Police at the Coca-Cola distribution center, scene of an attack. Police at the Coca-Cola distribution center, scene of two attacks.

Coca-Cola shuts center due to lack of security

Distribution facility in Guerrero closed indefinitely after armed attacks

Coca-Cola Femsa has closed its distribution center in the Tierra Caliente region of Guerrero due to insecurity following months of threats and aggression against its employees.

There were two armed attacks this week on the facility in Ciudad Altamirano.

In a statement released yesterday, the company said that the decision to shut down indefinitely its operations in the city, effective yesterday, is “consistent with the fundamental objective of preserving the security and safety of its [160] employees.”

“The current lack of the necessary conditions to efficiently and safely operate within this part of the state of Guerrero, as exemplified by the recent unjustified assault on one of our employees, led the company to make this decision,” the statement explained.

At about 3:00am yesterday, a truck transporting a group of 20 armed men crashed into the main gate of the plant.

According to state security officials, the men intended to set the distribution center on fire but Federal Police officers managed to foil the attack. However, when they arrived at the scene the armed men shot at the National Gendarmerie personnel and a confrontation ensued.

One of the aggressors was arrested but the others managed to escape, leaving behind a pickup truck, a firearm, bullet casings and plastic containers filled with gasoline, the Guerrero Coordination Group (GCG) said.

Two days earlier, the distribution center was targeted in another attack.

In that incident, armed men shot at company employees who were reopening the plant’s sales section, which had been closed since January due to extortion threats. One Coca-Cola worker was seriously wounded in the assault.

In yesterday’s statement, the company said that since the start of the year “its employees at its distribution center in Ciudad Altamirano have received constant threats and acts of aggression from organized crime.”

Shutting down operations due to violence against Coca-Cola in Guerrero, one of Mexico’s most violent states, is not unprecedented.

In August 2014, the bottler temporarily ceased operations in the municipality of Arcelia, located 50 kilometers east of Ciudad Altamirano, after four of its delivery trucks were torched during a dispute between the criminal organizations La Familia Michoacana and Guerreros Unidos.

In February 2015, it shut down its storage facility in the state capital Chilpancingo for two weeks after a company manager and assistant manager were abducted and held hostage by students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College.

At the time, the students said that setting the employees free was conditional on the release of two of their fellow students who had been detained by police for looting a Coca-Cola delivery truck.

The students attended the same school as 43 students who disappeared in Iguala, Guerrero, six months prior to the kidnapping in September 2014.

Ciudad Altamirano

In June 2015, the company once again shuttered its operations in Arcelia because of constant threats from organized crime.

Yesterday’s decision by the world’s largest Coke bottler brings an end to more than four decades of operations in the Tierra Caliente region of Guerrero, an area plagued by violent cartel crime.

Last weekend, the army sent in more than 1,200 troops to the same region in Michoacán.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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