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Cuba's Just About the Only Place Left On Earth Where Coke Doesn't Sell Soda

Among the many cruel side effects of the five-decade old American embargo against Cuba -- economic stagnation, consolidated power for Castro, decaying infrastructure -- there's another oft-ignored tragedy: Cubans are among the only people on earth to whom Coca-Cola isn't officially selling their sugary caffeine-delivery system.

That list just got even smaller this morning, as Coke announced it's reopening operations in Burma. That leaves Fidel and his brother-in-repression, North Korea's Kim Jong-un, as the only Coke-free leaders left on the planet.

That's an incredible fact, if you think about it. From Ayatollah-ruled Iran to the state-sponsored massacres in Syria, from pirate-laden Somalia to Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe, Coca-Cola is by far the most popular beverage in the world.

Soon, the Burmese people will be guzzling the dark fizz with every meal, too. The nation of 64 million people is moving back toward relations with the rest of the world as its military junta loosens some restrictions on democracy -- most notably by letting opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi free from house arrest to run for office.

Coca-Cola announced this morning it will start selling drinks there for the first time in 60 years as soon as it gets government approval.

That leaves Cuba and North Korea as the only Coke-free holdouts. (Although, as Riptide readers fairly point out, plenty of Coke still unofficially sneaks into Cuba through Mexico and other neighbors; what the Cubans are really missing is official Coke distribution.)    

Sorry, Havana -- it's not really fair company to keep. But until the embargo loosens, you'll have to keep chugging cafecitos.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink

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