measured by more than just the number of victims (most of whom werefound dead in the toilets, where they had fled from the guns, only to findthemselves caught by the fire and smoke in a building without adequateemergency exits); it was also associated with their primarily middle-classstatus – many of them elderly women out for an afternoon’s bingo. Thissection of the population had been targeted individually in extortionrackets, but it was not generally considered vulnerable to a massacre.Subsequent journalistic investigations also uncovered a morass of corruption that not only underpinned a recent explosion in the number of gaming houses in Monterrey, but also suggested links between these andorganized crime. The fire at the Casino Royale, and the reluctance of theauthorities to pursue the evidence of widespread corruption that it high-lighted, undermined the efforts of both the federal and the Nuevo Leónstate government to frame the drug wars as a straightforward battlebetween the good guys and the bad guys. Nowhere, however, were thelines between the dirty and the clean more blurred, and more complex,than in Sinaloa, the so-called cradle of Mexican drug trafficking.
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Martín Ferrer builds tombs for a living – and he makes a reasonably goodliving out of it, too. His are no ordinary tombs, but are the kind of two-storey marble extravaganzas that make the Jardines de Humaya cemetery on the outskirts of Culiacán, the capital of Sinaloa, look like a wealthy suburb for the dead – the narco dead. ‘They pay well and on time, and they are good clients as long as you deliver what you promise’, Ferrer told meone afternoon, as he took a break from his current project. ‘If you don’t,they are not so happy.’ With his hand, he mimed putting a gun to his headand pulling the trigger. This was, he said, exactly what had happened to afriend a few months ago when he went over budget.Such mortuary luxury does not come cheap. The builder pointed to onemausoleum with five-metre high Doric columns and a sweeping curvedstaircase up to a second floor. It had cost 1.2 million pesos to build(around $120,000 at the time), he said, though he did not specify whetherthat had included the solar panels on the roof (to power the air condi-tioning and in-tomb entertainment) or the bullet-proof glass in thepicture window. ‘It’s so the family can get together and relax. They have tobe careful these days.’The view from where we were chatting suggested that domes werealmost obligatory, balconies common, and that the most popular