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International News Briefs

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Issue: 4 Section: International News Colombia Topics: corporate

July 27, 2003

International News Briefs

Coke Sued for Paramilitary Killings in Colombia

A US trade union is suing the Coca-Cola Corporation on behalf of Sinaltrainal, a Colombian union. The lawsuit accuses Coca-Cola of being "indirectly responsible" for the killing of the leader of a union representing workers at bottling plants reponsible for distributing Coca-Cola products in the region.


A protester in Manhattan. Activists are attempting to hold Coca Cola responsible for the murder of a union leader in Colombia. photo: NYC Indymedia
The bottling plants are run by Panamerican Beverages, a Colombian company; Coca Cola representatives claim that Panamerican is a business partner, and that Coke does not own or operate the plants. A complaint filed by Sinaltrainal accused Panamerican Beverages of conducting a "campaign of terror, using paramilitaries to kill, torture and kidnap union leaders in Colombia." According to the report released by Sinaltrainal, over 1,500 labour leaders have been killed in the last ten years; 128 were killed last year.

"Coca-Cola denies any connection to any human-rights violation of this type," said company spokesman Rafael Fernandez Quiros. Last April, a US District Court Judge ruled that similar lawsuits could go ahead against bottlers, but dismissed the case against Coca Cola itself. Terry Collingsworth, Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Fund said, "we are absolutely convinced as a factual matter that one word from Coca-Cola would stop the campaign of terror against trade union leaders in the Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia. We are entitled to gather evidence on this point and prove it at trial".

One legal counsel of US Steelworkers, the union filing the suit on behalf of Sinaltrainal, said that "wholly apart from legal liability, Coca-Cola remains the sole entity that can change the practices of its bottlers."

Coca-Cola has also been under fire in India, where dozens of local groups have formed to oppose the companies bottling operations, claiming that they illegally overuse and pollute commonly-held water supplies. Sales of Coca-Cola products in some areas of India have reportedly decreased significantly. Earlier this year, Coca-Cola was fined $300,000 for polluting the Matasnillo River in Panama. A factory had spilled 400 gallons of red dye into the river, turning half of the Bay of Panama a pinkish colour. Coca-Cola recently announced a 20% growth in profits, though CEO Douglas Daft commented, "we are still not satisfied that we are reaching our full potential in some key markets". (BBC, CorpWatch, Associated Press) --DOJ

Music Piracy Supports Terrorism: Interpol Head

Ronald K. Noble, secretary general of the international police agency Interpol, called for a global crackdown on music and software piracy, saying that "it is becoming the preferred method of funding for a number of terrorist groups". He is slated to present evidence of the connection to the House of Representatives' Committee on International Relations in Washington.

Meanwhile, a proposed US bill would provide harsh penalties for the misuse of anti-piracy technology in electronic devices, including up to five years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines. Senator Joseph Biden said, "Copyrights mean nothing if government authorities fail to enforce the protections they provide intellectual property owners. The criminal code has not kept up with the counterfeiting operations of today's high-tech pirates, and it's time to make sure that it does." In an ironic twist, the same Joseph Biden famously forfeited his 1987 candidacy for the Democratic Presidential nomination when it was discovered that he had used several passages from a British politician's speech without attribution. (News24 South Africa, Washington Post, ZDNet) --DOJ

British Planned Nuclear Landmines in Germany

Recently declassified documents have revealed that the British Army planned to bury 10 massive nuclear "landmines" in Germany for use in case of a Soviet invasion in the 1950s, according to a recent report in New Scientist magazine. The project, codenamed "Blue Peacock" was determined to be "politically flawed", and was cancelled in 1958. --DOJ

Human Rights Group Urges Intervention in Liberia

Human Rights Watch urged West African countries to deploy peacekeeping forces to Liberia, with the United States providing logistical support and troops on the ground. According to Reuters, over 1,000 people have been killed as a result of recent fighting in Monrovia, the country's capital. Aid agencies fear an outbreak of cholera due to a shortage of potable water, caused by attacks on a water pumping station. --DOJ

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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