No romance in a real gang war


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Casino Royale 7

The front entrance of the Casino Royale following the deadly blaze. Photos by Celina Canales.

Gang wars make great, great stories:  “Long, long ago in another time and place a famous and flamboyant gangster named Alfonso Capone lived in the great City of Chicago.  It was the depth of the great depression, the sale and consumption of alcohol was prohibited by a constitutional amendment.  But Capone and his fellow gangster had the booze and sell it they did; they sold it and fought each other for the right to sell it.  They sold it to those who paid their price, both for the booze and for the protection to operate a joint, a speakeasy – any place that served drinks to the good citizens of Chicago.   The cold, windy and winter dark city was controlled by ruthless men like Capone who spared no one who refused their demands or attempted to invade their territory.”

Now close your eyes and listen to the screeching tires of a car sliding sideways down the street, the sound of machine gun fire and the thud of a body thrown from the speeding car,  speeding off down the street careening off park cars and dark buildings and disappearing into the foggy gloom of the night.  It may have been a Dick Tracey comic, a television series or a movie with Marlin Brando – but it was filled with color – blood is after all a very bright and beautiful red – great dialogue and endless excitement – chases, battles, money, dazzling jewelry, glamor and love affairs.  After you finish reading or watching, you get up, yawn and wander off to the kitchen for a snack.

Not so in real life – in real life real people die, not cartoon characters or actors.  The sounds you hear are the screams of people trapped inside a burning building, the air is filled not with magical colors, but smoke and the smell of death.  The gangsters are not handsome, dashing actors, but stupid, petty and cruel men with their faces covered.  They bought gasoline, put it in bottles and then threw the bottles into the building – trapping the customers inside.  They were punishing the owner of the Casino Royale in Monterrey, Mexico for not paying the extortion; 53 people burned to death.  The gangsters are part of one of two gangs fighting over the control of the regional drug traffic and it would seem other illegal forms of income.

Thousands of people have demonstrated, calling upon the Mexican government to stop the gangs and protect its citizens; the government claims to have arrested 5 men, one of which told them of the motive I described and are hunting 7 others.  However, the governments main effort is somewhere else – the army has been raiding casinos making certain they are legal and have been paying their taxes.  If I lived in Mexico, that would really make me feel safer – not!

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