Hugo Chavez is picky when it comes to diet sodas: Citing vague health concerns, Venezuela’s government has banned the sale of Coke Zero, a zero-calorie alternative to Diet Coke, ordering that it be removed from shelves and vending machines pronto. The country’s health minister, Jesus Mantilla, did not specify the dangers, but commented that the ban was simply “to preserve the health of Venezuelans.” Some, however, suspect that Chavez—a vocal critic of U.S. “imperialism”—outlawed the drink as part of his ongoing efforts to shun American companies and nationalize Venezuela’s economy. Earlier this year, Venezuela’s government seized a rice mill and pasta factory belonging to American food giant Cargill; it’s also threatened action against pharmaceutical company Pfizer. Coca-Cola said it would comply with the ban, but added that Coke Zero contains no unsafe products.
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