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Feature photo: Andres B; Photo: Andres Rueda

While many of their fellow citizens celebrated Mexico’s win against the U.S. in the World Cup qualifier match, some folks in Veracruz were mad as hell….

Only it had nothing to do with soccer.

Like most countries, Mexico’s been hard hit by the world financial crisis. Last fall, the Mexican peso–a relatively stable currency–plummeted in value. The U.S.’s own economic woes severely impacted Mexico’s GDP, as the countries are each other’s primary trade partners. Unemployment soared.

Even Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim–reputed to be among the world’s three richest men–predicted that the crisis could easily become catastrophic for Mexico in a February 2009 speech that was so heavy with doomsday predictions it landed Slim front page billing on most of Mexico City’s major newspapers.

So today’s news from the port city of Veracruz shouldn’t really come as a surprise.

According to a report in the newspaper La Jornada, a group of people in Veracruz showed up at a branch of the Banco Azteca to protest “exorbitant interest rates” and “threatening actions” taken by the bank against its debtors.

Protests aren’t uncommon in Mexico, but this one was particularly interesting: the protesters allegedly burned 50 credit cards right outside the bank’s entrance. Fellow protesters in other areas of the state staged their own card burning actions, burning more than 7,000 cards in all.

The action was organized by the non-profit advocacy group Fundacion Digna Vida. Back in March, Digna Vida had urged debtors not to simply stop paying off their debt, but to have their debt assessed and to work with their financial institutions on devising feasible payment plans.

Since that time, however, the organization learned that Banco Azteca’s convenient partnership with the appliance retailer Elektra had allowed it to “economically kidnap” its clients, keeping them in inescapable spirals of debt by extending credit for home appliances and then pressuring them to pay off those appliances at usurious rates.

Burning the credit cards won’t erase the debt, of course. But hopefully it will let Banco Azteca and its partner in crime know that the jig is up.

Community Connection:

How are credit cards viewed and used around the world? Check out “The Culture of Credit Cards Worldwide,” just one of the thousands of articles from our archives.



About The Author

Julie Schwietert

Julie Schwietert Collazo is a writer, editor, researcher, and translator currently in New York, formerly of Mexico City and San Juan.

  • Marissa

    “Burning the credit cards won’t erase the debt, of course. But hopefully it will let Banco Azteca and its partner in crime know that the jig is up.”

    Indeed. Unfortunately, I feel that most of the time, protest does not immediately change anything but it least it allows people to rally together and make their voices heard. I hope the situation in Mexico improves sooner than later.

  • Sarah

    Mexico has some of the most egregious banks in the world! Credit rates here are out of control. There also needs to be some cultural re-education as far as credit is concerned. At stores like Elektra, and all the major department stores, people are putting hundreds of dollars of things on credit and it’s creating a major problem.

  • Julie Schwietert


    Agreed. And cultural re-education with respect to credit needs to happen worldwide, I think. Here in NYC, I’ve seen credit card companies sign up welfare recipients– right in front of the welfare office! When I was a social worker, I had clients who thought that receiving a credit card meant they suddenly had money; since they’d never owned a credit card and no one else in their family had, they had no idea or experience about how credit cards worked and no one taught them.

    The very best education that any high school economics course could provide wouldn’t be about stocks: it would be about credit cards.

  • Michelle

    Oh my…you’re right, Julie, people aren’t educated enough about what credit cards are and what they can do. That welfare story is frightening.

  • Eva

    Crazy. The Canadian banks are considerably more regulated in their activities (Yay for “socialism” – ha) but I got my first taste of US-style banking last month when I signed up for a simple chequing account, for the sole purpose of being able to receive direct deposits in US funds, which I would then transfer online to my Canadian accounts. I was then hounded – we’re talking multiple phone calls and emails – to accept a line of credit AND a credit card with the account, neither of which I had asked for. They were actually begging/bullying me to take on credit debt! No wonder we’re in the situation we’re in.

I see a lot more than just over-privileged "kids" asking people to do their laundry.
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