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As part of the Boycott Israel Campaign we have been boycotting Coca-Cola for some time (see Coca Cola Boycott Page). For nearly 40 years Coca-Cola has been a staunch supporter of the apartheid regime occupying Palestine.
Now workers in Colombia have also launched a boycott campaign against Coca-Cola. Apparently Coca-Cola have been murdering union leaders in Colombia.
We fully support their campaign.

Its interesting to see that Nestle, another company we are boycotting, is also mentioned for its serious human rights violations in Colombia.


Coca-Cola boycott launched after killings at Colombian plants

Sibylla Brodzinsky in Bogota
The Guardian
24 July 2003

Trade unions around the world have launched a boycott of Coca-Cola products, alleging that the company's locally owned bottlers in Colombia used illegal paramilitary groups to intimidate, threaten and kill its workers.

The unions claim Coca-Cola bottlers hired far-right militias of the United Self Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) to murder nine union members at Colombian bottling plants in the past 13 years.

Two years ago, the Colombian food and drink union Sinaltrainal sued Coca-Cola and its Colombian bottling partners in a US federal court in Miami over the deaths of its members.

The suit alleged that the bottling companies "contracted with or otherwise directed paramilitary security forces that utilised extreme violence and murdered, tortured, unlawfully detained or otherwise silenced trade union leaders", and that Coca-Cola was indirectly responsible for this.

In March, the judge removed Coca-Cola from the suit, but the process against the bottlers continues. The unions have appealed against the court's decision.

While the case continues, unions are calling on consumers to stop drinking Coke and other Coca-Cola products. The campaign was launched simultaneously in countries including the UK, US, Germany, Italy and Australia.

Javier Correa, the president of Sinaltrainal, said the campaign aimed to put pressure on Coca-Cola "to mitigate the pain and suffering" that union members had suffered.

Coca-Cola said in a statement on Tuesday that the allegations against the company and its partners were "completely false", and that the campaign was "nothing more than a shameless effort to generate publicity".

But Mr Correa insisted that - despite increased international attention - actions against union members have continued.

He said that in May, an anonymous caller to the union headquarters in Colombia warned that the offices would be targeted for a bomb attack. In March, a worker in the city of Bucaramanga received a notice from paramilitary groups that he had been declared a military target.

While the plight of Colombia's Coca-Cola workers has become well-known overseas, local media were making no mention of the campaign yesterday.

"In Colombia it is very difficult for this type of case to make it into local media," Mr Correa said. "It's all part of the culture of impunity."

Sinaltrainal decided to seek international support after it became frustrated with the courts' delays in considering the deaths of its workers.

"Cases that are 13 years old still have not been cleared up - no one has been detained and the cases end up unresolved," said Mr Correa.

One of the union's accusations is that managers at a bottling plant in the town of Carepa in northern Colombia directed paramilitary fighters to kill two union leaders in 1994. Two years later a member of the union's executive board was killed at the plant by paramilitary gunmen, the lawsuit says.

The latest death of a Sinaltrainal member happened last August, when Adolfo Munera was murdered in Caribbean coastal city of Barranquilla. A week earlier, the country's highest court had ordered the city's Coca-Cola bottler to re-employ him, after he was cleared of criminal charges filed against him in 1997

Coca Cola's Colombian bottlers have also denied the accusations. Colombia is the world's most dangerous country in which to be a union member, with 184 of the world's 213 confirmed killings last year, according to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.


The Coca Cola Boycott Campaign

Coca Cola and Nestlé both stand accused of serious human rights violations in Colombia. While Nestlé sack union members, Coca Cola kill them. Paramilitary Death Squads, acting under orders from Coca Cola management, have assassinated 8 trade union leaders in their workplaces. The union, SINTRAMINERCOL, has responded by calling for an international boycott of Coca Cola and all of their products, to start on 22 July.


The Coca Cola Genocide

The incandescent red and white logo of Coca-Cola - the world’s fastest selling non-alcoholic beverage - has long secured its niche as the global mascot of The American Dream and the successes and happiness rendered by capitalism.

Ongoing abuses suffered by Latin American Coca-Cola workers demonstrate that such success often comes at a terrible price. Specifically, the multinational has been riding on the back of Colombia’s dirty war on social protest –a war that has engendered the paramilitary’s hounding of food and beverage union SINALTRAINAL. The message behind the violence and threats of violence is always the same: “Dissolve the union or else…”

This repression has helped Panamco S.A, Coca-Cola’s local franchisee, to drastically reduce their production costs by minimising salaries and firing over five-thousand workers whilst doubling their production, and their profits.

The litany of abuses suffered at the hands of the paramilitaries includes the assassination of eight workers who were local leaders, three union members have been forced into exile, over sixty live under the shadow of death threats and some forty-eight others have been displaced.

Union President Javier Correa describes conditions. "The paramilitaries have graffitied threats and accusations against us on the walls of the bottling plants. These plants have become like concentration camps. The army patrols the buildings. There is so much repression that union workers are even followed into the toilet. One worker killed himself. In his suicide note he blamed Coca-Cola.”

And he explains the corporation's attitude: “Coca-Cola has turned from a time of exploitation to a time of slavery. Because the workers continue to resist this oppression the paramilitaries now try to kidnap family members, they’ve burnt union headquarters and destroyed whatever evidence they can so we are unable to bring a case against them. If SINALTRAINAL is dissolved," adds Correa "we face assassinations".

William Mendoza is SINALTRAINAL branch President in Barrancameja – an oil rich town at the epicentre of Colombia’s conflict. The paramilitaries attempted to kidnap his daughter last year. Mendoza describes SINALTRAINAL as “under siege… the Barrancameja plant manager tells the paramilitaries that we are terrorists. We have become military targets. Would-be union members at the Coca-Cola plant now see joining SINALTRAINAL as like signing one’s own death sentence.”
The Colombian state has neither investigated, brought to justice nor punished those responsible for the killings.

So with help from the American Steelworkers Union, a federal court case has been put forward against Coca-Cola in the U.S. to gain reparation for the victims. Panamco has responded by taking SINALTRAINAL to the Colombian courts – renowned for corruption - with charges of calumny.

Failed and abused by both the Colombian system and Coca-Cola, SINALTRAINAL has turned to the people and the international community to explain their crisis.

Since July last year three International Public Hearings have taken place, the first in Atlanta in July, the second in Brussels in October and the final one in Bogotá on 5th December 2002. These hearings were a formidable expression of resistance. The aim? To denounce and combat the devastating effects of terrorism: both by the Colombian state and by the multinational companies.

All those who took part in the hearings have pledged to campaign, consolidate the solidarity network and endeavour to start breaking the colossal Coca-Cola culture. “The obstacles are big”, acknowledges Pedro Marecha, the union’s defiant lawyer, “but we will overcome them.”
SINALTRAINAL leader Carlos Julía gave an unforgettable testimony at the Bogotá hearing. He told the 500-strong audience:

“When you drink Coca-Cola remember that you are contributing to a process which sews unemployment, hunger and pain. The young, happy image projected by Coca-Cola masks the suffering and the return of profits from Colombia to the U.S. We ask Coca-cola to stop killing and you to stop drinking Coke.”

Meg Willams


Boycott Coca Cola Update 22 July 2003


Speaking from Colombia's capital city Bogota last night, Javier Luis Correa president of the food and drinks workers union Sinaltrainal said:

" We are very encourage by the international response to our call to boycott Coca Cola products. The launch of the boycott will be world-wide."

In the USA launch activities will take place at Coke's headquarters in New York and its main US production base in Atlanta Georgia, as well as San Francisco, Washington and Chicago. Groups will launch the boycott in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sidney Australia. The boycott starts in continental Europe with activities today in Berlin - Germany; Bern - Switzerland; Belgium; Madrid, Zaragoza and Viporoa - Spain; Rome and Perilla - Italy. There will also be a launch activity in South Africa, and the campaign has support of unions in Brazil, Chile and Venezuela.

Sinaltrainal is working with Colombia's main union federation CUT and a range of organisations to launch the boycott inside the country. There will be a demonstration outside Coke's principal Bogota bottling plant, and activities in the regional capitals of Medellin, Cali, Barrancabermeja, Bucaramanga and Cucuta. The situation in Barrancabermeja is especially tense where, despite open paramilitary control of the city, a civic strike is expected this Thursday.

In the UK various support groups are launching the boycott today in Bristol, Leicester and Totnes, Devon as well as in London. There has been a small breakthrough already in Totnes, where two cafe restaurants have already pledged not to sell Coca Cola products. Many more areas are expected to leaflet shops and consumers this coming Saturday.

Javier Luis Correa calls for the support of trade unions, social movements and the general public internationally, "We are doing this to save the lives of our members." Eight union members and the wife of a Coca Cola worker have been assassinated.


Boycott Coca Cola UK Launch 22 July 2003

The International Day of Action to launch the boycott of Coca Cola was taken up by a number of groups with at least seven protest actions across the country, with news of more still coming in.

The Colombia Solidarity Campaign group in Portsmouth had kicked things off the previous Saturday when they collected a thousand signatures from members of the public on a street stall.

And today, 22nd July, the Campaign's rally in Piccaddilly Circus, a gathering point for tourists and young people in London's west end, this evening was a huge success. Hundreds of people listened to speeches and danced to samba rhythms as four 'waitresses' passed through the crowd offering Coke blood drinks. Marta Hinestroza, a refugee lawyer representing peasnt farmers displaced off their land by BP's pipelines in Colombia, called for a boycott of Coca Cola as representative of how multinationals are plundering the natural resources of the Colombian people, and using violent methods to crush opposition.

Earlier in the day a group from the Cardiff Anarchist Network took direct action. They entered Coke bottling and distribution plant in Edmonton, north London. One of the protesters locked himself to a lorry, some locked the plant's gates while others pressed emergency buttons to stop the production line. During the two hour production stoppage for the emergency services to arrive the protesters meantime talked to workers inside the plant to explain their action. And the paramedic who arrived to assist the protester locked to a lorry turned out to be a representative of public sector union UNISON and was completely supportive. The protesters were detained by police, but released after Coca Cola decided not to press the charge of 'conspiracy to commit burglary'. One protester overheard Coke managers saying over the police radio that £30,000 worth of output had been lost.

In Hammersmith, also in London, another group called International Socialist Resistance held a picket of Coca Cola's UK headquarters. The group reports protests in several UK cities, including Leicester, Newcastle, Manchester and Cardiff.


Further Information

Boycott Coca Cola - Part of the Boycott Israel Campaign
Boycott Coca Cola - Stop The Violence - Columbia Campaign Launch
Court Rules that Human Rights Case can go Forward Against Coca Cola Bottlers