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  HOME | Mexico

Mexican Mayor Says He Has No Plans to Quit Amid Casino Scandal

MONTERREY, Mexico – Monterrey Mayor Fernando Larrazabal said he planned to remain in office despite the release of videos showing his brother, Manuel Jonas, receiving cash from the representative of a casino in the northern Mexican industrial city.

“I will remain at the head of this government and I will do so as I have done up to now, telling the truth up front with a clear conscience and following the law,” the mayor said in a press conference on Saturday.

The National Action Party, or PAN, National Executive Committee called on the mayor last week to step aside so the investigation into alleged corruption involving the casinos in Monterrey could proceed.

“I am and will continue to be a member of the PAN, I love my party,” the mayor said.

Larrazabal said he was the victim of “video blackmail” by businessman Sergio Gil.

The Red casino case is being investigated “with professionalism,” the mayor said.

Manuel Jonas Larrazabal was arrested on Sept. 1 by the Nuevo Leon Attorney General’s office after several videos were posted on the Reforma newspaper’s Web site showing him receiving cash during visits to casinos.

His defense attorney said the money was payment for the sale of “cheeses and mescal (a distilled alcoholic beverage)” from the southern state of Oaxaca to people linked to casinos in Monterrey.

The mayor, who never mentioned his brother during the press conference, said he was suffering “serious consequences because of the decisions made by third persons” outside the city government.

“No licenses to operate casinos in the city of Monterrey have been issued” during the current administration, the mayor said.

Suspected members of the Los Zetas drug cartel torched the Casino Royale in Monterrey, the capital of Nuevo Leon, on Aug. 25, killing 52 gamblers and employees trapped inside.

The attack rocked the country because the death toll was the highest ever for Mexican civilians in an incident involving drug traffickers.

About 2,000 people gathered outside city hall to express their support for Larrazabal.

The PAN “regrets the decision of the mayor of Monterrey to not comply with the request made to him” by the party leadership, PAN president Gustavo Madero said.

Casino Royale owner Raul Rocha Cantu gave statement to Mexican Attorney General’s Office representatives in Florida, the Nuevo Leon state Security Council said last week.

Rocha sent a letter last week to the El Norte newspaper in which he said he fled the country because he feared the criminals who attacked his business.

“I am willing to provide my statement when the authorities can guarantee that my life is not in danger,” Rocha told El Norte.

Six suspects have been arrested in connection with the massacre at the Casino Royale and officials say another six perpetrators remain at large, in addition to the people who masterminded the attack.

Five of the suspected Zetas in custody told investigators they did not plan to kill anyone and only wanted to intimidate the establishment’s owner into paying.

The suspects said they were scolded by their bosses for killing so many people at the casino, which was the target of an extortion racket common in several parts of Mexico, officials said.

Owners of some Nuevo Leon casinos have complained that they are extorted by organized crime elements and also by the authorities, who threaten to shutter their establishments if payments are not made.

Rewards are being offered for 18 individuals known only by their aliases who are being sought in connection with the torching of the casino, the federal AG’s office said last Wednesday.

The rewards for the suspects go up to 15 million pesos ($1.2 million) each, the AG’s office said.

The man suspected of organizing the attack has been identified only as “El Mata Perros” (The Dog Killer) or “Comandante Mata Perros” (Commander Dog Killer), federal prosecutor Jose Cuitlahuac Salinas said.

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