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Tax Day Protests Slam Plan Colombia, Coca-Cola

By Meredith Aby

This is a photo of a protest at Flagstaff, AZ.

On Tax Day, April 15, activists around the country took part in the Colombia Action Network's third national day of action this year. The April 15 protest brought attention to the human rights crisis that U.S. military aid is creating in Colombia. In Colombia, an average of three trade unionists are murdered each week. The U.S. counter-insurgency program, 'Plan Colombia,' and the new 'Andean Initiative' is arming, training and directing the war in Colombia using U.S. taxpayers' money.

Tom Burke, of the Colombia Action Network (CAN), explained, “We called for this national day of action to draw attention to the connection between the $2.1 billion in military aid that our tax dollars have provided to Colombia. This military aid funds paramilitary death squads, which target trade unionists and human rights activists. We have been leading a boycott of Coca-Cola since July 22, 2003. Corporations like Coke are able to hire death squads to intimidate and murder Colombian trade unionists because of the U.S.'s military aid and training to the death squads through Plan Colombia.'

Actions were held in Chicago; Flagstaff, Arizona; Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Missoula, Montana.

In Chicago, the Colombia Solidarity Committee and the DePaul University Anti-Coke Coalition organized a march from the Federal Plaza to DePaul University – ending at the Colombian Consulate.

At the rally at DePaul University, the Anti-Coke Coalition – a collaboration of more than ten student organizations – raised awareness about the anti-union practices of the Coca-Cola Company in Colombia. Organizers also thanked DePaul for asking the Workers' Rights Consortium to investigate reported human rights abuses in Coca-Cola bottling plants. Students signed a petition asking Coca-Cola to change their corporate policies by complying with human rights standards. These petitions were presented to university officials to show student dissatisfaction with the university's current contract with Coca-Cola.

In Minneapolis, the Anti-War Committee organized a picket outside of the downtown post office and passed out flyers explaining what taxpayers are really paying for in Colombia. Supporters held signs that said, “Boycott Killer Coke,” and “U.S. out of Colombia.”

Jared Cruz, of the Anti-War Committee, said, “In Latin America, the U.S. continues to attempt to dominate economically and intervene in other countries' politics. The cost of U.S. domination has been terrible to the people of Latin America, but it also hurts us here. We cannot detach what is going on in Latin America from what happens in the U.S. The Colombian trade unionists who fight for human rights, who are killed in Colombia by U.S-funded paramilitary forces, are helping to defend union jobs here in the U.S. But also, the U.S. funding for these murders and massacres comes out of our own tax dollars. So we must stand in solidarity with people around the world opposing U.S. domination.”

In Milwaukee, COMPA held an event where Luis Adolfo Cardona, the trade unionist from Coca-Cola who escaped from the paramilitaries, spoke at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. This was their seventh event in the 'Make Coke Broke' series.

In Missoula, Miguel Cifuentes, a leader of the Cimitarra River Valley Peasant Association in Colombia, spoke at the University of Montana. Cifuentes urged Congress to vote against funding for Plan Colombia and the 'free trade' agreements. Community Action for Justice in the Americas activists will deliver letters from voters written during Cifuentes's tour, along with the videotape of his talk, to their congressional representatives at an upcoming meeting.

On Feb. 2, Bush proposed the 2005 federal budget, which earmarks $700 million for Colombia – including $109 million to finance a special Colombian military brigade to protect an oil pipeline. Call Congress and the president to say NO to continuing Plan Colombia! Call to demand money for human needs, not for military aid. Call 202-223-3121 for the Capitol switchboard and ask to be connected with your Congressperson's office.

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