MEXICO CITY, (Reuters) – President Felipe Calderon declared three days of mourning yesterday and demanded a crackdown on drugs in the United States after armed men torched a casino in northern Mexico, killing at least 52 people.
Under intense pressure as violence soars, Calderon said he would send more federal security forces to the city of Monterrey, where gunmen set fire to an upmarket casino on Thursday in one of the worst attacks of Mexico’s drugs war.
Lashing out at corrupt officials in Mexico and “insatiable” U.S. demand for drugs for fomenting the violence, Calderon urged the U.S. Congress to stamp out drug consumption and stop illegal trafficking of weapons across the border into Mexico.
“We’re neighbours, we’re allies, we’re friends, but you are also responsible,” a sombre and angry Calderon said to the United States in a speech after meeting his security advisers.
Pledging to step up the fight on organized crime, Calderon said Mexico was under attack from “true terrorists”, and told all Mexicans to come forward and denounce those responsible.
“They aren’t and cannot be the ones in charge of our streets, our cities and our future,” he said, shortly before departing to Monterrey to take stock of the situation.
U.S. President Barack Obama called the attack “barbaric” and said his government stood shoulder to shoulder with Mexico in the battle against the gangs.
“We share with Mexico responsibility for meeting this challenge and we are committed to continuing our unprecedented cooperation in confronting these criminal organizations,” Obama said in a statement issued by the White House.
Washington provides money and resources to Mexico in the drugs war, but joint cooperation has been damaged by mistrust, a botched U.S. plan to track down weapons smugglers and the killing by suspected hitmen of a U.S. customs agent in Mexico this year.
Calderon first ordered a crackdown against the cartels when he took office in late 2006 and several senior traffickers have been arrested. However, turf wars between rival cartels have killed about 42,000 people, battering Mexico’s reputation.