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Bribery Scandal Turns Up Anti-Walmart Heat

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (UPI) — U.S. retail giant Walmart said the firm would stick with expansion plans despite recent allegations of bribes in Mexico meant to speed up expansion there.

Despite investigations into the company’s behavior in Mexico, “We remain committed to opening stores all across the United States, including large cities,” said Steven Restivo, a Walmart spokesman.

But the anti-Walmart heat is being turned higher due to the the allegations, The New York Times reported Monday.

Politicians, community activists and union leaders have seized on articles, published in the Times this month, as ammunition to shore up anti-Walmart campaigns.

Much of Walmart’s recent push to expand in the United States has centered on cities that have been able to thwart Walmart’s efforts to open stores in the past.

In Mexico, Walmart opened 431 stores in 2011 alone. The Times article contends that Walmart paved the way with bribery. Then, after top executives heard of the potential problem, they launched an in-house investigation, the results of which they summarily ignored, the newspaper alleged.

Walmart then promoted the head of its Mexican subsidiary, the Times said.

“The corruption scandal and reported coverup exposed an unacceptable failure of leadership within Walmart,” said Joe Hansen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

Now groups contesting a Walmart proposal to open a store in the Chinatown district of Los Angeles have added the bribery allegations to their appeal to have a building permit revoked.

In Boston, community activists are calling for a full disclosure of Walmart’s campaign contributions.

“There definitely is a pattern of giving campaign contributions to politicians who support what they want,” said Dorian Warren, a political science professor at Columbia University who is writing a book about Walmart’s efforts to open outlets in Chicago and Los Angeles.

“When you take that to the context of New York or Los Angeles, it’s going to make it harder for politicians to accept campaign contributions from Walmart,” he said.

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