‘Horrendous’ Mexican bar attack leaves at least 25 people dead

Dozens killed as suspected gang members set bar on fire in port of Coatzacoalcos

 Police officers patrol in front of the Caballo Blanco bar the night after an arson attack there, in the state of Veracruz, Mexico. Photograph: Angel Hernandez/EPA

Police officers patrol in front of the Caballo Blanco bar the night after an arson attack there, in the state of Veracruz, Mexico. Photograph: Angel Hernandez/EPA

 

At least 25 people were killed in an arson attack by suspected gang members on a bar in the southeastern Mexican port of Coatzacoalcos late on Tuesday, Mexico’s president Andrés Manuel López Obrador said, in a fresh blow to his efforts to curb violence.

Calling the attack “horrendous”, Mr López Obrador told a regular morning news conference on Wednesday that the deaths occurred after the suspected gang members closed the emergency exits of the bar and set fire to it.

The attorney general’s office of the state of Veracruz said overnight that eight women and 15 men died in the fire at the Caballo Blanco bar, and 13 people who were seriously wounded were hospitalised for treatment.

Mr López Obrador said 25 people had died so far and that initial investigations indicated that some suspects behind the attack had been in custody this year and were later released.

The attack was one of the worst mass killings since the veteran leftist López Obrador took office in December pledging to pacify Mexico by battling corruption and inequality.

So far, however, the number of murders has continued to rise after hitting record levels in 2018.

The deaths follow an attack in April on another bar in Veracruz in the city of Minatitlán that killed 13 people.

Groundwork for crime

While saying he did not want to blame previous governments, Mr López Obrador nevertheless pointed to past policies for laying the groundwork for the crime.

“This is the rotten fruit of the economic policy that was imposed, the policy of pillage,” the president said.

Veracruz state governor Cuitláhuac García suggested in a post on Twitter that the attack was the result of a dispute between gangs.

The Gulf Coast state is a major transit point for drugs making their way north towards the US border and has long been convulsed by violent turf wars between organised crime groups.

Some Mexican media reports said that gunmen had fired shots on the bar before setting it ablaze with Molotov cocktails. – Reuters