Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Venezuela turns attention to soda pop
Nice to see Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez still has a sense of humor. Chavez's government, which has in the last few years concerned itself with harsh criticism of the United States while cracking down on critics at home, banned the sale of Coke Zero today and ordered the product removed from store shelves. "The product should be withdrawn from circulation to preserve the health of Venezuelans," Health Minister Jesus Mantilla told the government news agency, the Reuters international news service reported. The ban appears to be in line with recent nationalizations and stepped-up government examination of businesses operating, Reuters said. Venezuela has seized two Cargill facilities and threatened U.S. drug giant Pfizer this year. Coca-Cola Co. introduced Coke Zero in Venezuela in April, around the same time that CocaCola Femsa of Mexico announced that it would increase its sale of low-calorie sodas, Reuters said. Chavez had toned down the anti-U.S. rhetoric since the election of Barak Obama, and even hugged the U.S. leader at the Summit of the Americas conference in Trinidad and Tobago in April. Chavez and former U.S. President George W. Bush were famously opposed to each other, with Chavez calling Bush a "devil" at the United Nations in 2006.