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2012 In The News

‘End of capitalism’: Bolivia to expel Coca-Cola in wake of 2012 Mayan ‘apocalypse’

By: Anderson Antunes
Souece: www.forbes.com

For most Americans, Bolivia is a third world South American country last robbed by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. However this impoverished nation is making headlines due to its Minister of External Affairs recent announcement that the Coca-Cola Company, one of the world’s largest corporations, is to be booted out of there by year’s end.

David Choquehuanca, the minister in question, explained that Coca-Cola will be expelled from Bolivia on the same day that the Mayan calendar enters a new cycle–December 21. According to Choquehuanca, the date marks the end of capitalism and the start of a culture of life in community-based societies. In order to celebrate that, Bolivia’s government is already planning a series of events that will take place at the Southern Hemisphere’s Summer Solstice on La Isla del Sol, one of the largest islands in Lake Titicaca.

“The twenty-first of December 2012 is the end of selfishness, of division. The twenty-first of December has to be the end of Coca-Cola and the beginning of mocochinche (a local peach-flavored soft drink),” Choquehuanca told reporters at a political rally for Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales. “The planets will line up after 26,000 years. It is the end of capitalism and the beginning of communitarianism,” he added.

It’s already been rumored that Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez, will follow suit, encouraging his country to ditch the American beverage for soft drinks produced locally.

It’s curious that Bolivia decided to forbid Coca-Cola in its territory, considering that one of the soft drink’s main ingredients is said to be coca extract (Coca-Cola refuses to confirm that, saying that this is part of their secret formula.)

Whether that is true or not, sales of coca leaf are big business in Bolivia, accounting for 2% of the country’s GDP, or approximately $270 million annually, and representing 14% of all agricultural sales. Besides, coca is legally sold in wholesale markets in some Bolivian cities. There’s even a cocaine bar in La Paz.

The decision of Coca-Cola’s ban in Bolivia came in a time when the country is pledging to legalize the consumption of coca leaves, which are notoriously processed clandestinely into cocaine, and were declared an illegal narcotic by the UN in 1961, along with cocaine, opium and morphine, in spite of its consumption being a centuries-old tradition there, strongly rooted in the beliefs of various indigenous groups.

“Neither the US nor capitalist countries have a good reason to maintain the ban on coca leaf consumption,” Morales has been quoted as saying.

Although it may make sense for them to ban Coca-Cola–which screams America and, therefore, capitalism–it’s not the first time that a US company had trouble to find ground in Bolivia. After trying for years to conquer Bolivians, McDonald’s withdrew from the country in the early 2000s for not being able to turn a profit there.

The fast-food giant failure was chronicled in the highly-tendentious documentary ‘Why McDonald’s Failed in Bolivia.’ The movie goes by referencing surveys, sociologists, nutritionists and historians, culminating with McDonald’s conclusion that their food wasn’t the issue, but a culturally driven boycott against American companies.

That wasn’t the case for Coca-Cola[/entity], though. According to the company’s annual report, its presence in Bolivia has grown considerably in the last few decades, as in the rest of South America. Since 2001 consumption of Coke products has more than tripled in Bolivia alone.

Still no word if Pepsi will be treated likewise.

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