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Lawsuit Against Coke in Guatemala

Question by Lew Friedman
April 27, 2011 Coca-Cola Annual Meeting

My name is _________________ representing_________________ shares.

In February 2010, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of eight plaintiffs against The Coca-Cola Co. and Coke processing and bottling plants in Guatemala.

What will be the policy of the directors, including you, Mr. Kent, to deal with this case? Will you follow the morally bankrupt leadership of your predecessors by trying to cover up human rights abuses by using public relations and phony investigations?

Of course, the biggest lie was perpetrated by former CEO Isdell when he stated that the ILO would be investigating past human rights abuses in Colombia. The documentary, "The Coca-Cola Case," described by The Boston Herald as "the explosive new film," is now in at least 24 U.S. libraries and in several languages and is currently being translated into Italian and Mandarin. The film made it clear that such an investigation never took place, nor did the ILO ever agree to such an investigation.

The Guatemala case involves charges of murder, rape and torture, a replay of what Coke was involved in during the '70s and '80s in that country. The plaintiffs include union leaders and family members. What is especially troubling about this case is that it presents evidence of Coca-Cola's direct involvement in trying to suppress the facts.

Coca-Cola union leader Armando Palacios and his wife and children were threatened with death on numerous occasions and Coca-Cola union leader Vicente Chavez was subjected to violence and threats, his son and nephew murdered and his daughter gang-raped as part of a campaign of violence directed at them because of their union activities.

The plaintiffs' attorney, Terry Collingsworth, recently stated: "Coke's lawyers' first step in the case was to argue in court with a straight face that the case should be sent back to Guatemala as a superior forum. In other words, Coke wants to subject the victims of extreme violence to further violence by forcing them to litigate in a country that has clearly permitted ongoing violence against union leaders. The Guatemalan court sent it back to New York, but Coke has refused to accept this result and is opposing the transfer. Not a promising start to any assertion by Coke that it takes human rights seriously."

Again, I ask what will be the policy of the directors, including you, Mr. Kent, to deal with this case? Investigate or cover up?

Watch Friedman ask the question and listen to Muhtar Kent's responset: