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‘Coca’ pits indigenous Colombians against soft drink giant

BOGOTA (AFP) – Indigenous Colombians are going head to head with the world’s biggest soft drink company over the commercial use of the word ‘coca’ – the name of an indigenous South American plant.

Representatives of the Nasa and Embera Chami tribes are threatening to ban the sale of Coca-Cola in their territories. They sent a letter to the multinational corporation, a copy of which AFP has seen, giving it 10 days to explain its “non-consensual use” of the word ‘Coca’ in Coca-Cola – the world’s most popular fizzy drink.

If the company fails to reply, the communities threatened “judicial and commercial measures” including “the prohibition of the sale of its products in indigenous territories.”

Three months ago, Coca-Cola threatened legal action against Coca Nasa, which employs about 20 people and produces food, traditional medicine, drinks and other coca products.

Coca-Cola asked the company – run by members of the indigenous Nasa community – to “cease and desist permanently from using the name Coca Pola or any similar term that could be confused with the commercial brands” owned by the drinks giant.

In turn, the Nasa and Embera Chami now claim the more than 100-year-old Coca-Cola trademark, registered without consulting them, amounts to an “abusive practice” that violates “the national, Andean and international human rights systems”.

Nasa leader Fabiola Pinacue, who signed the letter to Coca-Cola, defended her community’s right to use the trademark Coca Pola.

“The coca leaf is a key element of the Nasa culture,” insisted Pinacue.

Coca-Cola threatened legal action against Colombian company Coca Nasa, which employs about 20 people and produces food, traditional medicine, drinks and other products from the coca leaf. PHOTO: AFP
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