25 killed as attackers ignite fire in Mexico bar


COATZACOALCOS, Mexico, Aug 28, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – At least 25 people were
killed and 11 badly wounded when gunmen burst into a strip club in eastern
Mexico, doused it with gasoline and ignited a raging fire, officials said

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador condemned Tuesday night’s “shameful”
attack in the city of Coatzacoalcos, and said federal authorities would
investigate evidence that it may have stemmed from collusion between the
state prosecutor’s office and organized crime.

The attack is the latest to rock the state of Veracruz, a flashpoint in
bloody turf wars between Mexico’s rival drug cartels and a hotbed of
political corruption.

Survivors said gunmen descended on the bar, the Caballo Blanco (White
Horse), in a hail of bullets, blocked the entrances and set the club alight.
But because of the loud reggaeton music pounding inside, many patrons and
dancers did not even notice the attack until the entire bar was in flames,
they said.

“They arrived in several vehicles, with rifles and pistols. They
threatened the security guards at the door and took control of the main
entrance,” one survivor told an AFP reporter, speaking on condition of
anonymity, as frantic family members rushed to the bar looking for their
loved ones.

Veracruz Governor Cuitlahuac Garcia tweeted that authorities had
identified one of the attackers as Ricardo “N” — Mexican law bars the
release of suspects’ full names — adding that he was a repeat offender known
as “La Loca” (“The Crazy One”).

The suspect was previously arrested last month, but was released by
prosecutors within 48 hours, Garcia said, vowing that “this vile crime…
will not go unpunished.”

President Lopez Obrador said federal authorities would investigate why the
suspect had been released, and whether there was a conspiracy between the
state prosecutor’s office and organized crime.

“There’s a problem there that needs to be investigated regarding the
actions of the Veracruz prosecutor’s office,” he told a press conference.

“There are two things going on here: one is this shameful act by organized
crime, the most inhuman thing possible; the other, which is also
reprehensible, is a possible conspiracy with the authorities.”

“We have to categorically separate organized crime from the government,”
added Lopez Obrador, a leftist elected last year on a stern anti-corruption

– Attackers blocked emergency exits –

Veracruz is one of the most violent states in the country.

Its strategic location on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico makes it a
popular route for drug cartels and for human traffickers bringing
undocumented migrants to the United States.

Bloody battles between warring cartels and gangs frequently erupt in the
state. Coatzacoalcos has been among the cities hardest hit by the violence.

The White Horse was one of the last nightclubs in the once-booming port
city of 235,000 people, which has fallen on hard times along with Mexico’s
oil industry, of which it was a hub.

Survivors said the bar was bustling when the gunmen burst in. The
attackers blocked the emergency exits, and many of the victims died of smoke
inhalation, authorities said.

The interior of the bar was wrecked and charred, with chairs overturned
and debris littering the floor.

The naked body of a woman who had been mid-routine was sprawled on the
dance floor next to the striptease poles.

Outside, anguished relatives cried and embraced as they waited for news,
while soldiers, police and paramedics worked the scene.

“I just want to know if he’s OK,” said a mother looking for her son, who
was a cleaner at the bar, after searching for him in vain at local hospitals.

“Have you seen my daughter? She was a dancer,” said another.

– Hit squads, corruption –

Mexico has been hit by a wave of violence since declaring war on drugs and
deploying the army to fight its powerful cartels in 2006.

Since then, more than 250,000 people have been murdered, including a
record 33,753 last year.

The situation in Veracruz has been particularly grim. Jailed ex-governor
Javier Duarte (2010-2016) is accused of presiding over a rash of corruption
and human-rights abuses.

Two former state police chiefs and a string of ex-officials have been
charged with running hit squads that abducted and presumably killed unwanted
individuals during Duarte’s administration.