Mexico City – The four suspected intellectual authors of the Aug. 25 arson attack on the Casino Royale in Monterrey, the capital of the northern Mexican state of Nuevo León, that left 52 people dead have been identified, officials said Wednesday.
Francisco Medina Mejía, suspected of being the top boss of the Los Zetas cartel cell involved in the attack, Baltazar Saucedo Estrada, Roberto Carlos López Castro, who also goes by the alias Alberto Alejandro Reyes, and José Alberto Loera Rodríguez planned the attack, federal prosecutor José Cuitlahuac Salinas said in a press conference in Monterrey at which he displayed photographs of the four suspects.
The men "were part of the group that organized and ordered the attack's execution," the prosecutor said.
The Attorney General's Office offered rewards on Sept. 7 of up to 15 million pesos (about $1.2 million) for 18 people suspected of playing a role in the attack, but prosecutors initially identified some of the suspects only by their nicknames.
Monterrey, Nuevo León and federal officials are "united" in trying to "find and capture everyone who threatens the security and peace of society," Salinas said.
Six suspects, including a state police officer, have been arrested in connection with the massacre at the Casino Royale.
The suspects told investigators they belonged to the Los Zetas cartel and torched the casino because the owner refused to pay protection money.
The media can play an important role in assisting the investigation by publishing the photographs of the suspects so citizens can notify authorities if they spot them, Nuevo León Gov. Rodrigo Medina said.
"We continue investigating to find the exact identities of the rest of the members of this gang," the governor said.
The attack on the gambling establishment unearthed a web of corruption involving officials and casino owners.
Owners of some Nuevo León casinos have complained that they are subjected to extortion by organized crime elements and also by officials, who threaten to shutter their establishments if payments are not made.
Manuel Jonas Larrazabal, the brother of Monterrey's mayor, was arrested on Sept. 1 by the Nuevo León state 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.
One of the videos was dated Aug. 19, just six days before the torching of the Casino Royale.
Officials in some states responded to the attack by ordering the closing of casinos in the past few weeks.
President Felipe Calderón ordered an extensive investigation of Mexico's casinos in the wake of the fire in Monterrey.
Many of the country's casinos operate in an irregular manner, with some staying open for business due to controversial court orders.