The Colombian union, Sinaltrainal, has called for a boycott of Coca-Cola products, claiming that bottlers for Coca-Cola in the country have conspired with right-wing paramilitary groups to kill, threaten and intimidate workers.

Sinaltrainal, which represents 2,300 workers in the food and beverages sector, has cited the deaths of nine plant workers between 1990 and 2002 in addition to cases where other employees have been forced to leave their homes because of intimidation.

The Coca-Cola Co. responded to the accusations in a statement, saying that the allegations against its bottlers were "completely false". The Atlanta soft drinks giant said it discouraged boycotts of their products "as they primarily hurt the local economy, local businesses and local citizens."

Sinaltrainal is demanding compensation from Coca-Cola for the families of the victims. "This is the beginning of a series of permanent and systematic actions of accusation, mobilisation and confrontation against (Coca-Cola Co.'s) policies," said the union's president, Luis Correa.

Two years ago the union unsuccessfully attempted to sue Coca-Cola in the US over the death of Isidro Segundo Gil who was killed at the gates of a bottling plant in Carepa in 1996. The union alleged that Gil was killed by militia acting on behalf of the plant manager and its owners. A federal court in Miami dismissed the case, but Sinaltrainal is appealing.

The Carepa plant is owned by Coca-Cola Femsa which has also denied the accusations and condemned the boycott. "This act not only affects the company but the country, our collaborators and the thousands of Colombians who jump-start the economy by selling our products," Coca-Cola Femsa said.