Bolivia’s minister of foreign affairs declared last week that December 21, the cyclical end of the Mayan calendar, would usher in a “new era free of capitalism,” and because he is not completely disconnected from reality, he did the media savvy thing and pegged his pronouncement to Coca-Cola, specifically that “December 21 has to be the end of Coca Cola, and the beginning of mocochinchi .”
Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, previously announced December 21 as a date for a regional gathering of leaders in Bolivia in his continued attempt to emulate Hugo Chavez and try to cobble together an anti-U.S. coalition in South America.
You can be forgiven if you don’t know what a mocochinchi is, there is a short Wikipedia article that suggests it’s basically a home-made peach drink. But might Bolivia be interested in promoting a product other than the mocochinchi as an alternative to Coca-Cola? While the local drink may fit the indigenous narrative Bolivia’s president is trying to construct around his anti-capitalist coalition, it doesn’t do much for Bolivia’s bottom line. Another product, Coca Colla, might.
Coca Colla, a coca-based cola, was launched in Bolivia with state backing in 2010. Its creators claim “Colla” is a term used for the region coca is grown; Morales has been an advocate of legalizing the cultivation of coca leaves, but not for cocaine. Since being elected in 2006 he’s been engaged in a campaign of nationalization, his goal includes nationalizing all natural resources. His government’s also, obviously, seized assets of foreign companies operating in the country, most recently of a Spanish power utility operating there.
Coca Cola’s presence in the country has grown in Bolivia in the last few decades. Since 2001 consumption of Coke products has more than tripled in Bolivia, according to the company’s annual report and last year a blogger wrote that Coca Cola sent him a year’s worth of its diet products after he complained about a dearth of diet Coca Cola products in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz.
A Coca Cola spokesperson had no comment about the Bolivian minister of foreign affair’s “end of Coke” declaration.
Earlier this year Coca Cola announced it would be doing business in Burma as soon as the U.S. government lifts trade restrictions. Once that happens, only North Korea and Cuba will be without Coca Cola operations. Even Iran gets a pass, though Ahmadinejad announced a boycott in 2010.
No word on how Bolivia’s government officials feel about Pepsi though.