Mexico: Supreme Court rules against longtime soft drink cooperative in land case

Mexico's Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a soft drink company to give up land it has occupied for decades, dealing another blow to bottlers of traditional Mexican beverages who already are suffering from intense international competition.

Representatives of the Pascual bottlers who produce classic Mexican fruit-flavored and fruit-based soft drinks that were once as popular here as colas said the Thursday ruling would further hurt their ability to survive.

They already have seen their market share steadily pared in recent years due to what they call unfair competition from giant multinational soft drink producers.

The question in the Supreme Court case was whether the existence of such traditional bottlers represented a public interest for Mexicans, generations of whom have grown up drinking the mango, tamarind and guayaba-flavored Pascual drinks.

The Supreme ruled Thursday that the Pascual bottlers did not represent a compelling public interest.

At issue was a 2003 expropriation of the land occupied by the Pascual plants several huge lots in the city from the widow of the company's previous owner. Mexico City expropriated the land in order to allow Pascual to continue using it, arguing that the cooperative benefited society.

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the Pascual bottlers did not represent a compelling public interest, and ordered the land returned to its original owner.

The cooperative was formed in 1985 following a labor dispute in which the former owner ceded the plants' buildings and machinery, but not the land, to the workers. The cooperate does have another production plant, but argues that losing its facilities in Mexico City, its main market, would be crippling. About 4,000 people work at the Mexico City plant.

Founded in 1940, Pascual produces both carbonated and non-carbonated drinks under the Boing and Lulu labels and other brands. Many varieties contain about 7 to 10 percent fruit juice or pulp, reported AP. P.T.

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