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Coca-Cola Challenged on Human Rights Abuses:
Issue: 4/23/05
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[Business News] Wilmington, Delaware, US: Strong concerns over Coca-Cola's gross violations of human rights and depletion of water resources in Colombia and India dominated the company's annual general meeting on Tuesday, April 19 in Wilmington, Delaware.

Close to twenty shareholders spoke on behalf of campaigns from India and Colombia, and Neville Isdell, chairman and chief executive of Coca-Cola, resorted to ending the meeting rather than hear from fifteen more shareholders who were still waiting to speak.

The shareholders inside Coca-Cola's shareholder meeting were joined by a loud group of protesters outside the meeting venue, with signs and banners proclaiming "Coca-Cola: Stop De-Hydrating the World" and "Coca-Cola: Destroying Lives, Livelihoods and Communities."

Coca-Cola's crimes in India and Colombia were referred to in the opening statement of the meeting to placate the shareholders present but it was far from what was being sought by the speakers. Speaker after speaker kept on highlighting Coca-Cola's financial and legal liabilities as a result of their actions in Colombia and India, and were also critical of the largely public relations moves by the company to address the serious issues.

"The Coca-Cola company management is misleading it shareholders by not revealing the real extent of the liabilities it has incurred in India and Colombia. It is pulling an 'Enron'", said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center.

The campaign to hold Coca-Cola accountable for its crimes in India and Colombia has gained significant momentum in the last year, and the presence of the large number of speakers at the shareholders meeting was indicative of how widely the campaign has spread, particularly on college and university campuses, as well as with trade unionists.

Even as Coca-Cola officials were trying to deal with the scores of protesters at its meeting, the campaign to hold Coca-Cola accountable was producing damning results for the company.

The Union Theological Seminary in Manhattan, New York, a graduate school of theology which trains students to be ministers in the Christian faith, just announced on Tuesday that it was banning the sale of Coca-Cola products on its campus.

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