The Venezuelan government of US-critic Hugo Chavez ordered Coca-Cola to withdraw its Coke Zero beverage from the South American nation, citing unspecified dangers to health.
The decision follows a wave of nationalisations and increased scrutiny of businesses in South America’s top oil exporter.
Health Minister Jesus Mantilla said the zero-calorie Coke Zero should no longer be sold and stocks of the drink removed from store shelves.
“The product should be withdrawn from circulation to preserve the health of Venezuelans,” the minister said in comments reported by the government’s news agency.
Despite Chavez’s anti-capitalist policies and rhetoric against consumerism, oil-exporting Venezuela remains one of Latin America’s most Americanised cultures, with US fast-food chains, shopping malls and baseball all highly popular.
Mantilla did not say what health risks Coke Zero, which contains artificial sweeteners, posed to the population.
I’m guessing this is more about kneejerk anti-Americanism than paternalist health promotion. It’s interesting that as the first world looks set to tax and/or regulate sugary drinks, the second world bans a generally healthier substitute.