2011 Monterrey casino attack
|2011 Monterrey casino attack|
Casino Royale after the attack
|Location||Avenida San Jerónimo, Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico|
|Date||25 August 2011
15:30 – (UTC-5)
|Target||Casino Royale owner|
|Fire attack using fuel and grenade|
The 2011 Monterrey casino attack was a narcoterrorist attack that took place in city of Monterrey, Nuevo León, in the country of Mexico, on 25 August 2011. Government sources revealed that 52 people were killed, but the Blog del Narco mention that 61 bodies were eventually found after a few days.
The terrorist attack left over a dozen injured, and over 35 trapped for several hours before the Mexican forces arrived at the place a few minutes after the incident. Media reports said the majority of those killed were women, including one who was pregnant. Although the government crackdown of the drug cartels dates back to 2006, Monterrey became an increasingly violent city in 2010, due to the rupture of the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas.
This attack was planned and carried out by the cartel, Los Zetas. Surveillance videos show how four vehicles with several well-armed gunmen arrived at the entrance of Casino Royale. After the gunmen descended from their vehicles, they quietly stormed the casino's main entrance, opened fire at a few gamblers and guests, and then doused the casino entrances with gasoline and started a fire that trapped the people inside. This attack was classified as the most violent and bloodiest in the history of Monterrey and of the whole state of Nuevo Leon.
The casino Royale San Jerónimo is at the junction of Calle Jesús María González and Avenida San Jerónimo, and is owned by Raúl Rocha Cantú and José Alberto Rocha Cantú, also owners of Conexiones y Mangueras S.A. (Cymsa) and Entertainment Enterprises of México S.A. de C.V. It was opened in November 2007 to more than 500 people, who the casino gave two million pesos between them as a welcoming gift.
The casino had been attacked on several previous occasions. On January 17, 2011 it was announced in the news media that the business had been the victim of organised crime, and that an armed squad had entered the premises to subdue those inside, although this was denied by their then legal representative, Enrique Hernández Navarro. In the early hours of May 25 of the same year, it was attacked by a group of delinquents who detonated firearms, taking money from customers and from the establishment, which was one of several casinos attacked that day.
On May 4, 2011 the casino had been shut down by the municipality for failure to obtain permits for expanding the premises, reopening its doors on May 31 due to an appeal by its owners to the State Tribunal for Administrative Litigation, claiming that the works were for remodelling. This appeal was granted by magistrate José Alfonso Solís Navarro.
Before this tragedy another betting center, owned by Grupo Royale, had been attacked twice this year by organized crime, but with no casualties.
Minutes before 2:00 p.m. on 26 August 2011 in Monterrey, Nuevo León, twelve members of the criminal group Los Zetas, along with one of its leaders, met at "El Gran Pastor" restaurant located on Gonzalitos avenue, just a few blocks away from the casino. The cartel members ate cabrito in a "special meeting," where they were given orders to carry out the attack at the Casino Royale.
According to the perpetrators, the attack was intended to send a message to the owner of the casino for failing to pay an extortion. By 3:00 p.m., the Zetas left the restaurant and headed to a Pemex gas station to collect barrels of gasoline. Two separate surveillance videos issued by the governor confirmed that two pick-up trucks arrived at the gas station to fill up big containers of gasoline before setting off on Gonzalitos avenue. While driving through the avenue, the second video captured the moment when the convoy headed towards the site.
The perpetrators arrived at the casino at approximately 3:50 p.m. in a convoy of four vehicles: a Mini Cooper, a Chevrolet Equinox, a blue GMC and a grey VW Beetle. In the first minute and a half, several armed men, about eight or nine, stormed the casino while some people inside managed to escape. The criminals then ordered the people inside to hurry their way out, but many of them were scared and decided to hide inside the casino. Witnesses claim that one of the gunmen struck the receptionist with his assault rifle before the other triggermen doused the gasoline inside the premise from the tanks they had bought at the gas station.
The crowd of 150 croupiers and customers, mostly women, stampeded inside the casino from the game area to the bathrooms, stairways, and blocked emergency exits. Some of them reportedly heard gunfire and explosion that they thought were grenade detonations. Some people managed to leave through the main entrance, but after a few minutes this became impossible due to the fire spreading; several others were hurt in the stampede, as panic and psychosis descended at the scene. All of the 52 victims died from suffocation due to carbon monoxide poisoning because they were hiding in bathrooms and offices after trying to escape from the aggressors. It was later confirmed that the emergency exits in the casino were locked.
In only three minutes, the perpatrators burned the establishment and managed to fled the scene – only to be captured by the surveillance video. When the emergency crew finally decided to smash down the walls of the casino, they found the corpses littered in huge piles inside the bathrooms, stairs, and game tables. By the next morning, the Mexican authorities confirmed that 52 people had died, while dozens more were in the hospital.
The company Atracciones y Emociones Vallarta S.A. de C.V., whose Administration Council consists of Rodrigo Madero Covarrubias, José Francisco Madero Dávila and Ramón Agustín Madero Dávila, denied any relationship with the Casino Royale, as they had previously separated from each other.
City mayor Fernando Larrazábal Bretón and Juana María Treviño Torres, president of the Tribunal for Administrative Litigation, blamed each other for the tragedy: Larrazábal blamed the tribunal for permitting the casino to reopen, while Treviño Torres blamed Monterrey Civil Protection for not checking that it had emergency exits.
Additionally, magistrate José Alfonso Solís Navarro (who authorised the reopening) resigned his position on August 27.
A contingent of 3,000 soldiers and federal police were sent to the city, and the rest of the state was patrolled by armoured units and Black Hawk helicopters for reasons of security. Furthermore, the ex-mayor of Monterrey, Adalberto Madero, was detained by the Attorney General and federal forces for a supposed link to the administrative council of the company believed to manage the casino Royale. President Felipe Calderón declared three days of national mourning.
26 relatives of the victimes demanded compensation for the event and for their hospital and funeral expenses to be paid, although the company (through its lawyer Juan Gómez Jaime) denied any responsibility due to the tragedy being out of the company's control,. However, the government offered to pay their funeral and legal expenses, educational grants and medical and psychological bills.
On November 7 two casinos belonging to the company of Raúl Rocha Cantú (owner of the Royale) were closed: the Montecarlo in Mazatlán, Sinaloa and the Play Win Casino in Los Cabos, Baja California Sur; however, the company Entretenimiento de México has confirmed that Rocha Cantú is no longer a member.
A few days after the attack, the narrative song "El Muerto 53" appeared anonymously in order to "reach the voice of the people".
The attack was attributed to organized crime, with the two initially suspected groups being the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas who both claimed control of the area. It was later confirmed to be the latter group. With the help of witness statements, portraits of the attackers were drawn. On August 26, three stolen cars were discovered and found to be those caught on camera as being used during the attack. The Attorney General offered 30 million pesos for information leading to the capture of the suspects.
The governor of Nuevo León, Rodrigo Medina de la Cruz, reported that the first five individuals suspected of starting the casino fire were arrested on August 29. The five of them confessed to having participated in the crime which lead to 52 deaths, but stated that they had not intended to kill anyone, only wanting to scare the owners of the building because they had refused to pay a weekly fee of 130,000 pesos to be allowed to operate. They had decided to attack, but the situation grew out of their control. More gang members were later arrested.
On September 14 the Sub-Prosecutor for Regional Control of the Attorney General of Mexico, José Cuitláhuac Salinas Martínez, published a list of 18 people involved in the attack, including the identity and photographs of four Los Zetas leaders. Three of them were later captured, and the last one was shot dead on 4 April 2012.
The remainder have only been identified by nicknames and sketch portraits:
- El Monterrey
- La Kitty or La Pelirroja ("The Redhead")
- La Beba
- El Chimpas and/or Chimpa and/or Chilpa
- El Huevo ("The Egg")
- El Tony
|Name||Alias||Age||Date of capture||Notes|
|Luis Carlos Carrazco Espinoza||Chihuas||25||August 29||Moved to Topo Chico prison|
|Javier Alonso Martínez Morales||Javo||37|
|Jonathan Jahir Reyna Gutiérrez||18|
|Juan Ángel Leal Flores||El Casillas or Cash||20|
|Julio Tadeo Berrones Ramírez||Julio Rayas||28|
|Luis Adán Gómez Vázquez||El Gordo||33||September 18|
|Jonathan Estrada Pérez||La Tita||20||Moved to Topo Chico prison|
|Tomás Barbosa Sánchez||Tommy||21|
|José Alfredo Grimaldo Rodríguez||El Tejón||19||Lookout
Moved to Topo Chico prison
|Alan Enrique||El Pikachú||15 or 16||Lookout
Released on September 27
Arrested again October 26
|Roberto Carlos López Castro||El Toruño||September 29|
|José Alberto Loera Rodríguez||El Voltaje||28||October 5|
|Carlos Oliva Castillo||La Rana||37||October 14||Planned the attack
Presumably the third-in-command of Los Zetas, just behind Heriberto Lazcano alias "el Lazca," and Miguel Treviño Morales, alias "Z-40."
|Antonio Camacho Jaco||El Bogar||24||October 21||Head of Los Zetas in northern Monterrey
Moved to Topo Chico prison
|Gerardo Alejandro de León Jiménez||El Papas||Moved to Topo Chico prison|
|Américo Orlando Soto Reyes||El Bam Bam or El Junior||23||October 26||Lookout|
|Saúl Becerra Reyes||El Pelón or El Chueco||21|
|Jesús Rafael Torres Bautista||El Colitas||18||November 4||Participated directly, using firearms|
|José Mejía Garza||El Flaco oe El Negro||24||From Monclova, Coahuila|
|Hugo Iván Santos Doria||El Monky or Manitas||November 9||Informant|
|Baltazar Saucedo Estrada||El Mataperros ("The Dog Killer")||January 5||Planned and took part in the attack
Second in command of the organisation
|1. María Hilda González González|
|2. Miriam González González|
|3. María Inés González González|
|4. Rómulo Baldomero Tamez Salazar|
|5. María de los Ángeles Pérez Patlán|
|6. Flor María González Gómez|
|7. María del Carmen Martínez Grimaldo|
|8. Laura Adriana Gregoria Navarrete Berlanga|
|9. Martín Jesús Saide Azar|
|10. Idalia Elizabeth Walls Polendo|
|11. María Martha Navarro Moreno|
|12. María Esperanza Alanís Chapa|
|13. Isabel Ladrón de Guevara Barrada|
|14. Lilia Elma Vela Vázquez|
|15. Lorena Villarreal Elizondo|
|16. Rosa Mariana Ramírez Díaz|
|17. Aída Cavazos de la Peña|
|18. María Guadalupe Monsiváis Estrada|
|19. Yolanda Rocha Delgado|
|20. Adelina Hernández Huerta|
|21. Mayra Liliana González Zamarripa|
|22. Joaquín Martínez Ríos|
|23. Nora Elia Ortegón de Lomelí|
|24. Edith Castillo Ramírez|
|25. Rubén Noé Morales Castillo|
|26. Christian Alejandro Solís Huerta|
|27. Sara Aurora Ramírez Rodríguez|
|28. Juan Manuel Juárez Alonso|
|29. Carmen Adriana Flores Navarro|
|30. Julia Yuridia Cardona Morales|
|31. María Elena Moreno Luna|
|32. María Dolores Campos Rodríguez|
|33. Martha Elena Gutiérrez Salinas|
|34. Juana Saldaña García|
|35. Petra Bustos Velásquez|
|36. Lucía del Carmen Anguiano Lugo|
|37. Benito Garza Garza|
|38. Eduardo Enrique Martínez Cavazos|
|39. Karla María Espinosa Vega|
|40. Irma Sofía Vélez Álvarez|
|41. Azucena Rocío Dávila de la Garza|
|42. Brad Xavier Muraira Pérez|
|43. Priscila Barbosa Zapata|
|44. Miguel Ángel Loera Castro|
|45. Amalia Terrazas Moreno|
|46. Elsa Martínez Pérez|
|47. Jeny Adriana García Toledano|
|48. Jeny Adriana Toledano Flores|
|49. Sonia de la Peña Guerrero|
|50. Flora Montes Padilla|
|51. Josefina Contreras Orozco|
|52. Laura Elena Rodríguez de la Garza|
All of the arrested were detained until their sentencing. On September 27, the minor Alan Enrique was released from the Juvenile Centre as no evidence was found that he was responsible for any part of the attack, despite having been named as a participant by some of the other arrested individuals, although he was later re-arrested.
On October 27, restriction orders were closed on 10 of the 14 who had then been arrested, and the Attorney General of Nuevo León ordered their arrests for homicide and organised criminal activity, having them moved to Topo Chico prison accompanied by a strong security team.
The majority of the victims were adults, people over the age of 50 and casino employees. Of the 52 people who died during the attack, ten were men and 42 women, including two pregnant women, one of whom was in her seventh month. 45 of the dead were identified (35 women and ten men) and the rest had to be tested in order to determine their identity as they had suffered severe burns. All of them died from toxic fumes, although seven of the corpses were burned. Most of them were from Monterrey, but two were from Tamaulipas. With respect to the ten injured people, three of them were hospitalised in stable condition.
The victims included Joaquín Martínez, uncle of Silvia Landeros, a well-known television presenter at Multimedios Television, as well as the sister-in-law of ex-footballer Alfredo «Alacrán» Jiménez, whose condition has not been reported.
Two months after the attack, family members of the 52 victims came to the scene of the accident to create a memorial with 53 white wooden crosses with the names of the victims, plus one with the word "baby" for the unborn child, as well as leaving a banner asking the president not to forget about the case, referring to the specialist reports allowing the federation to take charge:
“Sr. Presidente Felipe Calderón le pedimos que honre su palabra "CAIGA QUIEN CAIGA" confiamos en usted”
“Mr. President Felipe Calderón we ask you to keep your word "whoever falls" we trust in you”
Around 50 of the victims' family members joined hands, prayed for the victims and asked for justice. Members of the public also left arrangements of flowers on the pavement outside the casino. And as of 2012, the families have asked the authorities to preserve the casino and keep it intact.
Academics and intellectuals disagree strongly about whether or not the Monterrey casino attack was a "terrorist act", a term used by the President of the Republic during a press conference denouncing the killings. Academics define it as a "reprehensible criminal act" and not as an act of terrorism; terrorism has different characteristics, involving ideology and doctrine, such as in the case of ETA or the recent events in Norway. The criminal acts of drug trafficking and organised crime are not strictly defined in Mexican law, and are usually a form of score-settling between criminal groups, unlike in Colombia where acts of narcoterrorism against the public have a legal definition.
- The president of Mexico, Felipe Calderón, called the attacks an act of terrorism and organised crime, and declared three days of national mourning.
- Juan Manuel González, president of the seventh International Festival of Cinema in Monterrey, cancelled the red carpet showing of the film Viento en contra, produced and starred in by Bárbara Mori.
- The running of the bulls in the plaza Monumental Monterrey Lorenzo Garza which was celebrating its 74th year, as well as the tribute to ex-bullfighter Eloy Cavazos.
- United States' president Barack Obama called the attack "brutal" and "reprehensible".
- German chancellor Angela Merkel sent her condolences via press conference.
- France condemned the acts as "barbarism which has brutally shaken Mexican society", through its spokesman Bernard Valero.
- President of Costa Rica Laura Chinchilla called it a "cowardly terrorist act".
- President of Panama Ricardo Martinelli invited Latin America to build a "united front" to combat organized crime.
- Secretary-general of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon called it a "deplorable act of violence".
- Amnesty International demanded a detailed investigation of the facts, and declared their solidarity with the victims' families and the inhabitants of the region.
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