Coca-Cola offices in southern Mexico targeted by protesters; at least 10 injured

Ten people were injured in southern Mexico after what police described as an attempt to attack the Coca-Cola company's offices in the southern state of Guerrero.

The violence occurred in the state capital of Chilpancingo late Wednesday.

The Guerrero state government said protesters tried to attack the Coke offices "to damage the facilities."

It said the demonstrators, including teachers' college students and unionized teachers, threw gasoline bombs, and a state police officer was burned.

Three other policemen were injured, along with two reporters and four protesters.

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The demonstrators briefly took two company employees hostage. The Coca Cola Femsa company — Mexico's largest Coke bottler — confirmed that, saying in a statement that "fortunately, our employees are well."

The company did not say under what conditions the employees were released.

But Josefina Sauceda, a member of the radical Guerrero state teachers' union that has been leading the protests, said the Coca Cola workers were seized in order to exchange them for five protesters who police had arrested earlier.

Local media said those protesters had been arrested for taking Coke products from hijacked delivery trucks, but the company would not confirm that.

Sauceda also claimed police attacked the protesters first in an attempt to disband a protest camp that has occupied part of the city's central square for months, a charge the state government denied.

Coca-Cola delivery trucks have been hijacked and merchandise stolen for months by demonstrators protesting the Sept. 26 disappearance of 43 teachers-college students. Local police reportedly detained the students in the nearby city of Iguala, then turned them over to a drug gang that apparently killed them and incinerated their remains.

Coca-Cola said in the wake of the Wednesday abductions that "we are currently evaluating the viability of our operations, with the primary consideration being the safety of our personnel."

It's not the first time Coca-Cola has been attacked in Mexico, or reduced operations in dangerous areas.

In August, the company closed a distribution plant in Arcelia, Guerrero after receiving threats before attackers burned four delivery trucks in an area known for gang battles, the company said. Coca-Cola Femsa did not specify the nature of the threats, but said they were directed at delivery personnel.

In 2012, the Knights Templar cartel in neighboring Michoacan state burned five warehouses and dozens of vehicles owned by Sabritas snack company, a Mexican subsidiary of PespsiCo.

Gang members said they believed Sabritas had let law-enforcement agents use its trucks for surveillance. The company denied that.

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