MEXICO CITY _ His voice cracking with emotion, President Felipe Calderon Friday declared three days of national mourning for what he described as “an act of terror” by gangsters who doused gasoline in a casino and caused a fire that left at least 52 people dead.
“Today is a day of grief for Monterrey and all of Mexico,” Calderon said in a nationally televised address before flying to the northern industrial city where the attack occurred Thursday afternoon. Authorities released a video taken by closed circuit camera showing how gunmen in four vehicles approached the Casino Royale in a posh area of western Monterrey Thursday at 3:48 p.m., went inside and set the installation ablaze.
Moments later, gamblers and employees are seen scuttling out of the building. Black smoke then pours from the casino and sports betting parlor.
Calderon said his government would use all its resources to find those responsible for the attack, who he suggested were linked to powerful organized crime groups that raise money through extortion. His voice cracking and seemingly near tears, Calderon also lashed out at “the criminal sale of weapons” in the United States that he said allowed Mexican crime syndicates to advance, and the U.S. appetite for illegal narcotics that fill gangsters coffers.
“You are responsible, too,” he said of Americans.
Civil defense officials said the majority of the 52 victims were women in their 40s, 50s and 60s who were passing time in the casino on a weekday afternoon.
“It was an undescribable scene,” said Reynaldo Ramos of Monterrey Civil Defense. As rescuers pulled out lifeless victims after the fire, cell phones on their bodies rang constantly, he added.
He said some 300 people were in the casino at the time of the attack.