Coca-Cola Arson in Mexico Demonstrates Confidence of Criminals

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The Familia Michoacana burned four Coca-Cola vehicles in the Pacific state of Guerrero after their bottling company refused to make extortion payments, according to reports, underscoring the power of criminal groups in the state.

On August 4, hitmen from the criminal organization the Familia Michoacana intercepted and burned two Coca-Cola distribution trucks and two sales vehicles in the town of Arcelia, according to official reports seen by Proceso. The group allegedly forced the drivers of the vehicles to flee and then doused the trucks with gasoline and burned them with merchandise inside.

Bottling company Femsa said in a statement that it had closed a distribution plant in Guerrero a week earlier after receiving threats, reported the Associated Press.

InSight Crime Analysis

Mexico has seen an explosion in extortion in recent years, affecting major corporations as well as small businesses. According to a report by Mexico’s National Citizen Observatory, extortion increased more than eight-fold percent between 1997 and 2013, with 8,042 extortion cases reported last year.

This rise in extortion can be attributed both to the diversification of criminal revenue streams as interdiction efforts have made drug trafficking riskier, and to the fragmentation of criminal groups, which has forced smaller factions to be self-sustaining, and turn to the local economy as a source of revenue.

The fact that criminal groups are targeting major corporations like Coca-Cola is a troubling sign of their confidence. According to Proceso, there is a large military presence in the town where the Coca-Cola trucks were burned, which apparently did not deter the Familia Michoacana from burning the vehicles in broad daylight.

In 2012, the Knights Templar targeted installations belonging to a subsidiary of PepsiCo in Michoacan and Guanajuato, which the authorities attributed to the company’s failure to pay extortion fees. Other major companies — including Carso and Cemex — have also received threats, and according to the American Chamber of Commerce of Mexico over a third of foreign businesses surveyed in 2012 reported being threatened with extortion.

SEE ALSO: Familia Michoana Profile

Guerrero is currently the site of conflict between rival criminal groups, causing a spike in murders. The Familia Michoacana, the Knights Templar, the Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (CJNG), and a splinter group of the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) known as Los Rojos are all reportedly locked in a fight for control of the state’s criminal underworld. 

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