Pubdate: Sat, 27 Aug 2011
Source: Tampa Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2011 The Tribune Co.
Page: B1


Mexican President Cites Lax Gun Laws, Demand For Drugs For Fueling 
Cartels' Violence

MEXICO CITY -His voice cracking with emotion, President Felipe 
Calderon said Friday that the United States bore some blame for 'an 
act of terror' by gangsters who doused a casino with gasoline and set 
a blaze that killed at least 52 people.

The attack Thursday in Monterrey, an industrial city of 4 million 
barely a two-hour drive from Texas, stunned Mexicans and seemed 
likely to mark a watershed in the country's intensifying war against 
criminal syndicates.

In a 20-minute televised address to the nation, Calderon gave an 
unusually blunt assessment of the causes of Mexico's surging violence 
before flying to Monterrey to place a wreath at the burned-out hulk 
of the Casino Royale.

He referred repeatedly to the attack as a terrorist act, elevating 
the conflict to a new level, at least linguistically, and casting it 
in terms of a broader struggle for control of Mexico. He said rampant 
corruption within his nation's judiciary and law enforcement bore some blame.

In unprecedented, direct criticism of the United States, Calderon 
said lax U.S. gun laws and high demand for drugs stoked his nation's 
violence. He appealed to U.S. citizens 'to reflect on the tragedy 
that we are living through in Mexico.' 'We are neighbors, allies and 
friends. But you, too, are responsible. This is my message,' Calderon said.

He called on the United States to 'once and for all stop the criminal 
sale of high-powered weapons and assault rifles to criminals that 
operate in Mexico.' Calderon declared three days of national mourning.

The motive of Thursday's attack wasn't clear, but authorities 
indicated it might have been part of an extortion campaign against 
one of many casinos that operate in Mexico on the margins of the law.

'The media impact that this has is greater, because we're talking 
about an attack on a civilian population of a certain income,' said 
Jorge Chabat, an expert in safety and drug trafficking at the Center 
for Research and Teaching in Economics. 'Because who was there was 
from the middle class, the upper middle class of an important city in 
Mexico.' A surveillance tape showed eight or nine men arriving in 
four cars at the casino and setting fire to the building within 
minutes. The gunmen had ordered people to leave before setting the 
fire, but many fled further inside, locking themselves in restrooms. 
Officials said they likely died quickly, the majority from smoke inhalation.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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