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Coca-Cola Femsa Trucks Torched as Mexico Plant Shuttered

Aug. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Coca-Cola Femsa SAB said that attackers hijacked and set fire to four of its trucks in western Mexico even after the company closed a distribution plant in the area amid threats against delivery workers.

The plant shut its doors to about 50 workers July 30 in Guerrero state, which along with neighboring Michoacan has been hard hit by drug violence. The company, the biggest franchised Coke bottler, hasn’t specified the motives behind the attacks, saying three small trucks and one large Coca-Cola delivery vehicle were targeted Aug. 4. The drivers were released unharmed.

“We’ve been in communication with federal and local authorities who are carrying out investigations,” said Monterrey, Mexico-based Fomento Economico Mexicano SAB, which controls Coca-Cola Femsa, in an e-mailed statement. The plant was closed “for the security of our personnel.”

While President Enrique Pena Nieto’s administration has captured or killed the leaders of three of the nation’s four major drug cartels, including Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, drug violence in Guerrero and Michoacan has led civilians to take up arms since last year to fight traffickers they say have been terrorizing their communities. Even as the number of killings in the country fell 16 percent in 2013 from the previous year, kidnappings rose 21 percent and extortion climbed 11 percent, according to Mexico’s Interior Ministry.

‘Grave Situation’

The attacks on a well-known transnational company signal crime syndicates in Guerrero have grown more brazen and may step up aggression in the state, said Jorge Chabat, an analyst at the Center for Economic Research and Teaching, a Mexico City-based university.

The incident “clearly reflects the grave situation in Guerrero,” he said in a telephone interview. The attackers “don’t care about calling attention to themselves and will continue to do so. Extortions have been rising in the state.”

Guerrero’s state government said yesterday that it’s investigating the attacks, which took place in the municipality of Arcelia.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nacha Cattan in Mexico City at ncattan@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net Molly Schuetz, John Lear

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