Sabritas, a unit of U.S. soft drinks and snack foods giant PepsiCo, said Tuesday it had not been the target of extortion attempts or threats prior to a series of firebomb attacks over the weekend at five of its distribution centers in the central-western Mexican states of Michoacan and Guanajuato.
"We have no record (of threats or extortion calls). We have no indication in that regard. This regrettable action took us by surprise. We're focused on our business," Sabritas' vice president for corporate affairs, Francisco Merino, said.
The company is "in the process of evaluating, quantifying" the damage caused by the attacks, which targeted five distribution centers and more than 40 vehicles, Merino told MVS radio.
The PepsiCo unit has not yet identified a possible motive for the attacks, Merino said, adding that the assailants took the company entirely "by surprise."
The firebomb attacks took place on Friday and Saturday at three Sabritas distribution centers in Apatzingan, Uruapan and Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan, and at two others in Celaya and Salvatierra, Guanajuato, Merino said.
Thus far, four suspects in the attacks have been arrested in Guanajuato.
Media outlets have speculated the attacks may have been an attention-grabbing ploy by some criminal gang or an act of revenge after the company refused to pay protection money or allowed police or soldiers to conceal themselves inside its vehicles.
Responding to the latter theory, Merino said Sabritas' trucks are dedicated "entirely to transporting its products to its customers and consumers."
"We're 100 percent focused on our business and always act in accordance with the law," Merino said.
The army and the Federal Police are investigating the alleged participation of the Los Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar) gang, which has ties to drug-trafficking outfits in South America and other Mexican states.
Los Caballeros Templarios was created in March 2011 by former members of the La Familia Michoacana, until then the state's dominant criminal organization.
Since its founding, the Caballeros have come to dominate the drug, kidnapping and extortion businesses in Michoacan.
Mexico's numerous cartels are known to supplement their drug-trafficking income by running extortion rackets but they have tended to target smaller businesses as opposed to multinational firms. EFE