WHY WOULD A CORPORATION MOVE INTO A WAR ZONE?
For more than 50 years now a gruesome civil war has raged in Colombia—and one of the most hotly contested battlegrounds is the Urabá region, two hours north of Medellín by car. It is a dangerous place, which has been controlled by right-wing paramilitaries for years. So it’s surprising to come across a modern Coca- Cola bottling center in the middle of this war zone… It invites the question: Why would a corporation be attracted to an area that’s embroiled in a civil war? One obvious answer: Being far from any governmental control makes it easy to make your own rules. Numerous reports have revealed that in Urabá a coalition of paramilitaries and the operator of the bottling facility have established a sort of reign of terror. The goal: decrease wages, deprive workers of rights, and abolish labor unions. In order to achieve this goal, the death squads of the right-wing paramilitary groups have acted like company-controlled special forces divisions, intimidating any rebellious workers and even going so far as to murder members of labor unions. Nonetheless Coca- Cola has denied involvement in the matter and was even officially vindicated by a U.S. court. But the fact is: Just last year workers at the Coca- Cola bottling plant north of Bogotá felt compelled to go on a hunger strike after they had denounced working conditions in the plants in vain—and found that there was no one they could contact.
As a result of the violence against labor unionists, the number 81%of members decreased by in some parts of Colombia.