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.
Survivors from Thursday’s attack said armed men burst into the Casino Royale and threatened gamblers before dousing gasoline on the carpets and setting it on fire.
Under intense pressure as violence soars, Calderon said he would send more federal security forces to the city of Monterrey, where gunmen set fire to the upmarket casino in one of the worst attacks of Mexico’s drugs war.
“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 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
It is assumed the attack was carried out by the Zetas cartel, who allegedly set fire to the casino because the owners had not paid some $10,000 a week the organization had demanded, government officials told Excelsior.
Monterrey, which lies about 140 miles from the Texas border, is a relatively wealthy city of about 4 million people and is home to some of Mexico’s biggest companies. It was for many years seen as a model of economic development but it has been ravaged by the drugs war over the past two years.
With shouts and profanities, the attackers told the customers and employees to get out. But many terrified customers and employees fled further inside the building, where they died trapped amid the flames and thick smoke that soon billowed out of the building.
Monterrey Mayor Fernando Larrazabal said many of the bodies were found inside the casino’s bathrooms, where employees and customers had locked themselves to escape the gunmen.
It was the second time in three months that the Casino Royale was targeted. Gunmen struck it and three other casinos on May 25, when the gunmen sprayed the Casino Royale with bullets, but no was reported injured in that attack.
Last month, gunmen killed 20 people at a bar in Monterrey. The attackers sprayed the bar with rounds from assault rifles, and police later found bags of drugs at the bar.