enforcement official who wasn't authorized to be quoted by name told The Associated Press.

Saturday was the second day of mourning declared by Calderon, who labeled the attack the worst against civilians in the nation's recent history.

"We are facing true terrorists who have gone beyond all limits," Calderon said.
Mexicans have endured plenty of horrific crimes during their country's five-year offensive against cartels.

But the casino attack had a major impact because many of the victims were from the middle class, and not cartel foot soldiers or migrants who have become the usual targets, said Jorge Chabat, an expert in safety and drug trafficking at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics.

"We're talking about an attack on a civilian population of a certain income," he said. "Because who was there was from the middle class, the upper middle class of an important city in Mexico."

Calderon is offering a $2.4 million reward for information leading to the capture of the casino's attackers, the same amount offered for the arrest of top drug lords. Authorities had sketches of three of the men based on interviews with 16 survivors of the fire.

The U.S. consulate in Monterrey issued an emergency message for Americans following the attack and warned consular employees and their families to avoid casinos, adult clubs and similar places "that have been targets for violence."





Additional links of interest:
Continuaron de noche operativos en casinos
Van federales contra casinos en Monterrey

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10 Borderland Beat Comments:

J said...

Is this just a byproduct or intended consequence of the attack? CDG would want this, Zeta's wouldn't, obviously. Was it Z's, and it wasn't supposed to have any casualties?

Anonymous said...

The Obama administration allows Mexican police to stage drug raids from within the United States, according to the New York Times.

Mexican military commandos have “discreetly traveled to the United States, assembled at designated areas and dispatched helicopter missions back across the border aimed at suspected drug traffickers.” The DEA is providing logistical support and sharing intelligence.

The Times describes the “boomerang” operations as part of a broadening American campaign aimed at the drug cartels. The strategy is based on earlier operations when the Mexican police worked with the U.S. military and raids were staged at Camp Pendleton in San Diego. A DEA official characterized the Mexican paramilitary police as a “rapid-reaction force.”

In response, the Tijuana Cartel kidnapped, tortured and killed a counternarcotics official in the Mexican attorney general’s office, along with two fellow drug agents.

The DEA works closely with the CIA and the Pentagon in the supposed war on the Mexican drug cartels. In addition to flying Global Hawk missions over Mexico, the CIA mans an “intelligence outpost” on a Mexican military base. Mexican officials told the Times Pentagon is not involved in the cross-border operations and Americans do not take part in drug raids on Mexican territory.

The Pentagon used the war on drugs to establish a military presence in Colombia. In 2009, it was reported that seven new bases in the South American country are used to expand the U.S. military’s counter-narcotic operations in the region, deepen involvement in Colombia’s counterinsurgency war, and combat “other international crimes,” according to Colombia’s Foreign Minister.

The Pentagon is busy merging the war on terror with the war on drugs. It is “overhauling the parts of the military responsible for the drug fight, paying particular attention to some lessons of nearly a decade of counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. At Northern Command — the military’s Colorado Springs headquarters responsible for North American operations — several top officers with years of experience in fighting Al Qaeda and affiliated groups are poring over intelligence about Mexican drug networks.”

“The military is trying to take what it did in Afghanistan and do the same in Mexico,” an officer told the Times.

In 2010, the U.S. military admitted it has has turned a blind eye to Afghan opium cultivation and production. “The Golden Crescent drug trade, launched by the CIA in the early 1980s, continues to be protected by US intelligence, in liaison with NATO occupation forces and the British military,” writes author Michel Chossudovsky. “The proceeds of this lucrative multimillion dollar contraband are deposited in Western banks. Almost the totality of revenues accrue to corporate interests and criminal syndicates outside Afghanistan.”

Last year it was discovered that two large U.S. banks, Wachovia and Bank of America, were involved in money laundering cartel drug money. Wachovia had laundered $378.4 billion, a sum equal to one-third of Mexico’s gross domestic product.

The seizure by the Mexican government of a plane laden with cocaine at Ciudad del Carmen in 2006 revealed the banks worked closely with the Sinaloa drug cartel.

Earlier this month, Jesus Vicente “El Vicente” Lambada-Niebla, who was arrested by the Mexican military in 2009 and extradited to the U.S. for trial on federal drug-trafficking charges, revealed that the Sinaloa Cartel worked with the U.S. government to ship drugs into the United States. Officials reportedly allowed the cartel to obtain weapons inside the United States.

The weapons were provided under Operation Fast & Furious. The effort to arm the cartels – responsible for tens of thousands of murders – was supported by officials in the Obama administration.

Anonymous said...

LOLOLOLOLOLOL....We can't get those darn drug dealers so lets take away something that someone in Mexico might enjoy, gambling. Next he will be after the bingo parlors and those dangerous 75 year old women that play it. What a leader....Felipe, are you mad because you and El Chapo aren't involved in the gaming. Smells like it to me you clown.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised BB hasn't said anything about the weapons police found in the Casino Royale. Or did I miss it?

And to anyone who cares, three out of the four vehicles used in the attack have been found abandoned. Unsurprisingly, they have all been reported stolen.

Anonymous said...

I am still trying to figure out why the utter lack of FUNCTIONAL law and order in Mexico is Because of the US ?

Anonymous said...

First comment and now a loyal reader of BB. This comment by Calderon made me chuckle: "We are facing true terrorists who have gone beyond all limits," Calderon said.
So, my thought is: decapitated heads being rolled into night clubs, dismembered bodies being put in tubs of food with recipes... are not beyond all limits? As an American, my well wishes are with you innocent Mexicans. I do not want drugs legalized here in the USA. De-criminalize mary jane, fine but the others, HELL NO. Keep them illegal.

Anonymous said...

Why are they collecting the machines? For cash?

Anonymous said...

all these bullshit WARS made from "GOOD OL'BOYS" .tryin to stop people from dyin using drugs by killin at LEAST 50,000 in five years.later we' ll have war on alcohol ,war on cigarettes .war on milk war on water .What's that bullshit saying
Liberty an justice for all .

Anonymous said...

Texcoco Mex said

5 people involved on the casino attack were arrested

Carrazco Lucio Carlos Espinoza, alias "El Chigua", 25, Javier Alonso Morales Martínez, alias "El Javo", 37, Jonathan Jahir Reyna Gutierrez , 18, Juan Angel Flores Leal, alias "The Fields", 20, and Julio Tadeo Berrones, alias "El Julio Reyes' 28.

At the press conference, the Attorney Adrian de la Garza, presented a video which shows the group of people getting gasoline in fuel containers at a gas station minutes before perpetrating the attack.

It also appears that the Equinox gray van seen in the video of the attack was found.

The recording also showed that the group of vehicles, including a Minicooper and Optra, move through Gonzalitos Avenue, heading to the casino.

The president said the motive for the attack would have been to pressed the establishment to pay a fee, which is known as derecho the piso or tax.

Presumably there was a disagreement with the owners and thats why it was attacked, but this is still under investigation, said Medina.

He said that apparently the attack was against the business and not against the population, but the criminals were out of control.

Anonymous said...

So..why didn't these raids happen before? Typical...wait til a tragedy occurs than take action..wonder if the "Casino Royale" tragedy could have been prevented, if it would have been shut down a long time ago...huh yes!

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