Coca Cola – the crises in Colombia

While I was doing my monthly Google Zeitgeist By Country study, I discovered that Coca Cola was ranked no.1 in Colombia (Top Gaining Queries in July 2007). It meant that something big happened and therefore I went and searched the phenomenon on Colombian websites.

Here is the first article on Google that explained many things:

Coca-Cola Accused of Aiding in Intimidation and Murder of Workers in Columbia
July 30, 2001
Coca-Cola utilizes the advertising slogan “Life Tastes Good.” That’s apparently not the case for workers — and especially union leaders — at Coke bottlers in Columbia.
The United Steelworkers union and the International Labor Rights Fund have filed suit against Coca-Cola alleging that the company and some of its bottlers utilize right-wing paramilitary groups to intimidate and assassinate labor organizers. [story from The New York Times]
Coca-Cola of course denies the charges. While I have no first-hand knowledge that the charges are true, it is undisputed that scores of union leaders in Columbia have been killed this year. And the number of union workers at Coca-Cola plants in Columbia has dropped from 1,300 to 450 in the last seven years.
U.S. companies have a long history in Central America of utilizing illegal and often violent means to stifle unions and keep wages low. These allegations would certainly fit that pattern.
The excuse used before was that the efforts were really aimed at fighting Communism. However ludicrous that claim used to be, it can’t be used now at all, given the demise of the Soviet Union.
So again, as before, the real cause is pure greed — the desire to squeeze every drop of profit out of these impoverished workers.

The idea is again to promote the “greedy” multinational company thirsty to suck all the money from the humble citizen/honest worker (familiar propaganda?).

This cheap leftist propaganda hit the Argentinian masses and hit them hard. Coca Cola couldn’t explain their global business and the stupidity of the accusation above but their regular crises cell assembled to find out who is behind this campaign (always is, always will be). Coca Cola is after all not only the strongest U.S. symbol but also one of the most valued brands in the world.

As we speak, Colombia faces a serious armed conflict and there are two largest insurgent groups active in Colombia – Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC and National Liberation Army or ELN (CIA Fact Book).

Also from the CIA public database we can find out that Colombia is illicit producer of coca, opium poppy, and cannabis; world’s leading coca cultivator with 144,000 hectares in coca cultivation in 2005, a 26% increase over 2004, producing a potential of 545 mt of pure cocaine; the world’s largest producer of coca derivatives; supplies cocaine to most of the US market and the great majority of other international drug markets.

Latin American was for some time a battle field between the world’s powers. Operating the largest network of narcotics in the world is another big business and during the cold war this zone was a silent battle field between the CIA and the KGB. As times have changed, the situation turned gray – the ex-KGB agents are now running several mobs across Latin America.

In 2000 the Russian mob was trading arms for cocaine with Colombia rebels (not only traditional Russian AK-47 but also sophisticated weapons). In the article published by the MSNBC there is an unnamed U.S. intelligence official saying: ‘The source of the weapons [smuggled into Colombia] is both organized crime and military. There is a tremendous grey area between the two in Russia and the Ukraine.’

“The enterprise, described by a senior U.S. intelligence official as “literally an industry” involves giant Russian-built IL-76 cargo planes taking off from various airstrips in Russian and the Ukraine, refueling in Amman with the cooperation of corrupt diplomats and bribed local officials, and then using remote airstrips or parachute air-drops to provide tons of weapons” – MSNBC 2000

In 2007 the armed conflict is still going on while the drug production doubled but the new government wants to have peace talks with the rebels (The U.S., the U.K. and France want to see results). But having peace in Colombia can hurt the business big time and the peace talks are not welcomed. And this is how the social leftist wing kicks in pressuring the politicians – the union workers are always a target for the special services as they can pressure the government or start riots.

In 2001 there was a union scandal regarding Drummond’s operations in Colombia – they say the manager made threatening comments during meetings that followed the gunshot killings of two union leaders and the slaying of a third union official a few months later.

The new Coca Cola union scandal is just another special operation (the same Drummond’s scenario) but now they really hit an American symbol and this can hurt business on a global scale as people always believe the news and can’t see all the pieces from the puzzle.

In the end I must say that I’m also an activist – I’ve organized even a strike in my good days but I believe in democracy, authorities and justice. I also think that the leaders and the activists should always have access to information in order to make informed decisions. If not, the activists will always be subjected to manipulation and various interests and the provoked scandal they had in Colombia can be implemented in many other countries of the world.

Further reading:
The Coca Cola Company – the official point of view
Killer Coke – leftist anti-Coke propaganda
Coke Facts – Coca Cola Corporate Citizenship
PBS – Frontline World
Coke claims it’s ‘caught in (Columbian) crossfire’
YouTube – Killer Coke in Colombia
If you want your employees to proper identify these type of situations and protect your brand, you can train them

Enjoy the Coke side of life!