Socialist Worker

Bacardi leaves very bad taste

by Andy Nicoll
Issue No. 1818

Bacardi is one of the most instantly recognisable brands in the world, but behind the sleek image lies a sinister side to this multinational. Hernando Calvo Ospina, a Colombian investigative journalist, demonstrates in his new book Bacardi: The Hidden War that Bacardi has prosecuted a clandestine war against Cuba in an effort to destabilise the Castro government.

In 1959 Fidel Castro's 26 July Movement seized power in Cuba as the dictatorship of Batista crumbled. This was a movement for national liberation based on overthrowing the dominance of foreign capital, principally that of the US.

Bacardi initially supported the Cuban Revolution on the basis that Castro would favour it over foreign competitors and bring stability. It even draped a huge banner from the Bacardi Building thanking the revolutionaries. It quickly moved into opposition following the nationalisation of the company and fled Cuba, taking the brand name.

The company has close ties with far right emigre groupings based in the US. Jose Pepin Bosch, the former director of Bacardi, is directly implicated in plans to carry out terrorist attacks inside Cuba, including an attempt to blow up the country's oil refineries.

The Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) was founded in 1981. A number of Bacardi's directors and leading shareholders have played, and continue to play, a significant role in this organisation. CANF, among other covert activities, was heavily involved in Reagan and the Contras' dirty war against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua in the 1980s. The end of the Cold War gave added impetus to Cuban emigre groups to redouble their efforts.

Ernesto Betancourt, ex-director of Radio Marti (set up by CANF to broadcast opposition to Castro), describes how CANF has already drawn up plans following 'the transition' to sell off 60 percent of the land and other assets. Bacardi has been the driving force behind the Helms-Burton agreement, named after two right wing Republican politicians.

This legislation maintains the US embargo of Cuba despite the fact that significant sections of US capital are clamouring to normalise relations. 'Whether Mr Castro leaves in a vertical or a horizontal position doesn't matter to me, but he will leave Cuba,' says Jesse Helms. At the same time Bacardi has invoked 'special interest' legislation against its European competitor Pernod-Ricard, which promotes Cuban-based Havana Club Rum.

Unfortunately Ospina paints the Cuba of Castro in a rose-tinted light, ignoring the contradictions in a society that calls itself socialist and yet has massive inequalities. Nevertheless this book successfully exposes the machinations of one of the world's major multinational companies.

Bacardi: The Hidden War by Hernando Calvo Ospina is available from Bookmarks for £12.99. Phone 020 7637 1848 or go to

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Sat 21 Sep 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1818
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