PepsiCo's Mexico snack subsidiary attacked again

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Assailants in western Mexico burned another delivery truck of a PepsiCo-owned Mexican snack company, shortly after a drug cartel claimed responsibility for last week's arson attacks against the company, police said Friday.

The truck belonging to Sabritas, which sells potato and corn chips in Mexico, was torched with gasoline bombs on a rural highway late Thursday, police in Michoacan state said in a statement. The attackers fled the scene.

Earlier Thursday, the cult-like Knights Templar drug cartel hung banners in a Michoacan city claiming credit for firebombing five Sabritas distribution centers last week. Dozens of trucks were burned in those attacks.

The banners accused Sabritas of letting law enforcement agents use its trucks for transportation and surveillance.

"We have been affected by companies that allow themselves to be used to transport people throughout Michoacan, to carry out activities against our brotherhood," the banners read. While the cartel traffics in methamphetamine and carries out kidnappings and killings, it often tries to cast itself as a pesudo-religious "brotherhood."

"These are government intelligence agents who pass themselves off as sales agents for this company," the banners said, referring to Sabritas. "We are telling all companies that lend themselves to these activities that they will be punished for offenses."

PepsiCo's Mexico office did not respond to requests for comment on those accusations. But in a press statement last week, the company appeared to deny the allegations, saying that "our vehicles and facilities are used exclusively to carry our products to our customer and clients."

At a news conference Friday, Assistant Interior Secretary Obdulio Avila said the "there is no information that would indicate that the damaged vehicles were being used for any purpose other than delivery duties."

Avila and military officials left the new conference without answering questions.

Mexican drug cartels frequently earn extra money by demanding protection payments from small business operating in cities they control. But the cartels have never systematically attacked or targeted a transnational firm for extortion before.

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