Indian Groups Rebuke US Statement on Cola Ban in India
Coca-Cola Using US Political Influence in India to Avert Sanctions
For Immediate Release
August 18, 2006
R. Ajayan, Plachimada Solidarity Committee (India) T: +91 98471 42513
Nandlal Master, Lok Samiti (India) T: +91-542-2632433, +91 94153 00520
Sawai Singh, Jan Sangharsh Samiti (India) T: +91 141 2552878
Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center (US) +1 415 336 7584 E: email@example.com
San Francisco: Groups campaigning against Coca-Cola and Pepsico in
India have criticized comments made by a top US official that actions
against Coca-Cola and Pepsico in India are a "setback for the Indian
At least seven Indian states have imposed full or partial bans on
the cola companies in the last week, citing public health concerns.
The bans have come about as a result of new studies by the Centre
for Science and Environment which found that pesticide residues in
Coca-Cola and Pepsico products in India were 24 times higher than
European Union (EU) standards.
"This kind of action is a setback for the Indian economy," said US
Under Secretary for International Trade, Franklin Lavin. "In a time
when India is working hard to attract and retain foreign investment,
it would be unfortunate if the discussion were dominated by those
who did not want to treat foreign companies fairly."
"The United States government should let the Indian government decide
what is safe for the Indian public. Suggesting that the sale of colas
continue even after finding high levels of pesticides is a threat
to our freedom, our democracy and our sovereignty," said R. Ajayan
of the Plachimada Solidarity Committee in Kerala.
The state of Kerala has banned the sale and production of Coca-Cola
and Pepsi, and Coca-Cola's bottling plant in the state - in Plachimada
- has remained shut down since March 2004 because of community opposition.
The community has accused the Coca-Cola bottling plant of causing
severe water shortages and pollution.
"American companies cannot get away with exploitation of natural resources
or subversion of the standardization process in the name of foreign
investments. We will not tolerate any exploitation by companies such
as Coca-Cola and Pepsi. If the American government wants to reduce
the investment, we welcome such a move," said Nandlal Master of Lok
Samiti in Mehdiganj, Uttar Pradesh.
The community of Mehdiganj has challenged the Coca-Cola bottling operations
in the area because of severe water shortages and pollution as a result
of the company's operations.
"Maybe it is time for the US to reduce its investments in India,"
said Sawai Singh of the Jan Sangharsh Samiti, an organization challenging
the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Kala Dera in Rajasthan. "The US companies
have gobbled up many Indian owned companies, and destroyed livelihoods
for large numbers of Indians. The products they sell itself is destructive,
as studies have found."
Political Influence for Sale
The US Undersecretary for International Trade, Franklin Lavin, will
be leading a business delegation to India in November 2006 to open
up more opportunities for US corporate investment in India. Mr. Lavin,
who has also served in top management positions for Citibank and served
as US ambassador to Singapore, was appointed the US Under Secretary
for International Trade in November 2005 by the Bush administration.
Mr. Lavin is a "Pioneer", a term given to Bush fundraisers who have
raised over US$ 100,000 for the campaign to elect George Bush as president.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, at least 20 "Pioneers"
have been appointed to ambassadorships by President Bush, including
In the 2004 elections, contributions of US$ 387,692 were made to George
Bush and the Republican party by the Coca-Cola company, Coca-Cola
Enterprises, and their affiliates.
"The Coca-Cola company has strategically bought its way into the good
side of the Bush administration, and the US government is returning
the favor to Coca-Cola for its financial support to re-elect George
Bush," said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center, an international
campaigning organization that works closely with communities in India
being impacted by Coca-Cola's practices. "Mr. Lavin's plea that somehow
the US companies are being treated unfairly in India is outrageous.
It is the other way around."
"Americans should firmly protest the U.S government support and promotion
of such predatory U.S investments that destroys lives and livelihoods
for profits in other countries," said C.R. Bijoy of the Peoples Union
for Civil Liberties in Kerala.
This is not the first time that US government officials have intervened
on behalf of Coca-Cola. In 2002, the Indian government, in a surprise
move, waived the mandatory public listing of Coca-Cola in India -
a condition that had been placed on Coca-Cola's entry into India.
The US ambassador to India at the time, Robert Blackwill, as well
as the Assistant Secretary in the US Commerce Department, William
Lash, contacted senior Indian government officials to seek the waiver,
after it was initially refused. Mr. Lash wrote, "I understand that
this is the second time that Coca-Cola's waiver request has been denied.
I find this to be very unfortunate, not just for the company but also
for India's investment climate."
The US government also used its clout to push through a controversial
power plant project in India headed by Enron. The project, initiated
in 1992, was mired with corruption, secrecy and human rights abuses,
and was never completed. The US ambassador to India at the time, Frank
Wisner, was a major proponent of the project. Mr. Wisner joined the
Board of Directors of Enron Oil and Gas in October 1997, just a few
months after leaving his ambassadorial position. Dick Cheney, the
US Vice President, also brought up the issue of Enron in his meeting
with Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the opposition in India at the time.
Human Rights Watch published a report on the human rights violations
surrounding the Enron project in India, and on the political influence
of the US government in the project, it wrote: "It suggests a willingness
on the part of the United States government to discount human rights
when commercial interests are at stake."
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