Thursday, May 31, 2007

A motel in northern Mexico is putting steel doors on its rooms to protect guests from kidnappings and shootings in a war between rival drug cartels

Robin Emmott:

Owners of the Rancho El Trueno, or Thunder Ranch, began fortifying the highway motel near Monterrey a year ago but have decided to shield all 35 rooms as drug killings have worsened in the area in recent months.

Complete with hot tubs, red imitation-leather beds, mirrored walls and striptease poles, the rooms are shuttered behind steel gates about 4cm thick and some already have steel doors.

"We want people to have fun and be able to feel safe. Lovers come, big groups come, we are full on weekends," said Emilio Massa, the motel manager.

He said the owners came up with the idea after guests in nearby motels were shot and kidnapped.

"Do drug gangs come? Well you never know, do you?" Massa said to the grating sound of machines cutting steel doors to put on the rooms.

Thunder Ranch charges 150 pesos ($17) for three hours or 400 pesos a night for a room. It also boasts a huge suite with a swimming pool, palm trees, a water slide, a sauna, pool tables and video screens.

"Our suite is booked up weeks ahead of time," Massa said.

In most roadside motels in northern Mexico, guests drive into a covered parking space and close a plastic curtain behind their car before entering their room.

But Massa says guests need more security than that.

"The violence is terrible," he said. "We found a dead body just a few metres away the other day."

At least 70 people have been killed in drug violence this year in Monterrey as a coalition of cartels run by Mexico's most wanted man, Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, vies for control of smuggling routes run by the Gulf Cartel near Texas.

Nationwide, some 1,000 people have died in drug-related killings this year and a military-backed assault on the gangs that smuggle narcotics into the United States has so far been unable to stop the violence.

Drug Gang in Mexico Kills Four Policemen as a Warning to Stay Away


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