Mexico business chiefs fear cartel violence after FEMSA's Oxxo stores attacked


MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Organized crime is putting Mexican businesses at risk, the national Chamber of Commerce has warned, after drug cartel members attacked a series of convenience stores earlier this week.

"Business leaders are very concerned about the climate of insecurity that exists in some areas of our country and we need to have the guarantee of the full application of the rule of law," the chamber, which represents 4 million businesses, said in a letter late Wednesday afternoon.

The plea followed a night of violence in the central states of Guanajuato and Jalisco on Tuesday, where military personnel clashed with cartel members, prompting the U.S. embassy to issue a travel warning to the area.

"There was a meeting of two gangs and the secretary of defense arrived (and intervened)... This is what caused the backlash (and) the burning of vehicles," President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said at his regular news conference.

Taxis and buses were set on fire alongside over 20 branches of Oxxo, Latin America's largest convenience-store chain.

Videos shared on social media showed people inside the Oxxo shops as aisles were set alight, while others showed armed men shooting at local businesses.

Oxxo parent company FEMSA said in a brief statement Wednesday that no workers or customers were reported injured.

There is no indication that the Oxxo stores were deliberately targeted.

The states' two governors said on Twitter that no injuries were reported elsewhere during the violence, and that multiple arrests had been made related to the disruption.

Mexico is no stranger to cartel violence, with the average homicide rate standing at 84 per day, according to the latest figures.

"We make a strong call to the authorities... to strengthen the fight against organized crime and protect citizens, not only in the places that suffered acts of violence this Tuesday, but at the national level," the business commerce letter read.

(Reporting by Isabel Woodford, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)

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