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A police officer stands watch over the Coatzacoalcos crime scene. A police officer stands watch over the Coatzacoalcos crime scene.

Bar attack death toll now 28; incident revives government conflict

Veracruz's top lawman denied that police had previously arrested and released a suspect

The deadly attack on a Veracruz bar Tuesday has revived the animosity between Veracruz Governor Cuitláhuac García and Attorney General Jorge Winckler.

Winckler has denied a claim repeated by García and President López Obrador that one of those responsible for the attack in Coatzcacoalcos had previously been arrested and released by the Veracruz Attorney General’s Office (FGE).

García said that Veracruz police freed Ricardo “La Loca” N., presumed to be a low-level hitman for the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) who is a suspect in several arsons, before he went on to carry out the Coatzacoalcos attack.

Twenty-eight people died after the Caballo Blanco nightclub was set on fire with molotov cocktails.

According to Winckler, Ricardo N. was arrested and released twice by the Veracruz delegation of the federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR), not by state authorities, once in July and once in August.

Friends and relatives of victims share their grief after Tuesday's assault on Veracruz bar.
Friends and relatives of victims share their grief after Tuesday’s assault on Veracruz bar.

Winckler also questioned whether Ricardo N. was involved in the attack at all.

The attorney general was appointed by García’s predecessor, Miguel Ángel Yunes, a member of the National Action Party (PAN). The two officials have had a troubled relationship since García, a member of the president’s Morena party, took office.

Winckler has also been a target for criticism by President López Obrador, who called Wednesday for the Veracruz attorney general to be investigated, questioning his honesty.

He suggested that part of the country’s insecurity problem is dishonest authorities.

The bar attack was bad enough, López Obrador said, but another factor is that “there exists conspiracy [by organized crime] with authorities.”

The federal FGR began its own investigation of the Coatzacoalcos incident on Wednesday. In a statement on Wednesday night, the FGR conceded that it does not have conclusive proof that Ricardo N. was responsible for the attack, but it has connected him to at least five other similar arsons.

Winckler said Thursday that lines of investigation include a fight between rival gangs, extortion and revenge. Four people are believed to have been responsible.

Twenty-three people died at the scene and five more in hospital yesterday. Another eight victims remain in hospital.

The attackers threw gasoline and molotov cocktails inside the bar and sealed the exits before fleeing.

Source: El Universal (sp), Milenio (sp)

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