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By Gustavo Castro Soto
Transnational corporations are increasingly climbing in the direction of the global economy. In the case of the Coca-Cola Company, it reached the peak of power in Mexico when Vicente Fox came to the presidency of the republic in 2000, who was its General Manager long ago.
Coca-Cola in Mexico Water Trembles
Transnational corporations are increasingly climbing in the direction of the global economy. In the case of the Coca-Cola Company, he reached the peak of power in Mexico when Vicente Fox came to the presidency of the republic in 2000, who was its General Manager long ago. Since then, the soft drink companies have obtained more water concessions, tax exemptions, reduced tariffs and import quotas. If in the time of President Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994) one of the Mexican businessmen who benefited the most was Carlos Slim, who stayed with the parastatal Telmex and is currently the richest man in Latin America and the Caribbean, in the current six-year term one of the Coca-Cola bottlers in Mexico, Monterrey-based Coca-Cola Femsa, is the largest bottler in Latin America and the Caribbean. Thus, Mexican transnationals such as Femsa, Telmex, Maseca, Bimbo, Cemex, among others, are not distinguished from American, European or Asian transnationals. They all exploit the country and its people where they are. For this reason, at the World Social Forum (WSF) and other continental and regional alterworld scenarios, the boycott campaign against Coca-Cola is resumed. (See www.sitiocompa.org and www.ciepac.org)
The Coca-Cola Company has more wealth than many countries in Latin America, the Caribbean or Africa. In Mexico, it has bought almost all the soft drink brands in the country and has the largest concessions for water extraction. Among the Coca-Cola products sold by FEMSA are: Coca Cola, Diet Coca Cola, Sprite, Fresca, Diet Sprite, Fanta, Agua Ciel, Sidral Mundet, Beat, Senzao, Delaware Punch, Manzana Lift, Extra Poma, Blue Label, Power Ade, Te Nestea, Adventures, Ciel, and Ciel Mineral. Only Coca-Cola Femsa has 12 plants in Mexico in nine entities: Toluca -State of Mexico-, Los Reyes -State of Mexico-, Apizaco -Tlaxcala-, Morelia -Michoacan-, Villahermosa -Tabasco-, Juchitan -Oaxaca- , San Cristobal de las Casas -Chiapas-, Coatepec -Veracruz-, Cuautitlan -State of Mexico-, Sabino -Federal District-, Cedro -Federal District- and Queretaro. Only Coca-Cola Femsa estimates that it will sell 29 million liters of soft drink per day to more than 169 million consumers in Latin America, which is equivalent in water to the normal daily water consumption of 14 million 500 thousand people (two liters of water daily per person).
The growth of the soft drink industry in Mexico and in any country has at least three immediate consequences: pressure on land, forests and water. This pressure is exerted on the indigenous and peasant population who own the land and on the laws of the country in order to guarantee the companies possession of these resources. For this reason, it is not a coincidence that the problems that the Certification Program for Ejidal and Urban Solar Rights (PROCEDE) is generating in the Mexican countryside around the privatization of land promoted by the International Financial Institutions (International Monetary Fund-IMF-, Banco Mundial -BM- and the Inter-American Development Bank -BID-). These IFIs also exert strong pressure even with financing for the approval of water laws in the country; the displacement of indigenous people and peasants from Protected Natural Areas (ANP), from mountains and forests, as is the case of Montes Azules in Chiapas.
HISTORY OF COCA COLA IN MEXICO
In addition to the United States and Canada, in 1898 the Coca-Cola soft drink entered Mexico and until 1903 the Coca-Cola brand was registered in the country. In 1915 a distinctive and unique bottle was used for bottling all over the world. During the first years of Coca-Cola in Mexico, there were four different coca cola registered with the same name. The same happened in Cuba and Bermuda. In 1926 Coca-Cola began to be bottled in the cities of Tampico, Monterrey, Saltillo, Chihuahua, Guadalajara and Mérida. In 1928 it was bottled in Puebla and San Luis Potosí and in 1932 it was bottled in the Federal District by Casa Mundet until 1936, the year in which the contract ended and Industria Embotelladora de México S.A. emerged. The San Luis Potosí bottling plant disappears and that city was left without a plant until 1942 when the soft drink cost 15 cents.
Almost one hundred years after its introduction to Mexico, in 1989 Coca-Cola became the first brand to be advertised in the Zocalo in Mexico City. By 1998, with the collapse of the price of oil, a liter of Mexican crude for export - the main source of income for the government - was worth almost 10 times less than one of Coca-Cola. At the beginning of this decade, the purchase of high fructose from transgenic corn in the United States was replaced by cane sugar, which contributed to exacerbating the crisis in the sugar sector in the country.
THE MEXICANS, THE MOST COCACOLEROUS IN THE WORLD.
Currently, Coca-Cola brands have captured 80% of the market in Mexico, the largest in the world after the United States market. Mexicans consume more soft drinks than any country in the world. In 1999, Mexicans gave the Coca-Cola Company 10% of their worldwide profits, since in that year on average each Mexican consumed 431 eight-ounce glasses, which totaled more than 16 billion unit cases. Monterrey, the second largest city in the country located in the northern state of Nuevo Leon, consumes more Coca Cola per capita than any other city in the world. Monterrey is the city where the headquarters of FEMSA, the largest Coca-Cola bottler in Latin America and the Caribbean, are located. But anywhere you can find a person who consumes more than 10 bottles of coca-cola a day, even in indigenous communities in Chiapas.
According to the Mexican Association of Studies for the Defense of the Consumer (Amedec), the quality of drinking water is so bad that it induces the consumption of soft drinks that "constitutes the most serious distortion of our eating habits, because in addition to leading to ingestion of empty calories, that is, with zero proteins, vitamins and minerals (…) ". But we could also add that in indigenous and rural communities there is no potable water, so cocacola replaces this lack.
The figures dance. There are for whom Mexicans consume 160 liters of soft drinks a year; for others it is rather 273 bottles per year. In any case, Mexicans are the most soft drinkers and the increase in annual consumption oscillates by 6% on average, although the Coca-Cola boycott should be subtracting some points. According to Femsa, in Mexico consumption per person is 483 8-ounce soft drinks on average per year (in 1999 it was 431 and had 64.4% of the Mexican market and 80% of cola). The transnational estimated since 2001 that 80% of the Mexican population drinks Coca-Cola at least once a week. For that year I include a new advertising slogan: "Life has flavor." Since the 50s his phrases have evolved: "Sign of good taste", "Coca-Cola refreshes big" (60s), "The spark of life" and "Coca-Cola is like that" (70s), "Live the feeling" (the 80s), "Always Coca-Cola" (the 90s) and "Vivela" (in 2000).
FOX'S FRIENDS AND OTHER COCO BUSINESSMAN.
In the month of July 2003, the newspaper El Independiente made evident with its investigations the relations between Vicente Fox and the sugar and coca growers and the water concessions of the country's main rivers. Today, the former director and owner of El Independiente, Carlos Ahumada, is in prison.
President Vicente Fox (2000-2006) was an executive of Coca Cola for many years. During his presidential campaign, the so-called Friends of Fox group led by Lino Korrodi attracted millions of dollars from various business sectors that the same Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) declared as illegal. Among these donations were the resources contributed by sugar entrepreneurs and Coca Cola bottlers. The support to obtain the presidency was rewarded with seven concessions on the use of water only in the first two years of his government at a cost of 2,054 pesos each concession, and with permits ranging from five to 50 years and with the possibility of get an extension for the same period, even if they are in water-scarce regions.
Although from 2000 to July 2003, 10 concessions of more than 4 million cubic meters of water had been given to bottlers, since 1994, around 27 concessions have been granted to 16 bottlers in 10 states and on 15 rivers: 5 in Aguascalientes; 2 in Zacatecas; 5 in Jalisco; 3 in Colima; 1 in Coahuila; 5 in Durango; 1 in Zacatecas; 3 in San Luis Potosí; 1 in Guerrero and 1 in Morelia. The largest concession was granted in 2001 to the Cuernavaca Bottling Company for 1,353,000 m3 of groundwater from the Balsas River basin.
Of the 27 concessions, 19 are to extract water from the basins and 8 to discharge waste into them. The total extraction of these concessions is! 9,422,990 m3 of water per year! (9 million 422 thousand, 990) which would be equivalent to 27,713,013,590 (27 thousand 713 million, 13 thousand 590) cans of Coca Cola. Otherwise, if a cubic meter of water (1m3) is equal to a thousand liters, and a person needs to drink three liters of water a day on average and under normal conditions, the water concessioned to companies is equivalent to 8.6 million years of consumption diary of a person.
In addition to the following bottlers, there are three others that have also acquired concessions: Embotelladora Ameca (Jalisco), Embotelladora Coahuila (Coahuila), and Embotelladora Gomez Palacio (Coahuila). These 19 bottlers that have doubled their profits with government help belong to the Continental group and the Purita businessmen Leonor Guillermo Prieto Rivera and Robert J. Dotson Castrejon (president of the Board of Directors and Treasurer of the Continental Group, respectively), friends of President Fox, who connected their pipes to the resource currently in dispute for the world's most important privatization: water. Among the list are:
1) Aguascalientes Bottling Company (Aguascalientes), two concessions (1994 and 2002), one for discharge into the San Pedro River and the other for the underground extraction of 230,500 cubic meters (m3) of water per year from the Lerma-Santiago basin.
2) Las Trojes Bottling Plant (Aguascalientes), three concessions (1994, 1997 and 2000); one discharge into the San Pedro river and the other two for underground extraction in the Lerma-Santiago basin for 420,000 m3 of water each.
3) La Bufa Bottling Plant (Zacatecas), two concessions (1998), one for discharge over the Arroyo Cieneguillas river, and one for underground water extraction for 207,000 m3 over the El Salado basin.
4) La Favorita Bottling Company (Jalisco), three concessions (1996, 1998, 1999); two discharge over the Arroyo El Ahogado and Arroyo Ocotan, and one for underground extraction for 600,000 m3 of water from the Lerma-Santiago basin.
5) Embotelladora Zapopan (Jalisco), a concession (2002) for the extraction of 600,000 m3 of groundwater from the Lerma-Santiago basin.
6) Embotelladora Los Altos (Jalisco), a concession (1994) for the underground extraction of 192,000 m3 of water from the Lerma-Santiago basin.
7) Embotelladora Tecoman (Colima), three concessions (two in 1994 and one in 1995); two are discharge on the Canal Tecuanillo and Laguna de Cuyutlan; and one for the extraction of 1,200,000 m3 of groundwater from the Armeria-Coahuayana basin.
8) Embotelladora Lagunera (Coahuila), a concession (2002) to extract 600,000 m3 of groundwater from the Nazas-Aguanaval basin.
9) Embotelladora Guadiana (Durango), three concessions (two in 1994 and one in 2002); the three for the extraction of groundwater from the Presidio-San Pedro basin, one for 50,000 m3, another for 314,407 m3 and the third for 86,143 m3.
10) Guadalupe Victoria Bottling Plant (Durango), two concessions (1994 and 2001); one for discharge over the Mezquital river and the other for the underground extraction of 460,908 m3 of water from the Presidio-San Pedro basin.
11) Embotelladora Fresnillo (Zacatecas), a concession (1995) for the superficial extraction of 240,000 m3 of water from the El Salado basin.
12) Embotelladora San Luis (San Luis Potosí), a concession (2000) for the underground extraction of 498,199 m3 of water from the El Salado basin.
13) Embotelladora Tangamanga (San Luis Potosí), a concession (2001) for the underground extraction of 500,000 m3 of water from the El Salado basin.
14) Embotelladora Río Verde (San Luis Potosí), a concession (1994) for the underground extraction of 77,000 m3 of water from the Panuco river basin.
15) Embotelladora Yoli de Acapulco (Guerrero), a concession (2002) for the underground extraction of 662,000 m3 of water from the Costa Grande basin. Its owner is businessman Robert J. Dotson Castrejon.
16) Embotelladora de Cuernavaca (Morelos), a concession (2001) for the extraction of 1,353,000 m3 of underground water from the Balsas River. Its owner is Purita businesswoman Leonor Guillermo Prieto Rivera.
As if that were not enough during the concessions at the beginning of the Fox administration, the director of the National Water Commission (Conagua), Cristobal Jaime Jaquez had a very close relationship with these businessmen and with President Fox who supported him in the process of signing with the World Bank for the privatization of water in Mexico. Thus, Lino Korrodi and Cristobal Jaime, who worked for the Coca Cola Company in Mexico for 12 years and now favors concessions to his friends coca growers, since they have legal powers to grant concessions, were key pieces in Vicente Fox's drive to the presidency and all three with a close history with Coca Cola de México.
But the soft drink entrepreneurs also own sugar mills that were bought during the administration of Miguel de La Madrid Hurtado and that they use to sweeten Coca Cola. Two years ago, some of those mills were rescued by the government, buying them back from the entrepreneurs when the sugar industry collapsed, in part due to the introduction of the highly subsidized high fructose may from the United States and which serves as a sweetener for the entire population. soft drink industry, candy, cookies, etc. By the way, the Continental consortium and its subsidiary Promotora Azucarera S.A. (Piasa) are accused by the federal electoral authorities as funders of the Friends of Fox funds. However, "nothing happens" as long as they are close to the presidential power, which is not the case with the opposition frauds so widely aired by the media. and that, in comparison with the frauds of the party today in power, or of the purchase of expensive and insulting towels in the presidential house, they are percentage less.
PREPARATION OF COCA-COLA, FOR CURIOSITY ...
To prepare the Coca-Cola soft drink, in addition to the syrup in its formula, the bottler uses water, the concentrate (flavorings, colorants and preservative), refined sugar (previously high fructose imported from transgenic may from the United States was used), carbon dioxide (CO2). With the bottle, its cap and its label, the bottler processes the product. Coca-Cola traditionally sells the franchise to local dealers in a given country. This concessionaire would be in charge of obtaining all these inputs except the concentrate of the Coca-Cola formula. With the Free Trade Agreements (FTA), Coca-Cola has changed its strategy. In some cases it has used North American corporations for its bottlers. For the bottlers outside the United States, instead of transferring the syrup for the mixture, a powdered concentration was used but without sugar, since the problem of obtaining it was transferred to the bottlers.
With these inputs, the simple syrup is first prepared by mixing refined or clarified sugar (elimination of dark color) and supposedly purified water, since in Chiapas but also in other countries Coca-Cola has distributed its products with lead-contaminated water and other waste. The mixture is made in stainless steel tanks where it is constantly stirred until light-colored honey is obtained. Subsequently, the simple syrup is transferred to other final preparation tanks, where the contents of two concentrate containers are added, which contain the flavorings, colorants and the preservative (phosphoric acid). It is stirred constantly until obtaining a dark and thick preparation, with a characteristic smell and taste of Coca-Cola. In the bottling room there is a mixing equipment or mixer, which is in charge of automatically mixing the finished syrup, purified water and carbon dioxide at low temperatures, so that the gas dissolves properly. Low temperatures are achieved through refrigeration systems, mainly based on ammonia, which explains to the neighboring neighborhoods of the plant in Chiapas the strong odor that the ammonia leak in San Cristobal de Las Casas caused them long ago. Finally, the prepared drink is sent to the filling machine.
The containers are arriving one after another to the filling machine, cylindrical, where a system of sophisticated taps (different for each container format) will introduce the drink at high speed. All filling machines have their corresponding automatic plug and cap feeding systems. The container is then given an identity. There is a type of label for each container format. In a visible place of this a code is printed with the date of best use; the plant number, the time, the batch and the production line to which it belongs. The containers go to the packing area where machines group and pack them automatically before being placed on pallets. Finally, the product pallets are placed in the warehouse, waiting to be distributed by foreign or local routes. In the case of some indigenous communities in Chiapas, the distributors may even be the same authorities that pressure the community in order to increase or maintain a weekly soft drink consumption quota.
TO THE WORLD SOCIAL FORUM
The problems that the transnational has generated in many regions in the economic, political, cultural, health fields or that have affected human and labor rights, have deserved significant attention from the largest alter-world world stage: the World Social Forum. Today the boycott of Coca-Cola products is growing. In Chiapas, a boycott of this magnitude would generate a true economic, political and cultural revolution in their indigenous communities and would allow them to see more clearly what the black waters of Coca-Cola prevent them from seeing.
For more information: El Independiente, July 14, 2003; Milenio Diario December 8, 2000; La Jornada December 4, 1998; Coca-Cola Foundation; J.C. Louis and Harvey Z. Yazijian, The Cola Wars; Coca-Cola Femsa.
* Gustavo Castro Soto