Mexico: Banks Bombed to Protest Taxpayer Bail Out

Publisher Name: 
Associated Press

MEXICO CITY -- A small leftist group said it planted explosive devices at five Mexico City branches of a bank bought last week by Citigroup, a deal
that angered taxpayers who had bailed out the Mexican bank only to
see it sold to foreigners at a huge profit.

Three small explosives contained in tin cans detonated and two more
were defused late Wednesday -- the birthday of the revolutionary hero
Emiliano Zapata. There were no reports of injuries or major damage.
An unexploded grenade was found outside a branch hours later on
Thursday.

''These were very homemade devices that weren't intended to cause
destruction, serious damage, or to injure anyone,'' said Bernardo
Batiz, Mexico City's chief prosecutor. ''The intention was clearly to
call attention to this group.''

The leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of the People, or FARP,
claimed responsibility for the attacks in calls to Mexican news
media. FARP also warned that explosives were planted at the Italian
Embassy in Mexico City and at the Senate but none were found, police
said.

Batiz said witnesses described the bombers as ''youths ... who warned
some kids playing soccer nearby to clear out'' before planting the
devices. No suspects have been arrested.

Banamex released a brief statement Thursday condemning the bombings.
Business at the banks continued as usual, the statement said.

Earlier Wednesday, Congress had released details of fraud and insider
loans -- including the names of bankers involved -- in a $100 billion
rescue program that bailed out Banamex and a dozen other Mexican
banks after a 1995 currency crisis.

An audit showed that taxpayers absorbed losses from about $7.3
billion in insider or fraudulent loans.

Under the slogan ''support transparency,'' Mexico's most influential
newspaper, Reforma, ran a front-page appeal Thursday asking readers
to help identify deadbeat debtors and locate their assets.

Anger has mounted over the Citigroup deal, the latest in a series of
buyouts that has placed almost all of Mexico's financial sector in
foreign hands.

Banamex President Roberto Hernandez, a friend and campaign donor of
President Vicente Fox, may have gotten as much as $3 billion for
selling his stake in the bank -- none of which he has to pay back to
taxpayers who spent more than $3.4 billion to bail out his bank when
it was drowning in bad loans in 1995.

Mexican bankers said the release of the names, as well as a general
hostility toward them, could lead to a violent campaign against banks
and their owners.

''They're attempting to create an atmosphere of lynching against the
thousands of people and businesses that appear on the list'' of
delinquent loans, said Hector Rangel, president of the Mexican
Bankers Association.

AMP Section Name:CorpWatch