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!