MEXICO CITY – Mass purchases have been made of copies of the weekly news magazine Proceso in the Mexican cities of Durango, Monterrey, Puebla and Leon, with the buys likely linked to recent coverage of the relationships between casino owners and public officials, the magazine’s editor, Rafael Rodriguez, said Tuesday.
“Unidentified individuals” bought 2,500 copies in Monterrey, 2,100 in Puebla, 1,000 in Durango and 1,000 in Leon between Sunday, when the latest issue came out, and Monday, always paying cash, Rodriguez said.
The weekly, which takes a leftist stance and focuses on investigative journalism, practically disappeared from the newsstands, vending machines and stores that normally sell it.
The mass purchases are linked to reports published by Proceso in its recent editions about the links between public officials and the owners of casinos in Monterrey, the capital of Nuevo Leon state, Rodriguez told MVS radio.
The reports were published in the wake of an Aug. 25 fire at Monterrey’s Casino Royale that was intentionally set by suspected members of the Los Zetas drug cartel and killed 52 people.
The casino’s owner supposedly refused to pay protection money to the cartel.
“The casino issue is affecting many different sectors, both economic and political, and the toes that might eventually be stepped on by reports like the ones Proceso is publishing are on many different feet and of different sizes,” the journalist said.
Proceso’s latest edition featured a cover story about the supposed owner of several Monterrey gambling establishments who the magazine referred to as “the czar of the casinos, Juan Jose Rojas Cardona.”
The article, titled “Una historia siniestra” (A Sinister Story) on the cover and “El gran corruptor y sus corrompidos” (The Great Corrupter and Those He Corrupted) in the inside pages, was accompanied by a photograph of Rojas Cardona, who has been linked to public officials, politicians and Catholic Church representatives.
Rojas Cardona has links to Cardinal Norberto Rivera, Archbishop of Yucatan Emilio Berlie, Sen. Rodolfo Dorador Perez, of Durango, and Leon public affairs department director David Aguilar Romero, among other officials, Proceso said.
President Felipe Calderon 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.
Manuel Jonas Larrazabal, the brother of Monterrey’s mayor, was arrested on Sept. 1 by the Nuevo Leon 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.
Owners of some Nuevo Leon 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. EFE