Pubdate: Sat, 27 Aug 2011
Source: St. Petersburg Times (FL)
Copyright: 2011 St. Petersburg Times
Page: A4


MEXICO CITY - His voice cracking with emotion, President Felipe 
Calderon said Friday that the United States bears some blame for 'an 
act of terror' by gangsters who doused a casino with gasoline and set 
a fire 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 also 
must bear some blame.

But in unprecedented, direct criticism of the United States, Calderon 
said lax U.S. gun laws and high demand for drugs have 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,' 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.

In a statement, President Barack Obama condemned 'the barbaric and 
reprehensible attack' and lauded Mexico's 'brave fight to disrupt 
transnational criminal organizations that threaten both Mexico and 
the United States.' The motive for Thursday's attack wasn't clear, 
but authorities indicated that the attack might have been part of an 
extortion campaign against one of many casinos that operate in 
Mexico. The Casino Royale was the third betting establishment to be 
targeted this month in northern Mexico.

Calderon's blast at the United States underscored the feeling here 
that there's little appreciation north of the border for the role 
Americans have played in strengthening the cartels that are 
responsible for the grisly violence that has claimed as many as 
40,000 lives in the past five years. With weapons bought in the 
United States, the gangs, which have roots in drug smuggling but have 
branched out into a variety of criminal enterprises, are better armed 
than the police. While Calderon's government has captured dozens of 
mid- and upperlevel gangsters, beheadings, public executions and 
kidnappings are epidemic.

Of the 52 who died Thursday, 35 were women - mostly in their 40s, 50s 
and 60s - who were passing time in the casino on a weekday afternoon, 
officials said. Ten people were injured.

The Attorney General's Office offered a $2.5 million reward for 
information leading to the conviction of the attackers.
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