Have a Coke and a Trial

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U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez has a bad habit of not disclosing apparent conflicts of interests. First came that business on February 28, 2005, when Martinez failed to mention he was a Eucharistic minister, a spiritual leader who serves communion during Catholic mass, when he overturned a verdict compelling the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Miami to pay a woman $40,000 plus attorney fees.

Now a labor rights group is accusing Martinez of siding with Coca-Cola and paramilitaries to squash labor movements in soft drink bottling plants in Colombia. In 2004, Martinez allowed the Coca-Cola Co. to be dropped as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by the International Labor Rights Fund and United Steelworkers, AFL-CIO, according to Ray Rogers, director of the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke. Rogers says the Atlanta-based conglomerate has allowed its Colombian subsidiaries to hire paramilitary groups to terrorize Colombian union workers.

The judge has a conflict because of his role as the University of Miami's Spanish language football color commentator and as a governing board member of the UM Hurricane Club, Rogers reasons. The college has an exclusive beverage contract with Coca-Cola. "It suggests at least the appearance of impropriety, if not actual bias," says Rogers. To get its point across, the campaign is distributing this cartoon of Martinez. -Francisco Alvarado


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