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Colombian Trade Unionists: Boycott Killer Coke

By Tom Burke

This is a photo of Aodolfo Cardona at a rally against Killer Coke.

The campaign to boycott ‘Killer Coke’ is spreading fast. The Coca-Cola boycott was launched July 22 by the Colombian food and beverage workers’ union, SINALTRAINAL, to shine a light on the murders of nine Coca-Cola trade unionists.

The Colombia Action Network has been organizing the boycott campaign with tremendous success. Killer Coke stickers are appearing on Coke machines across the country, from Oakland to Atlanta – home of Coca-Cola’s headquarters. In Chicago, the Colombia Solidarity Committee, in coalition with other groups, organized two large demonstrations.

On campus after campus, the student movement is building the boycott and taking action against all things Coke. Organizing is underway at Berkeley, Madison, Yale and other universities. In Racine, Wisconsin, a sixteen-year old high school activist slid a sticker behind the glass of a Coca-Cola machine in a shopping mall and had to talk her way out of being arrested.

Luis Adolfo Cardona, the Colombian trade unionist who escaped the corporate death squads, has been touring the country, speaking in Washington D.C., Arizona, Minneapolis, Detroit and Milwaukee.

Luis recently spoke to thirty faculty and students at a noontime rally on the Quad at Illinois State University. Abdi Maya, of the Association of Latin American Students and the United Students Against Sweatshops, says, “I think students on campus are excited about informing and educating others and ready to go into the Coke boycott campaign full force. We want Coke to take responsibility and we want reparations and we never want this to happen again. We want social justice.”

At the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, Jennifer Tayabji, Interim Director for the Illinois Disciples Foundation, explains, “I think the campaign at the University of Illinois is a success so far. I did meet with Larry Mann, who handles corporate contracts for the UI, and he has contacted Coca-Cola several times raising concerns about the human rights violations in Colombia. He wrote them a letter urging them to take action, by using an NGO, to help mediate and investigate. Also, the UI committee on licensing will be looking into this issue and deciding on what further actions they should take. Although the university is not considering ending their contract with Coca-Cola, they plan to use what power they have to get Coca-Cola to address this issue.”

Meredith Aby, of the Colombia Action Network reports, “There is a huge development in Colombia regarding the destructive response of the Coca-Cola corporation. Coke has announced the closing of all nine of its bottling plants in Colombia, throwing over 2500 workers out of their jobs. We have been demanding that Coca-Cola: One, end the campaign of murder and terror against trade unionists. Two, remove managers who incite violence or harassment against trade unionists. Three, bargain in good faith with SINALTRAINAL, the union representing Coca-Cola bottling workers in Colombia; and four, negotiate an enforceable global agreement with unions to guarantee the rights and safety of all workers who produce, package and distribute Coca-Cola worldwide. Instead of doing the right thing, taking responsible action, this huge corporation puts everyone out of work and walks away.”

Union leaders in Colombia are strategizing, while activists in the U.S. are speculating whether Coke is making a temporary withdrawal from the factories with a secret plan to reenter the market, only with no union or with a company union.

U.S. War

On an average, paramilitary death squads murder three Colombian trade unionists each week. These corporate-sponsored death squads are directed by the Colombian military. Under the U.S. government’s Plan Colombia, over $2.4 billion has been spent on the corrupt Colombian military, who use the aid to kill peasants resisting poverty and exploitation.

The U.S. military, specifically the Southern Command, provides overall direction to the Colombian military, as well as 1200 ‘advisors.’ U.S. tax dollars pay for Blackhawk and Huey helicopters, spy planes and chemical defoliant planes. Guerrilla insurgents have shot down a growing number of these aircraft.

The insurgency, led by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), govern half of Colombia and has a presence now in every town, city and department.

As the U.S. intensifies the Colombian war, much like in Vietnam or El Salvador, the end result is growing support for the liberation movement. It is in this context that the Campaign To Boycott Killer Coke is educating college students and workers about the murderous profit-seeking of U.S. corporations and the dirty war of the Bush White House.

For more information on Colombia and the campaign to boycott Coca-Cola, contact the Colombia Action Network at

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