The Guardian December 4, 2002


Book review:

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.

Back to index page