Mexico: explosions at two banks; Venezuela dispute in background

Two small explosions caused minor damage on the morning of Nov. 18 in branches of the BBVA Bancomer bank in Tlalnepantla and Atizapan de Zaragoza, cities in Mexico state just northwest of Mexico City. According to the Mexico state attorney general’s office, several people threw a “firecracker” into the Atizapan branch at 3 AM, damaging furniture and files and shattering windows in the bank and in two nearby houses. The state authorities said a homemade device found in the Tlalnepantla branch later in the morning probably failed to explode properly, though it did cause some damage. Bank personnel didn’t notice the device until 11:30 am, after it had already partially exploded. BBVA Bancomer is owned by the Spanish bank BBVA.

In both branches the authorities found literature from a group that called itself “Mexico United Against Poverty” and the “Revolutionary Labor Command Barbarous Mexico.” The group called for end to President Vicente Fox’s neoliberal policies, which had resulted in “cancelling all protection of workers’ rights.” It called Fox’s support for the US-backed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) at the Nov. 4-5 Fourth Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, Argentina, “insulting and ridiculous” and described him as a “puppy of the empire,” the same terms used left-populist Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez Frias used for Fox on Nov. 9, following the summit. State attorney general Alfonso Navarrete Prida said the explosions were “just a propaganda action” by “a group of people that wanted publicity.” (La Jornada, Nov. 19; El Diario-La Prensa, NY, Nov. 19 from AFP, Nov. 11 from AP, correspondent)

Chavez’s remarks about Fox after the summit led to a diplomatic dispute, with Fox demanding an apology and Chavez refusing to back down. The two countries withdrew their ambassadors on Nov. 14. (NYT, Nov. 15) On Nov. 19 hundreds of thousands of Chavez supporters marched from eastern Caracas to the Miraflores presidential palace in a demonstration that included attacks on the FTAA, US president George W. Bush and Fox. “Long live Mexico!” the marchers chanted. “And Fox? The hell with him!” Mariachi bands played Mexican music, and Chavez himself, wearing a traditional Mexican hat, sang a ranchera song. (ED-LP, Nov. 20 from AFP, AP)

The Chavez-Fox dispute became an issue in the campaign for the July 2006 presidential elections. The front runner, former Mexico City mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the candidate of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), quickly distanced himself from Chavez. “I’m going to defend the president of Mexico from any aggression by any foreign government, because he’s our president,” Lopez Obrador said in an interview on Nov. 10. (ED-LP, Nov. 11 from correspondent)

But the candidate of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Roberto Madrazo Pintado, said Chavez and Lopez Obrador “have very similar attitudes. I see authoritarianism in them both. They think they possess the absolute truth and are in permanent conflict with capital,” he told foreign reporters at a press conference on Nov. 14. Madrazo was selected as the PRI’s candidate in a Nov. 13 primary, and members of Fox’s center-right National Action Party (PAN) voted to make former energy minister Felipe Calderon their candidate, rejecting Fox’s choice, former governance minister Santiago Creel Miranda. Lopez Obrador had no rivals in his race for the PRD nomination. (NYT,
Nov. 15)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 20

See our last post on Mexico (and Venezuela).