Violent Mexican cartel targets PepsiCo chip maker

Government officials pledged Friday to use all their powers to stop criminal organizations from attacking businesses here — especially large transnational corporations — after assailants burned another delivery truck belonging to a PepsiCo-owned snack food company.

Last weekend, drug cartel members firebombed five distribution centers and burned dozens of delivery trucks belonging to the popular potato- and corn-chip company Sabritas, which is a division of PepsiCo.

On Thursday, the criminal organization known as the Knights Templar hung banners in Apatzingan, in the state of Michoacan, taking credit for the attacks.

Although Mexico’s criminal organizations make a lot of money by extortion, their targets are usually small and medium-size businesses, with a visible owner who can be threatened — not big multinationals such as PepsiCo.

A U.S. Embassy official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of security concerns, said this is one of the few cases of extortion he had heard of involving a large U.S.-based company.

The Knights Templar is an offshoot of the methamphetamine-trafficking organization called La Familia, whose charismatic leader “The Crazy One” recruited assassins to a semi-cult founded on a scrambled ideology of self-help pap and biblical quotes.

In their banners, the Knights Templar accused Sabritas of allowing its delivery trucks to be used by police to spy on them.

“We are warning companies that lend themselves to these activities that they will be punished for their offenses,” the Knights Templar said, in a banner that appeared on a Web site that covers narco-trafficking.

The government of President Felipe Calderon signaled to the business community that it takes the matter seriously.

In a news conference, Interior Undersecretary Obdulio Avila vowed that the government will not allow the crimes to go unpunished and promised to protect business interests.

Avila said the chip company’s delivery vans were not being used by police. According to the Associated Press, he left the news conference without answering questions.

William Booth is The Post’s Jerusalem bureau chief. He was previously bureau chief in Mexico, Los Angeles and Miami.
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