Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Coca-Cola, the China Olympics & Darfur

From the March 13, 2008 Stop Killer Coke Newsletter:

"The Coca-Cola Co. has recently come under criticism due to its involvement
as a major sponsor of the 2008 Olympic games in China because China
supports the Sudanese government. Director Steven Spielberg quit his post
as an artistic adviser of the 2008 Olympics and Mia Farrow linked The
Coca-Cola Co. and human rights abuses in Darfur saying: “Tell Coca-Cola
you're switching to Pepsi.” Farrow says the government of Sudan, largely
financed by Chinese oil money and armed with Chinese-made weapons, has
declared war on the rural, agrarian tribal people of Darfur. According to
Farrow, China buys about 70 percent of its oil from Sudan. (The Capital
Times, 2/23/08)

"I first heard of Darfur in 2004, that there was something terrible
happening in this remote part of Africa," she said. “…2.5 million people
are refugees in the area and that probably more than 400,000 have been
killed in ethnic violence. We don't really know how many have died. The
United Nations count stopped at 200,000 because there is now no one to
count the bodies."

According to a recent Associated Press report, the already difficult
situation in Darfur has worsened recently as the result of new fighting,
including aerial bombing and increased banditry of humanitarian aid.
Coca-Cola board member Peter Ueberroth is the chair of the U.S. Olympic
Committee. Despite an embargo of Sudan, Coca-Cola continues operating
there. Jeffrey Gettleman reported in The New York Times (10/24/06) "In
2002, Sudanese investors opened a new Coca-Cola factory, with Coke syrup
legally exported to Sudan under an exemption for food and medicine. The
$140-million plant churns out 100,000 bottles of Coke, Sprite and Fanta
per hour..."

In opening up the plant, The Coca-Cola Co. exploited a loophole in the
U.S. sanctions, thus propping up the Sudan economy and the government of
Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, an army general who seized power in 1989
through a military coup. Among the biggest beneficiaries of government
revenues have been his troops in a country where the per capita income
remains pitiful low. Later, as the Darfur violence developed, Coca-Cola
has continued to supply the plant and ignored the atrocities in Darfur.
According to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of Treasury
Department, Coca-Cola has paid fines "to settle allegations of violations
of the Sudan sanctions occurring between Jan. 2002 and April 2004...OFAC
alleged that Coca-Cola exported to its bottler in Sudan services not
authorized by its OFAC license and disregarded or evaded certain OFAC
license restrictions. The services included financial and market support."

Warren Buffet, who left Coca-Cola's board in 2006, but remains the
company's largest shareholder with about 8.7% of common shares
outstanding, worth nearly $12 billion, is also a major investor in
the PetroChina Oil Company which gets oil from Sudan and has been targeted
by the Sudan divestment community. "Oil has turned it [Sudan] into one of
the fastest-growing economies in Africa, if not the world,
emboldening the nation's already belligerent government and giving it the
wherewithal to resist the Western demands to end the conflict in Darfur,"
The New York Times has reported.

Another issue linking Coke to China’'s abuses was exposed in a BBC report
that China used prison labor to work on Coca-Cola merchandise: “Jon Sims
says he was imprisoned in Zhejiang province in 2006, because of a
financial dispute over the divorce settlement with his Chinese wife. It
was in Ningbo prison, he told the BBC, that he was made to work on
merchandise intended for the company.”
Washington Post, "Human Rights, and Wrongs," By Sally Jenkins, February
22, 28

"But American corporate executives will find it less easy to cop
[International Olympic Committee President Jacques] Rogge's plea of
ineffectuality, and they certainly can't plead that they are 'apolitical.'
Seven of the top 12 Beijing Games sponsors are American, and they have
poured money into the event in return for Olympic-sized access to the
Chinese market. You should know who they are: Visa, Kodak, Johnson &
Johnson, McDonald's [one of Coke’s largest customers], General Electric,
John Hancock and Coca-Cola."
The Capital Times, "We must help Darfur, Mia Farrow tells teachers here,"
By Susan Troller, February 23, 208

" 'Boycott the opening of the Olympics. Contact the sponsors. Tell
Coca-Cola you're switching to Pepsi, or tell McDonald's you're going to
eat at Burger King,' she [Mia Farrow] said. Other sponsors she cited
included Budweiser and UPS.

"But U.S. Olympic Committee chair [and Coke Director] Peter Ueberroth said
in Atlanta recently that he wants American athletes to focus on being good
guests, not outspoken reformers, according to an Associated Press story.”
Huffington Post, “Spielberg Drops Out As Beijing Olympics Adviser Over
Darfur,” By Dave Skretta, February 12, 2008

“ Film director Steven Spielberg and actress Mia Farrow joined activists
worldwide Tuesday in using the Olympics as a backdrop to address human
rights concerns, urging Beijing to exert political leverage on Sudan's
government to help end the crisis in Darfur. Spielberg announced he would
no longer act as an artistic adviser for the opening and closing
ceremonies, saying he could not reconcile working on the Olympics while
China and other nations were not doing enough to ease the suffering.”
BBC News, "Coke says no China jail labour," By Paul Danahar, May 21, 2007

"It was in Ningbo prison, he [Jon Sims} told the BBC, that he was made to
work on merchandise intended for the company [Coca-Cola].

No comments: