Colombian Coffee RANT
January 2009

This week the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia announced its intention to sue Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Mike Peters, author of the cartoon strip Mother Goose & Grimm, for no less than twenty million dollars.  The coffee grower's guild, whose fictional Juan Valdez marketing character has become virtually an icon of Colombia itself, was apparently not amused by Mr. Peters' January 2, 2009 comic strip:

Source:  Copyright 2009 Grimmy Inc.

The comic strip in question was intended to be read in the context of a series beginning December 29, 2008, which made reference to the late inventor of the Pringles potato chip can - Dr. Fredric J. Baur - having instructed that his ashes be stored in a Pringles can.  The guild called the Mr. Peters' January 2 strip "an attack on national dignity and the reputation of Colombian coffee" and is suing for "damage and harm, detriment to intellectual property and defamation."

Mind you, the U.S. Department of State maintains a Travel Warning regarding Colombia which alerts potential visitors and tourists to narcotics and revolutionary -related terrorism, kidnapping and other serious and violent crimes typical to certain parts of the country.  Colombia produces significant amounts of the world's cocaine and heroin, with some current estimates running as high as 80% or more.

The irony of the guild's actions seems to have escaped their notice however, reminding me of the oldest organized crime joke in the world: "There ain't no Mafia, and we'll rub out anyone who says there is."  So perhaps the cartoon coincidentally hit a just little too close to home.

The email address on the guild's web site has been shut down but the contact form still appears to work.  I have not received a response to my complaint about their actions and their attitude, nor even an indication that the complaint was received.

In response to the news of this lawsuit I have chosen to avoid Colombian coffee at all costs, and will no longer patronize businesses which serve Colombian coffee or sell products utilizing Colombian coffee in their ingredients.  My family and friends are all big Grimmy fans and feel likewise, and we are explaining our stance to everyone we know.  When we shop or dine we will specifically ask if the coffee is Colombian and we won't hesitate to explain why.  We have absolutely no tolerance for humorless businesses who abuse the services of attorneys or attempt to stifle free speech.

Our boycott of Colombian coffee is likely to be permanent.  Unlike Mr. Peters we do not feel there is anything special about Colombian coffee, and the mere thought of it now leaves a bitter aftertaste.  There are dozens of alternatives, many of them superior and offering competitive value.

United States law protects satire, by the way, so the suit is sure to be fruitless for the Colombian mobsters Federation of Coffee Growers, but I'm sure the lawyers will make out well.


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