Venezuelan authorities are investigating affiliates of the drinks giants Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, it was reported today by Reuters, after claims that the companies, along with others, forced their workers to sign a petition against leftist President Hugh Chavez. Chavez has accused local private sector leaders of trying to depose him.

The investigation by the Chavez government comes as labour unions accuse it of intimidating public sector workers who signed up for a recall vote.

Labour Minister Maria Iglesias announced the investigation, which will also include the international groups Parmalat and Owens-Illinois, as well as local private companies and state governor offices controlled by the opposition.

She said: "No more ... can regional, local governments and private companies force their will over the will of the workers ... It is inexcusable."
However, the labour unions claim the investigation is just a means of moving attention away from their accusations that public workers have been threatened with dismissal by the government unless they change their pro-vote signatures during an appeals process.