Mexican authorities arrested four members of the Mexican drug cartel the Knights Templar after a series of firebombings that damaged several potato-chip warehouses owned by PepsiCo, according to a report.
The firebombings prompted Mexican authorities to beef up security at the factory. This was the first recorded attack on an American firm by the drug cartels in Mexico, according to the Associated Press.
Approximately one hundred state and federal police officers are guarding the warehouse operated by Sabritas, a Mexican snack company owned by PepsiCo, reported the Associated Press. Over the weekend, five warehouses and parking lots owned by Sabritas were attacked in Michoacán and Guanajato. Installations in other cities that were not attacked are currently under police surveillance.
Witnesses said masked men threw firebombs, damaging buildings and trucks. No one was reported injured, according to ABC.
The attorney general of Guanajato, Carlos Zamarippa Aguirre, said authorities arrested several men in connection with the attacks. Aguirre said that the suspects gave false names when they were arrested, but were later identified by fingerprints. The alleged cell leader was apparently wanted on kidnapping charges.
Aguirre said that the firebomb attacks were part of an extortion plot, however, this claim has not been verified and authorities are still investigating, according to ABC.
Gerardo Gutierez, president of Mexico's Business Coordinating Council, said that this was an isolated case of the kind of extortion the cartels sometimes practice, which usually focus on smaller establishments this operation did.
What we cannot allow is for this kind of isolated case to become generalized, Gutierrez said, reported the Daily Mail. The authorities have to take forceful action.
Alejandro Hope, a security analyst and former official in Mexico's CISEN intelligence agency, agreed with Gutierrez, reported the Daily Mail.
In Ciudad Juarez, they practically never tried to blackmail the maquiladoras,' Hope said. They focused more on small businesses ... they are easier targets, and with an industrial firm, one doesn't know exactly who to blackmail.
President Felipe Calderon said that cartels threaten growth and development in Mexico. He called them an obstacle to prosperity because they attack companies large and small, reported the Daily Mail.
While gangs and drug cartels have often extorted local businesses and street vendors for extra profit, the legal director of Sabritas, Cesar Mendoza, said he was unaware of any threats against his company.
We have filed criminal complaints with all the facts that we have and it will be the responsibility of the authorities to determine who is responsible, Mendoza said in an interview with Radio Formula, reported Reuters.
Julio Hernandez, as spokesman for western Michoacán state in Mexico, said that the attacks could hurt investments.
There will be effects on investment, Hernandez said, reported the AP. In fact, private investment, both foreign and domestic, has been stalled in recent years. There hasn't been any.
Mexico has continued to attract a wide range of investors, even as the drug war escalates. However, Hernandez said that large global companies have sought to invest in countries that are not subject to the amount of violence that Mexico is, reported Reuters.
Our investments from foreigners have fallen practically to zero, he said.
Sabritas said the company is still calculating the cost of damage.
Last year, PepsiCo earned $4.7 billion, and approximately 7 percent of its global revenue was generated in Mexico.