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News (Media Awareness Project) - Mexico: End Sale Of Assault Arms - Mexican Leader
Title:Mexico: End Sale Of Assault Arms - Mexican Leader
Published On:2011-08-27
Source:National Post (Canada)
Fetched On:2011-08-31 06:01:31

52 Killed As Gunmen Set Fire To Casino

MEXICO CITY Felipe Calderon, the Mexican President, declared three
days of mourning Friday and demanded a crackdown on drugs in the
United States after armed men set fire to a casino in northern
Mexico, killing at least 52 people.

I earnestly ask you to end once and for all the criminal sales of
assault weapons to the criminals that operate in Mexico," Mr.
Calderon, 49, said in a speech broadcast to the nation.

Under intense pressure as violence soars, he said he would send more
federal security forces to the city of Monterrey, where gunmen set
fire to an upmarket casino on Thursday in one of the worst attacks in
the country's drug cartel war.

His government also offered a reward of Us$2.4-million for the brazen
mid-afternoon assault, whose victims were mainly women and elderly,
asphyxiated by the smoke and fumes.

A security camera captured video of four vehicles pulling up to the
front of Casino Royale.

At least eight men spilled out, some dashing into the casino while
others, holding what appeared to be assault rifles, waved people away
as city traffic carried on as usual. Within two minutes and 30
seconds, thick black smoke and flames could be seen on the video.

Authorities said the intruders spread flammable liquid all around the
interior and lit it, causing flames and smoke to quickly engulf the
building as dozens of people inside stampeded in terror.

They screamed, 'Everyone hit the floor,' " a witness told local
media, speaking on condition of anonymity.

I don't know if there was a weapon that makes such a noise, but an
impressive explosion followed - I never want to go through something
like that again," said the witness, who escaped with a friend to the rooftop.

Firefighters had to knock large holes in the building's walls to
reach the second floor as they took four hours to extinguish the blaze.

Officials said the death toll was likely to rise as rescue workers
searched the huge building.

Barack Obama, the U.S. President, called the attack "barbaric" and
said his government stood shoulder to shoulder with Mexico in the
battle against the gangs.

Washington provides money and resources to Mexico in the anti-drug
war, but joint co-operation has been damaged by mistrust, a botched
U.S. plan to track down weapon smugglers and the killing of a U.S.
customs agent by suspected hitmen in Mexico this year.

Mr. Calderon first ordered a crackdown against the cartels when he
took office in late 2006 and several senior traffickers have been
arrested. However, turf wars between rival cartels have killed about
42,000 people.

The Mexican President insists his campaign has weakened the cartels
but critics say it simply brought a surge in violence and has done
little or nothing to slow the flow of cocaine, marijuana and other
drugs into the United States.

The carnage has hurt support for Mr. Calderon's conservative National
Action Party (PAN), which already faces an uphill battle to retain
the presidency in elections next July.

The casino attack is particularly bitter for Mr. Calderon because the
victims were mainly well-to-do civilians with no link to the
conflict, in an area that has traditionally been a electoral
stronghold for the business-friendly PAN.

Monterrey, which lies about 230 kilometres from the Texas border, is
a relatively wealthy city of about four million people and home to
some of Mexico's biggest companies. For many years, it was seen as a
model of economic development but it has been ravaged by the drug
cartel war over the past two years.

The casino attack surpasses the killings of 21 people last month in a
bar in Monterrey as the deadliest single incident since Mr. Calderon
became president, Milenio TV said, citing its own statistics.

A year ago, Mexico's navy found 72 bodies in a mass grave near Texas,
the remains of migrants from other Latin American countries killed as
they tried to make their way to the U.S. border.
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