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At the stroke of midnight on May 22, explosions rocked three banks in Jiutepec, a city within an industrial ring outside Cuernavaca, in Mexico's south-central state of Morelos. There were no casualties, but the blasts shattered windows, ripped through doors and blew off ceilings. A previously unknown guerilla group, the Comando Jaramillista Morelense 23 de Mayo, left communiques at the scenes claiming responsibility.

Local branches of Banamex, Bancomer and Santander-Serfin were targeted in the attacks. Police also found a bomb that failed to detonate in a branch of the British-owned HSBC bank. Police said the explosives were made from dynamite and probably set off by remote control. "This was a professional job," local police commander Pedro Alvarez said. "These were no homemade bombs."

The communique harshly attacked "neoliberal Foxismo"--a reference to the free-trade policies of President Vicente Fox. The message charged: "Fox has shown that under the imperialist hegemony, political and moral degradation have no limits." It also called for the resignation of Morelos Gov. Sergio Estrada, accusing his government of being a "gang of narco-traffickers." Both Fox and Estrada are from the right-wing National Action Party (PAN).

The new group takes its name from Ruben Jaramillo, a veteran of Emiliano Zapata's peasant army of the Mexican Revolution who raised a new insurgency in Morelos in the 1950s. Jaramillo was killed along with his family when federal troops raided his home on May 23, 1962. Former peasant lands which now make up the Cuernavaca Valley Industrial City (CIVAM), where the bank attacks took place, were among those Jaramillo's insurgency sought to liberate.

Fox pledged federal authorities would find the bombers. "I hope this is an isolated incident," he said. "We will make sure that stability and calm continue in the country."

The blasts occasioned the usual conspiracy-theorizing in the Mexican press. "The appearance of a guerrilla movement in Morelos has to be taken with prudence," wrote Julio Hernandez in the Mexico City daily La Jornada. "On many occasions, supposed [guerrilla] acts have been prepared in government basements."

Such claims were widespread when the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) emerged in Guerrero state, immediately to the south of Morelos, in 1996.

(Houston Chronicle, Reuters, Reforma, La Jornada, May 24)

The Comando Jaramillista communique is on-line at La Jornada

All of the banks targeted in the attacks have been linked to Mexico's drug mafias. Banamex, Mexico's second largest bank, was bought for $12.5 billion by the global giant Citigroup in 2001. In 1998, Citigroup came under fire by the US Congress and its General Accounting Office for having illicitly laundered over $100 million in drug money for Raul Salinas, brother of disgraced Mexican president Carlos Salinas. It was also found to be complicit in money laundering for corrupt officials from Nigeria, Pakistan and Gabon. Along with the Congressional investigation, then-Attorney General Janet Reno and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin launched a sting dubbed Operation Casablanca which brought laundering charges against several Mexican banks, including Banamex. US Customs Agent Bill Gately, who later retired in protest, accused Rubin on "60 Minutes" of deliberately shutting down the investigation before it got to the highest levels--and particularly before charges were brought against US banks. (Rainforest Action Network press release, Aug. 10, 2001)

In addition to Banamex, charges were also brought against Bancomer, Banca Serfin and the Spanish Banco Santander--which has since merged with the Mexican Serfin. (Newsday, May 19, 1998)

In 2002, Banamex owner Roberto Hernandez lost a lawsuit against Mario Renato Menendez Rodriguez, publisher of Yucatan's Por Esto newspaper, and co-defendant Al Giordano, publisher of the on-line, after New York state courts found that allegations connecting Hernandez to cocaine smuggling were substantiated. ( The Razor Wire, Spring 2002; Online Journalism Review, April 2, 2002)

(Bill Weinberg)


Special to WORLD WAR 3 REPORT, June 5, 2004
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Reprinting permissible with attribution.