MEXICO CITY – The number of people killed in the fire-bombing of a bar in Coatzacoalcos, a city in the Mexican Gulf state of Veracruz, stands at 26, the state Attorney General’s Office said on Wednesday.
Ten women and 16 men died, while 11 other people remain hospitalized, the Veracruz AG Office said in a statement, going on to deny claims that it was responsible for the release from custody of the main suspect in the bombing, identified as Ricardo N, alias “La Loca.”
Ricardo N, according to the state AG Office, was detained in July and placed at the disposition of the Veracruz delegation of the Mexican federal AG Office.
“A tragedy must not be used to distort facts or confuse public opinion,” the Veracruz prosecutors said, adding that the suspect was subsequently arrested Aug. 7 and later released – again without the knowledge or involvement of the state AG Office
“The information who had custody and disposition of Ricardo N can be found in official databases, so we ask the state governor to clarify the information made public,” the state AG Office concluded.
Earlier Wednesday, Veracruz Gov. Cuitlhauac Garcia said on social media that Ricardo N had been arrested in July and released in less than 48 hours by state prosecutors.
The governor’s comments were amplified by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
“There’s a problem there that has to be investigated regarding the actions of the Veracruz Attorney General’s Office,” the president said, referring to reports that some of the suspected assailants were released by authorities last month.
“The Marine Corps detained the one they are accusing of having presumably participated in this crime. The Marines detained this person and the state Attorney General’s Office released him in the month of July. And there was a record of similar cases. That will be investigated,” Lopez Obrador said.
The president, popularly known as AMLO, said he asked the federal AG Office to look into the attack and conduct “a broad” investigation that includes, if necessary, authorities.
The link between organized crime groups and officials “is corruption, and that is what we have to also fight,” AMLO said.
The Caballo Blanco bar was attacked around 10:00 pm Tuesday by assailants who opened fire with automatic weapons on the people in the packed establishment before tossing fire bombs inside, officials said.
Veracruz has been plagued by a turf war between rival drug cartels that has sent the state’s murder rate skyrocketing.
Officials blame the majority of the killings in the Gulf state on the Zetas and Jalisco Nueva Generacion drug cartels.
The criminal organizations are battling for control of Veracruz, which is Mexico’s third-most populous state and coveted as a key drug-trafficking corridor to the United States.
On April 19, 14 people were massacred during a birthday party in Minatitlan.
In 2019, Mexico got off to the bloodiest start to a year ever, with a total of 8,493 murders registered in the first quarter, the highest number of killings in such a period since 1997, when the government started keeping murder statistics.
A total of 20,135 murders occurred during the first seven months of this year, or an average of 95.8 murder cases per day, official figures show.
Last year, 33,369 murders were recorded in Mexico, making it the most violent year since 1997.