On Thursday evening, four vehicles full of armed men calmly arrived at a casino in the Northern Mexico town of Monterrey, rushed into the building and began throwing grenades, and firing their weapons. Eventually, the men doused the building with a flammable liquid and set fire to it, leaving 52 people dead in their wake. Reports say that the men represented a local organized crime syndicate that demanded money from the casino owner, perhaps as much as $10,000 per week, which was not paid. However, for the first time since the current spate of violence erupted at the border, Mexican President Felipe Calderon has cast this catastrophic attack as an act of terrorism.
Calderon’s choice to refer to the armed casino attackers as terrorists was possibly a calculated one, in that the existence of terrorism at the border is perhaps more likely to catch the interest of U.S. officials than the simple existence of Mexican gangsters. In a speech following the attacks, Calderon had harsh words for the U.S.-American government and population, regarding the country’s indirect role in these attacks. According to Calderon it is the excessive U.S. consumption of illegal drugs as well as the U.S. government’s inability to limit and monitor the production and sale of weapons that fuel the violent actions of Mexican drug cartels.
This is of course not the first time that U.S. complicity in Mexican violence has been questioned. Earlier this year, it was revealed that agents for the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms idly watched as known Mexican criminals snatched up large quantities of weapons from Arizona arms dealers, in a misguided attempt to track those weapons to the heads of organized crime syndicates. As a result of this failed effort, dubbed Operation Fast and Furious, as many as 1900 guns have yet to be recovered. And perhaps worst of all, as the ATF carried out this operation on both sides of the border, Mexican authorities were not consulted or even notified regarding their actions.
Just as Mexican authorities did in the wake of Fast and Furious, Calderon is once again imploring U.S. authorities to consider how our nation’s actions contribute to the violence in Mexico. He argues that the U.S. and Mexico need to develop binational solutions to a problem with binational roots. If we continue to refuse to help the Mexican people confront this issue, it will not be long until the terrorist activity moves north from cities like Monterrey and strikes us here in Southern Arizona and elsewhere along our nation’s southern border.