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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pepsi ordered to remove Caracas landmark sign | Reuters

Pepsi ordered to remove Caracas landmark sign

Tue, May 25 2010

* Capitalist symbol has to come down

* Company also fined over colorful Pepsi ball

By Andrew Cawthorne

CARACAS, May 25 (Reuters) - Venezuelan authorities ordered the removal on Tuesday of a giant Pepsi-Cola publicity ball that is a Caracas landmark but is seen by President Hugo Chavez's government as an unwanted symbol of capitalism.

The bright red, white and blue globe sits on a skyscraper in the centre of the city and can be seen from most points of the crowded capital dominated by concrete high rises.

The Chavez-controlled Caracas mayor's office said the local unit of PepsiCo Inc , run by Venezuela's leading food and drinks company Empresas Polar, would be fined 77,000 bolivars (about $18,000) for having no advertising permission.

The Pepsi ball also breaks architectural and urban rules, the mayor's office said, according to state news agency ABN. Polar said it would respond to the allegations shortly.

Whatever the specific arguments, the removal of the U.S. soft drink's symbol fits in with Chavez's drive to "smash" capitalism and implant his "21st century socialism" across the South American OPEC member.

It is also symbolic of growing state pressure on the private sector, including Polar -- which has lost land, had food confiscated and been threatened with a takeover by the Chavez government. [ID:nN28168594]

In power since 1999, Chavez says he is reversing decades of exploitation in Venezuela. But critics say he is jeopardizing what should be a rich economy by squeezing the private sector and increasing inefficient state control.

Caracas' permanently jammed highways and hundreds of tower blocks have traditionally been plastered with advertising and neon lights. But, of late, government slogans like "Socialism or Death!" compete for the public's attention. [ID:nN11109755] (Editing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Richard Chang)

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.Pepsi ordered to remove Caracas landmark sign
| Reuters

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