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Rogers aims to expel Coca-Cola from schools in the United States

December 29, 2010
Elena Gonzalez, Zocalo
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The American activist Ray Rogers is leading a worldwide campaign to boycott Coca-Cola, after the transnational was responsible for the assassinations of workers in Colombia and Guatemala. He visited Mexico to present a documentary about the case and his campaign Stop Killer Coke.

The complaints surrounding Coca-Cola's worker assassinations in Colombia and Guatemala, where it appears the transnational is involved, led the American activist Ray Rogers to launch a global campaign against the soft drink company, called Stop Killer Coke. It is achieving significant results: the beverage was banned from 60 colleges and universities in the United States. In addition, many of the largest unions in Canada and Europe have expelled Coca-Cola from all of their facilities and campuses, and asked their members not to consume the company's beverages.

Rogers recently visited Mexico to present the documentary 'The Coca-Cola Case,' at the first Consumers National Convention, held March 13th in Mexico City.

'The Coca-Cola Case' was filmed over three years, first with the intention to document the crimes against Colombian workers, but in February of this year Rogers became aware of similar violence at Coke operations in Guatemala.

The lawyers that represent the bottling plant labor union in Colombia (Sinaltrainal) presented the issue to Rogers, "they told me that they have a very serious life or death situation and that they needed help, so I decided to begin the campaign," said Rogers.

The Taste of Death

In an interview with Zocalo, the American activist called on Mexican consumers:

"When consumers think of The Coca-Cola company and their bottlers such as Coca-Cola Femsa, they should think of a company that has inflicted great hardship and despair upon many people and communities throughout the world and has damaged the health of millions of children in Mexico and elsewhere."

He added about the film: "This is the film that Coca-Cola wants nobody to see. The transnational threatened legal action against the National Film Board of Canada, which produced the film, and against the organizers of the human rights film festival in France this week... if they do not cancel or censure the documentary."

The film includes testimonies from workers and lawyers, speaking of the terror that they underwent while demanding labor rights from the powerful company. Also, it points to the transnational as responsible for the murders, and as also involved with the governments of those countries.
"We continue to fight until this day... at the end of February another legal action was presented of the murder, rape and torture of union leaders and members of their families in Guatemala, and the complaint is against the Coca-Cola Company and their bottlers. A similar case occurred in Guatemala in the middle of the 70s and 80s. The film focuses on the systemic intimidation, kidnapping, torture and murder of union leaders with the intention of crushing the Sinaltrainal union in Colombia.

Unfortunately, Coca-Cola operates like a criminal organization, and the horrible things it is involved with in Colombia are not only the Coca-Cola Company, but also Coca-Cola Femsa, headquartered in Mexico. One of the main reasons why the soft drink company does not want unions in Colombia or in Latin America is because they want to outsource all of the workers, so that they do not have the right to organize themselves into unions, improve their wages and working conditions and fight for their rights. In Colombia and Guatemala, a strong union can mean the difference between life and death for union leaders and for those who speak out against the operations of the transnational in those countries."

The Mask of Happiness

Rogers pointed out that the company's advertising campaigns are directed primarily towards children, "who they want to make addicted to their poison." The name Coca-Cola appears at family events, he says, at football games and cultural activities, so that people, "identify it with happiness, joy and purity, when in reality it is none of those things." The company spends billions of dollars a year, a fifth of its advertising budget in Mexico, to mask the terrible reality of what the company actually is, he pointed out.

Ray Rogers is confronting the transnational and exposing the lies of the directors and executives of the company, "to make sure that people understand the Angel Alvarado case (Mr. Alvarado is a Mexican holding a labor demand against the company), and do not let Coke hide its dirty little secrets. I hope many more people will learn about the sins of Coca-Cola and understand how it hurts people and communities all around the world."
When asked about the importance of the consumer in this campaign, the American commented that the consumers are on two levels: the individual and the collective, such as schools and unions.

"The world of the consumers will realize that if they don't buy the products, Coca-Cola will have to clean up its act and act more responsibly. The individual makes the decision to not buy these drinks, juices, waters and other things, and also the institutions, colleges and universities, high schools, international agencies and trade unions make the decision. This type of consumption exerts great pressure if they start an economic boycott and the individuals and institutions work together."

With decades of experience defending the rights of workers, he noted that governments always have open doors for multinationals.
"The role of the government is to protect the public from the abuse of these companies. But I am sure that Coca-Cola operates the same way in Mexico as in the US, buying many politicians that allow them to steal water, outsource workers so that they don't have job security or labor rights, and sell drinks that damage the health of everyone, especially children."

The Battle in Mexico

"The Mexican national consumer organization 'El Poder del Consumidor' (The Power of the Consumer) forced the transnational to remove the carcinogenic additive cyclamate that was in the drink Coca-Cola Zero, previously banned in the United States but allowed in Mexico (at the beginning of 2008 Coca-Cola Zero reformulated the drink in Mexico to remove the additive). That was a triumph. We need many more similar victories and strong labor unions. The unions and consumer groups should work together to protect the public interest against corporations like Coca-Cola and Coca-Cola Femsa."

The Campaign Against Coca-Cola

"The campaign ultimately benefits the consumer and society. Definitely, consumers constitute the front line and can see the danger of companies like Coca-Cola. They should force the corporations to act with a sense of morality and not allow them to rob consumers and communities where they operate, because they steal the water and pollute the environment and also weaken secure jobs through outsourcing. Coca-Cola: it is involved in the murder of union leaders in Colombia and Guatemala and is striving to eliminate competition and create a powerful monopoly. I believe that Mexico understands very well how harmful monopolies can be to consumers and the public interest."

Translation by:
Samantha (Sam) Bass
Intern and student at Oberlin College

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