Stop killer Coca-Cola: People’s Tribunal prepares verdict in Colombia

By LeiLani Dowell

July 21—U.S. activists, on a delegation organized by the U.S./Cuba Labor Exchange and the International Action Center, joined 1,700 others here today for the opening of the Permanent People’s Tribunal in Colombia.

In New York July 22, one of many solidarity actions with People’s Tribunal in Colombia.
In New York July 22, one of many solidarity actions with People’s Tribunal in Colombia.
Photo: Anne Pruden

This third and final session of the tribunal, which meets from July 21-23, is examining the role of multinational corporations, with the assistance of the Colombian government and paramilitary organizations, in the extreme repression of Colombian social movements, including trade unions, students, Indigenous and peasants.

Participants from around the globe will hear testimony from survivors, lawyers and researchers over the next three days.

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, an Argentinean and 1980 Nobel Peace Prize winner, is presiding over the panel of judges who will examine the evidence brought before the tribunal.

Prior hearings have examined how foreign-owned agribusinesses have affected farmers and Indigenous peoples; the mining oil companies’ role; the impact of transnational corporate-controlled development on biodiversity and the environment; and oil companies and human rights violations.

In addition to the repression—including massacres, kidnappings, disappearances and death threats—other abuses to the Colombian people have been noted, such as the elimination of whole Indigenous communities, destruction of the country’s biodiversity and the control of prices through speculation.

Testimony was presented today by Sinaltrainal, the National Union of Food Industry Workers, on the persecution of trade unionists by the Coca-Cola and Nestlé corporations. Other speakers represented the Miners Federation of the Bolivarian South, the National Union of Public Service Workers, the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, the “Jose Alvear Restrepo” Lawyers’ Collective and more.

On July 22, tribunal participants will participate in a march and then hear presentations from representatives of Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador—showing that the phenomenon of exploitation by the multinational corporations extends throughout Latin America.

In a show of solidarity with the tribunal, simultaneous actions will be held the same day throughout the U.S. Amy Velez, an organizer of Comuner@s, a grassroots organization of Colombians living in the U.S., says her group is working throughout New York City to organize for an event on July 22.

Velez told the International Action Center, “For at least a few hours on Tuesday, we will be showing our utmost solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Colombia. We will be assembling in front of the offices of Coca-Cola because of the documented role that Coca-Cola is playing with the death squads in Colombia. These death squads not only kill our brothers and sisters but they work with Coke to break up unions.”

The delegation of U.S. activists will remain in Colombia after July 23 to conduct interviews with workers and members of various social movements, with the goal of returning to the U.S. to help build the movement in solidarity with Colombia.


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