06/06/12 (written by dzuzuarregui) – On May 25 and 26, Sabritas, a Mexican snack food subsidiary of American multinational corporation PepsiCo, became the target of a series of coordinated acts of arson. Masked men armed with firebombs and automatic weapons stormed five separate Sabritas product distribution centers located in the states of Guanajuato and Michoacán. The blazes reportedly destroyed a total of three warehouses and over forty delivery trucks over the course of that weekend.
On May 31, a subsequent attack was carried out against the driver of a Sabritas delivery vehicle on a rural road in Michoacán between Morelia and the hamlet of Quiroga. Hooded gunmen accosted the vehicle, doused it with gasoline, and set it ablaze with the driver trapped inside, reported Fox News.
Hours prior to the May 31 attack, the Knights Templar (Los Caballeros Templarios), a relatively new splinter organization of the Familia Michoacana cartel, claimed credit and outlined their motivations for torching the snack food giant’s facilities via banners that were hung publicly in Apatzingán, Michoacán. In their message addressed to the national and transnational corporate sector, they contend that Sabritas actively cooperates with federal authorities in carrying out intelligence gathering and surveillance of the illicit activities of their “brotherhood.” They accuse the company of ferrying federal agents across their territory and even allowing them to pose as Sabritas representatives and employees.
As reported by BBC Mundo, Sabritas’ vice president, Francisco Merino, adamantly denied the cartel’s allegations and stressed that any and all company assets are strictly used only for the business operations of the company. The U.S. State Department has since denounced the attacks and reiterated their material and moral support of the Mexican government’s efforts to combat and dismantle organized crime.
Smaller, less established cartels like the Knights Templar are known to engage in extortion and kidnapping activities to complement revenue from their fledgling drug operations. These arson attacks against PepsiCo’s Sabritas–a multinational entity with a markedly more complex financial structure than the average privately owned small business–could be indicative of the company’s resistance toward extortion and the fact that the Knights Templar have not quite figured out how to muscle tribute out of the company and their various sites of operation.