Carl Horowitz

For nearly four years a worldwide network of Leftist activists has been trying to blacken the name of The Coca-Cola Company. The purpose of this corporate campaign is to put a halt to ostensibly unjust business practices, particularly at Coke bottling plants in Third World countries. Led by Ray Rogers, a renowned New York-based hired gun for organized labor, the campaign shows no signs of slowing down.

Exactly where Rogers' Campaign to Stop Killer Coke is getting its money is a separate, if intriguing issue. Of concern here is what this money is buying. So far, the finished product, judging from the group's website (, appears to be raw demagoguery.

"We believe the evidence shows that Coca-Cola and its corporate network are rife with immorality, corruption and complicity in murder," Rogers proclaims. In case you're wondering, there's no punch line.

The campaign from the start has focused its primary firepower on Colombia. Rogers and his allies have been alleging that local bottlers in that country have collaborated with far-Right paramilitary thugs to harass, torture and murder union organizers. It was in fact a March 2003 ruling by a federal judge in Miami exempting Coca-Cola from liability in a Colombian murder case that triggered the campaign.

But the Killer Coke campaign is charging the company with crimes against humanity elsewhere as well, especially in India. Coke-affiliated bottlers, activists charge, are depleting that country's potable water supply through the manufacture of soft drinks, and to add insult to injury, are selling those drinks with dangerous levels of toxic residue. At least the activists are consistent; they're accusing Pepsi bottlers of the same offenses.

One has to wonder how soft-drink bottlers have managed to sustain far higher levels of production in the U.S. without these adverse effects. Actually, there are some reasons. Unfortunately, "Killer Coke" radicals aren't likely to acknowledge them.

India, not to belabor the point, is not the United States. According to that country's 2001 Census, its total population was 1.03 billion -- and packed into less than 1.3 million square miles. India's registrar-general projects the population by 2035 to soar to 1.46 billion.

At the same time, India's economy is rapidly growing. Its estimated nominal per-capita income (i.e., unadjusted for currency exchange rates) in 2003 was $540, a nearly 40 percent increase over the 1990 figure of $390. A recent report by Goldman, Sachs projects that in terms of Gross Domestic Product, India will have the world's third-largest economy by 2040.

Carl Horowitz

Carl F. Horowitz is director of the Organized Labor Accountability Project of the National Legal and Policy Center, a Gold Partner organization dedicated to promoting ethics in American public life.
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