Sunday, September 02, 2007

Off Coke

If you were to hear that people involved in the Colombian coke industry engaged in kidnapping, murder and torture, there is a reasonable chance that you may not be surprised. There would be a hidden assumption in such an inference, however.

Many people tend to forget that the term 'coke' suffers from a three way semantic ambiguity. The term 'coke' can refer to an overly sweet fizzy drink, with a secret recipe, that is notorious for it's tooth rotting properties. It can also refer to the favorite 'nose candy' of certain types of yuppies, which is the main ingredient of Crack-Cocaine, which is currently the plague of inner cities. Finally, 'coke' can also refer to a type of coal based solid fuel.

The apparent lack of surprise about the activities of persons involved in the Colombian coke industry derives from the fact that people tend to assume that the term 'coke' in this context has the second meaning. Unfortunately, there is some evidence that the fizzy drink purveyors may have learned a thing or two from the operatives in the similarly named, though less legal, version of the coke industry.

The website lists a number of cases where, according to the website, the management of Colombian Coca Cola company bottling plants, in conjunction with paramilitary thugs, has behaved towards union leaders in a manner more usually associated with drug cartels. Needless to say, the company has vigorously denied these allegations.

An interesting character in these allegations is the strangely named Douglas Daft, who was formerly CEO of the corporation. Some time ago, Daft left Coca-cola, with a $36 million pay off. During Daft's tenure, a bottling plant in India was forced to close, in the face of allegations of stolen water and polluted land. The company also had to pay out $192 million in a race discrimination case. In 2004, at a Coca Cola annual meeting, under Daft's watchful eye, a protester called Ray Rogers was put into a choke hold and wrestled to the ground by security staff, when he tried to address the meeting about the corporations labor practices.

Fortunately, also in 2004, an 'independent' report 'exonerated' the Coca Cola company from any complicity in cases of attacks on Colombian trade unionists. However, according to published reports, this report was prepared by the law firm White and Case. It just so happens that White and Case was the same firm that defended Coca Cola in a lawsuit brought against it by supporters of Colombian trade unionists. So, that's all right then.

In the meantime, Douglas Daft has been appointed to the ethics committee of arms manufacturer and dealer BAE Systems. One wonders where Daft gained the experience for such a post? Perhaps now would be a good time to switch to Jolt, or Pepsi for all one's carbonated caffeine needs, if one prefers a more ethical personal stance. One should also avoid the over-priced tap water that is marketed as Dasani. However, finding a replacement for Fresca, which actually tastes quite good, will prove a little more difficult.

The CP


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