Mexican authorities raid casinos after arson attack

Federal police officers in Mexico City form part of a caravan headed for Monterrey on Saturday. The army has begun raiding casinos in Monterrey, the site of Thursday’s arson attack.

Associated Press

Federal police officers in Mexico City form part of a caravan headed for Monterrey on Saturday. The army has begun raiding casinos in Monterrey, the site of Thursday’s arson attack.

MONTERREY, Mexico — Hundreds of soldiers and federal agents are raiding casinos in this northern city, authorities said Saturday, two days after an arson attack on a gambling house killed 52 people and stunned a country that had become numb to massacres and beheadings.

Security forces had so far confiscated about 1,500 slot machines at 11 casinos in Monterrey and its surroundings and arrested three people, Mexico's tax agency said. It said the continuing operation was meant to verify whether casinos had paid taxes or introduced slot machines illegally.

Thursday's arson attack by gunmen was a macabre milestone in a conflict that the government says has claimed more than 35,000 lives since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against drug cartels in late 2006. Others put the death toll near 40,000.

The torching of the Casino Royale has raised questions over Mexico's regulatory controls for fast-spreading gambling houses.

Authorities have not been able to reach the owners of two companies pointed out as titleholders of the casino. Jorge Domene, security spokesman for Nuevo Leon state, said an order to appear before state police has been issued for owners of the two companies, CYMSA Corp. and Vallarta Attractions and Emotions.

Casino Royale's legal representative, Juan Gomez, told reporters that the shareholders of the business were Jorge Alberto and Raul Rocha Cantu. They will meet with police when authorities set the time, Gomez said.

Authorities did not say the raids were related to the arson. The casino had been attacked twice before, including an incident in May when gunmen strafed it from the outside. Last month, gunmen killed 20 people at a bar in Monterrey.

Cartels extort casinos and other businesses, threatening to attack them or burn them to the ground if they refuse to pay.

Authorities have not blamed a specific drug cartel for the attack. But the city has been ensnared in a turf battle between the Gulf cartel and its offshoot, the Zetas, and is on track for record levels of killings this year.

Mexican authorities raid casinos after arson attack 08/27/11 [Last modified: Saturday, August 27, 2011 10:48pm]

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