Bacardi: The Hidden War
by Hernando Calvo Ospina (published by Pluto Press)
Reviewed by Bob Briton
Bacardi: the international party drink! On Bacardi's website, you will find downloadable movie clips, music and party invitations, an online shop where you can purchase clothing, furniture and refrigerators, the recipe for "Cuba Libre — one of the most popular cocktails on earth", and of course the official history of the company. This "history" even includes a sad chapter about how Fidel Castro killed one of the family's most valued members — their coconut palm. However, the true history of the company, as told in Bacardi: The Hidden War, paints a slightly different picture. As outlined in the Prologue: "this is the story of the close-knit relationship between major stockholders and directors of Bacardi rum, the extreme right-wing Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) and the CIA. It provides a wealth of details documenting how Bacardi acted as a conduit for CIA funding to paramilitary mercenaries in Nicaragua, Angola and of course Cuba." The author of the Prologue, James Petras, Professor of Political Ethics at the University of Binghamton in New York, argues "that multinational corporations are not simply economic units pursuing market maximising goals but political units that are used by the state to pursue clandestine activities". If that is true, then it is doubly true in reverse. With Bacardi, it is a symbiotic relationship — the Government used the company to money-launder and direct funds to terrorists such as UNITA in Angola and the Contras, and Bacardi uses the US Government to enact legislation that permits economic terrorism. The US based transnationals are the driving force behind that Government's push to force open the trade barriers of developing nations while keeping US barriers in place. Bacardi takes that even one step further, having Bills pushed through Congress and signed by the President that not only violate those international trade agreements, but existing US laws. Bacardi's power lies in a combination of its economic size — 240 million bottles of alcohol sold throughout 170 countries, and through its control over the Cuban-American community and the political clout that it exerts through their votes (look no further than the 2000 Presidential election). The crimes attributed to Bacardi by the author are extensive, and I wondered how this book ever saw the light of day. You would imagine that a company of Bacardi's size and resources would try to protect its reputation and tie the author up in court for years trying to prevent the book's publication. Yet we are told: "So far, the author has not found either a written sentence or a recorded tape in which any shareholder of the multinational expresses a disagreement with or a rejection of the facts presented here". The thoroughness of the author's research is evident with the no-stone- unturned extent of facts and figures provided. This litany of bastardry can at times though make the book a little heavy going. However persistence is paid off — woven through the book is a colourful history, not only of Bacardi but also colonial Cuba, the revolution, and the numerous bungled attempts to overthrow it. And if you ever had any doubt that the US Government is full of "the best people money can buy" then this book is also for you. It is also a sad testament to the treachery of those who overthrew the revolution in the USSR. On December 25 1991, the very day that Mikhail Gorbachev resigned and dissolved the Soviet Union, a delegation of Bacardi directors met with the new Russian Government. The Foreign Affairs Minister, Andrei Kozyrev, promised the delegation he would not only halt subsidised products and economic aid to the island, but would vote against Cuba in the United Nations! Said one of Bacardi's representatives: "There was nothing secret about the discussion. We raised a toast [to a free Cuba] in front of the TV cameras with Bacardi rum". The box stood in the middle of the table, the name of the rum displayed for all to see. On completion of the book one cannot be but astonished and exalted at the resilience of the Cuban people in the face of this 40-year counter- revolutionary onslaught and the survival of Cuba as a Socialist State. As for Pepin Bosch, CEO of Bacardi and architect of the CANF, the murderous fascist bastard who threw tens of million of dollars down the toilet trying to overthrow Castro, he died without ever seeing his dream come true. How very, very satisfying. Support Cuba and boycott Bacardi-Martini products and those closely linked with the company: Bacardi Rum; Martini; Bombay Sapphire Gin; Pommery Champagne; Dewar's, William Lawson's and Glen Deveron Whiskies; Jack Daniel's; Benedictine; and Southern Comfort.