International edition
June 16, 2021

Hundreds protest over recent arson attack to Casino Royale

Mexican troops conduct raids after deadly casino fire

(Mexico).- Several hundred Mexican troops have converged on a northern town where an arson fire at a casino killed 52 people. The Associated Press says 1,500 security forces conducted raids on nearly a dozen casinos in Monterrey, detaining three people.

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n Thursday, armed suspects carrying a flammable liquid burst into Casino Royale, and moments later the building was in flames. Authorities are still trying to identify some of the 52 victims. The investigation into the attack is ongoing, but authorities are looking into whether drug cartels had threatened the casino in an extortion plot.

Mexican authorities are offering a us$ 2.4 million reward for information leading to additional arrests, an amount comparable to the ones offered for the arrest of the country's top drug lords.

Nearly 35,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon began a crackdown on cartels. In a country that has grown used to beheadings and grisly mass killings in the drug war, the casino attack shocked Mexicans because most of the victims were middle class women who frequented the casino with friends.

Hundreds of protesters demonstrated Sunday against the government in the aftermath of the casino arson attack, which has been labeled one of the worst crimes of Mexico's deadly five-year drug war. Clad in the white shirts that have been adopted at Mexican demonstrations against violence and crime, more than 1,000 people demanded that the Nuevo Leon state governor and the mayor of the industrial city of Monterrey quit.

Demonstrators held protest signs against the political leaders. They said they are tired of the violence that afflicts the metropolis of 4 million as the Gulf drug cartel and the rival Zetas battle over turf.

The protest came as the website of the newspaper Reforma reported that state police arrested two people in connection with Thursday's attack on the Casino Royale. The newspaper quoted a state official, who did not answer phone calls seeking confirmation. Other officials, including Nuevo Leon Governor Rodrigo Medina, refused to confirm or deny the arrests.

About 700 soldiers, federal police and Treasury Department agents raided eight Monterrey casinos Friday and Saturday, confiscating more than 3,500 slot machines that did not meet Mexico standards. They also arrested three men, whose names were not made public, with two guns and a grenade.

The head of the Mexico's tax agency, Alfredo Gutierrez, said at a news conference Sunday that the raids were not related to the arson attack. But at least one of the casinos raided was registered under the same company as the Casino Royale, according to the gaming unit of Mexico's Interior Department. After the casino fire, federal and local authorities have set their eyes on the increasing number of gambling houses that are violating laws.

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