The Guardian December 1, 1999


Think before you drink:
What you should know about Bacardi

US liquor company Bacardi launched a copy of Cuba's famous Havana 
Club rum on the US market in 1996. The bogus Havana Club is 
produced by Bacardi in the Bahamas.

Bacardi marketing propaganda falsely depicts the Cuba of the '40s and '50s 
as a place of glamour and sophistication "where all things blended together 
to create the perfect atmosphere, where elegance and good taste reigned... 
Havana was an attraction for tourists and dignitaries the world over."

In reality, pre-revolutionary Havana was a brothel and casino for US 
playboys, the Mafia and a rich Cuban elite.

While Bacardi amassed assets worth US$67 million (1960 prices), the 
majority of Cuba's largely rural population  including Bacardi's own 
sugar workers  lived in shacks without running water or electricity, a 
third were unemployed or semi-employed and 43 percent were illiterate.

The revolution of 1959, led by Fidel Castro, was a response to this 
poverty. Bacardi's cronies in the hated Batista dictatorship murdered 
20,000 Cubans in their efforts to preserve their "fun-loving" lifestyle.

Since fleeing Cuba after the revolution and refusing to negotiate 
compensation for their nationalised Cuban assets, Bacardi has played a 
major role in direct and covert acts of aggression against Cuba.

It helped draft the Helms-Burton Act, which extends the United States' 
blockade of Cuba to third countries, in breach of international law.

Bacardi also helps fund the Miami-based, exile terrorist organisation the 
Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF), responsible for acts of sabotage 
and terrorism against Cuba.

So central was the role of Bacardi's lawyer, Ignacio E Sanchez (a Cuban-
American National Foundation member) in establishing Helms-Burton that US 
Senator William Dengue said the law should be renamed the Helms-Bacardi 
Protection Act.

Through its support for the blockade and its funding of CANF, Bacardi 
shares the responsibility for the suffering imposed on Cuba over the last 
40 years by those who refuse to accept the socialist path chosen by the 
Cuban people.

At the beginning of June 1999, the courts of Cuba issued a lawsuit against 
the US Government and its representatives for human damages as a result of 
aggression perpetrated against Cuba for the last 40 years, based on witness 
statements and recently declassified US government papers.

These crimes include the destruction of ships and civilian aircraft, 
biological and guerrilla warfare, the firebombing of factories and crops, 
assassination and the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba by US-trained mercenary 
troops in April 1961.

The death toll from these activities is set at at least 3,400 Cuban 
citizens. These are the sort of terrorist acts supported by the Bacardi 
empire.

Not content with this, Bacardi has now resorted to stealing the Havana 
Club label. Although the blockade means that Cuban rum cannot be sold 
in the USA, in 1974 Cubaexport registered the Havana Club trademark 
there to prevent its use by other companies.

The rights to the trademark were acquired by the French company Pernod 
Ricard when it set up a joint venture with the Cuban firm Havana Club 
Holdings in 1994  in the face of threatening letters from Bacardi.

Two years later, Bacardi started illegally marketing its own Havana 
Club. Pernod Ricard sued. But, thanks to a section (Section 211) 
hastily tacked onto last year's US budget after frantic lobbying by 
Bacardi's lawyers, Bacardi won.

Section 211 arbitrarily stipulates that no court in the USA may recognise 
or in any way validate any claim regarding trademarks and commercial names 
related to properties "confiscated" by the Cuban Government.

Bacardi claims Havana Club Holdings uses former Bacardi assets nationalised 
by Cuba in 1960.

Section 211 contravenes international trade law, and Pernod Ricard is 
taking the case to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Cuba has also 
protested to the WTO concerning that piece of legislation. The Cuban 
representative described it as an extension of the US blockade.

Cuba's protest is backed by the European Union, the Dominican Republic, 
Malaysia, India, Venezuela, Honduras, Haiti, Brazil, Indonesia and Egypt. 
It is not a formal claim before the WTO's conflict resolution commission, 
but that constitutes a clear option.

In a European Council meeting on the commercial aspects of copyright, the 
EU confirmed that the US legislation infringes the rights of companies or 
individuals with property rights in Cuba and those of foreign enterprises 
which have relations with them.

As Castro pointed out, "I hope no one will now complain if we start 
marketing a Cuban Coca-Cola."

The British organisation Rock Around the Blockade, which campaigns in 
solidarity with Cuba, has launched a Boycott Bacardi campaign to highlight 
the organised attempts by the Bacardi company to undermine the Cuban 
Revolution.

People throughout Britain will be asked to pledge not to buy any Bacardi 
products, and pubs, clubs, student bars and shops will be asked not to 
stock them.

The campaign aims to threaten Bacardi's profits and force them to get off 
Cuba's back. It will build on the success of similar campaigns against 
other multinational companies involved in inhumane activities, such as that 
against Nestle for promoting powdered baby milk in underdeveloped countries 
and that against Shell for its involvement in atrocities committed against 
the Ogoni people in Nigeria.

Rock Around the Blockade works in close collaboration with the Cuban Union 
of Young Communists and has already provided three sound systems for the 
youth of Cuba and sent brigades to the provinces of Ciego de Avila and 
Sancti Spiritus.

The Boycott Bacardi campaign uses stickers, petitions, leaflets, posters 
and direct action to expose Bacardi's lies, oppose the US blockade and 
encourage British people, particularly in colleges and universities, to get 
active in defence of Cuba's socialist revolution.

Already a number of student bars and pubs in Britain have decided to make a 
stand against Bacardi's activities by no longer stocking Bacardi and 
replacing it with genuine Cuban Havana Club rum whose sales bring 
much-needed hard currency into the Cuban economy.

The challenge from Havana Club worldwide has left Bacardi sales down 
an estimated US$25 million since 1990. Meanwhile, international sales of 
Cuba's Havana Club rum have quadrupled over the last five years.

Don't drink Bacardi  it'll leave a bad taste in your mouth!

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