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