More Tales of Mexicoke

coca-cola-containers-beach-mexico

We saw how an advertisement depicting a town in Oaxaca caused hostility toward the Coca-Cola Company, and was withdrawn with apologies. But sensitive feelings about language, class and race are on the lighter end of the conflict spectrum. For example, KillerCoke.org reports that, in some areas, the Coca-Cola Company buys up all the water, so there is basically nothing to imbibe except their products.

Every known system of health advocacy recognizes the importance of water. Hydration is the basis of every bodily process. To cynically and greedily create a situation where people have no clean water is unforgivable.

In large parts of the country, the water is so compromised that to reach the threshold of potability it needs treatment by ultraviolet light, sediment filters, and activated carbon. If you live in a bad-water place, you basically have two choices: to buy sugar-sweetened drinks from Coke, or buy bottled water from Coke. Spurred by the increase in child obesity, the government ruled that schools must provide good water.

When Mexico’s soda tax went into effect at the beginning of 2014, the revenues would allegedly pay for free drinking water in all the public schools. The soda corporation, having helped to cause a massive public health problem, offered a little fix. Sara Jerome wrote:

The Mexican charity arm of Coca-Cola announced a plan to donate drinking fountains that purify tap water to 741 public schools… Fundacion Coca-Cola will spend $2 million, and has already installed 42 drinking fountains.

A year later Seldon Technologies, an American company based in Vermont, announced that it would be making 500,000 filtration systems to be shipped south and fitted into drinking fountains made by the Mexican company, Bebederos. It was to be a $20 million, five-year contract, juicy enough to stimulate new hires in addition to the people already employed by Seldon. But only three months after that the filter manufacturer suddenly collapsed, putting 32 Vermonters out of work.

An interesting detail is that the company had actually been bought, two years before this contract was made, by a South African telecommunications company “that has ambitions to expand into the water purification market,” wrote journalist John Lippman. Here is where things get weird:

Seldon has also been a participant in the federal government’s EB-5 visa program that grants permanent residency to investors whose investments lead to enterprises that create at least 10 jobs. In 2013, Brent Raymond, then director of the Vermont Regional Center which administers the EB-5 program in the state, told the Burlington Free Press that Seldon was approved for $20 million in EB-5 financing for research, development and expansion.

Even in the best-case scenario some of the Mexican schools would not have gotten their water fountains for five years. Now, it looks more like never. Annoyingly, the title of the press release that trumpeted the original deal read, “Clean Drinking Water Now Available to Millions of Mexican Children,” which was an outright lie. The whole story is vague and sketchy enough to cause speculation over what kind of quasi-legitimate multinational hanky-panky might have been going on — with Mexican kids as the ultimate losers.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Breaking News,” KillerCoke.org, current
Source: “Coca-Cola Installing Clean Water Tech In Mexican Schools,” WaterOnline.com, 07/22/14
Source: “Sales of sugary soft drinks drop by 6% during the first year of tax introduction,”
UKHealthForum.org, 06/22/15
Source: “Clean Drinking Water Now Available to Millions of Mexican Children,” PRWeb.com, 07/01/15
Photo credit: Visualhunt/CC BY-SA

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