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Mexico indigenous group sees racism in Coca-Cola ad

MEXICO CITY, Mexico — A Coca-Cola advertisement has caused a furor in Mexico as an indigenous group said Wednesday the images of young white people building a Christmas tree in its community had racist connotations. But the U.S. company said the spot’s message was misinterpreted.

Coca-Cola pulled the ad from social media websites late Tuesday after complaints emerged over the images.

Human rights organizations and members of the Mixe indigenous group called on the government’s National Council to Prevent Discrimination to sanction the U.S. soft drink company over the ad.

The ad shows the youths driving to the village of Totontepec, in southern Oaxaca state, bringing a cooler of Coca-Cola and building a Christmas tree made of the red-top bottles under the theme “Let’s stay united.”

“This type of ad promotes acts of discrimination and racism,” said Elvira Pablo, who is Mixe and a member of Aser Litigio, a group that defends the rights of indigenous communities.

The ad, Pablo added, “promotes a rupture of the social fabric by trying to impose a consumer culture which is foreign to the communities.”

Aser Litigio and other non-governmental organizations, including Consumer Power and the Friar Francisco de Vitoria Center, a human rights group, urged the authorities to take action because the ad reinforces “stereotypes that consider indigenous people as culturally and racially inferior.”

Coca-Cola said in a statement to AFP that the Christmas campaign in the Mixe town sought to “give a message of union and happiness between communities.”

“We never sought to offend or belittle this or any other indigenous group,” the statement said, adding that Coca-Cola has worked on promoting messages of unity and friendship in its nearly 90-year presence in Mexico.

“We deeply regret that the message was misinterpreted, when our intention was exactly the opposite of the criticism we received,” it said.

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