Rock around the Blockade briefing paper
 
THINK BEFORE YOU DRINK:

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT BACARDI

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 – a stance belied by its publicity for its apparently ‘Cuban’ rum.

In advertising its lead brand white rum, Bacardi plays on its Cuban roots, misleading drinkers into believing that Bacardi still has some links with the island. In fact the Bacardi empire is based in the Bahamas and the Bacardi company broke all ties with Cuba after the Revolution of 1959, when its cronies in the hated Batista dictatorship were overthrown by a popular guerrilla movement led by Fidel Castro and Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara.

Since then the Bacardi company has backed illegal and violent attempts to undermine the Cuban Revolution, including funding the Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF), a virulently anti-Castro right-wing exile organisation based in Miami, which has been responsible for systematic acts of terrorism against Cuba. Bacardi’s lawyers also helped draft the US Helms-Burton Act, which extends the United States’ blockade of Cuba to third countries, in breach of international trade law. So central was the role of Bacardi’s lawyer, Ignacio E Sanchez (a CANF member) in establishing Helms-Burton that US Senator William Dengue said the law should be renamed the Helms-Bacardi Protection Act.

The Helms-Burton Act was designed to tighten still further the United States blockade of Cuba. The blockade prevents the sale of food, medicines and other essential supplies to Cuba and threatens other countries (including Britain) if they trade with Cuba. It has been estimated that the blockade has cost Cuba over $40 billion in lost production and trade. Every year the US blockade is overwhelmingly condemned by the United Nations.

The blockade is responsible for severe shortages and suffering among the Cuban people. For instance, the prestigious American Association for World Health (AAWH) reported in 1997 that the US blockade is contributing to malnutrition and poor water quality in Cuba and that Cuba is being denied access to drugs and medical equipment which is causing patients, including children, to suffer unnecessary pain and to die needlessly. The AAWH gave examples of a heart attack patient who died because the US government refused a licence for an implantable defibrillator, of Cuban children with leukaemia denied access to new life-prolonging drugs and of children undergoing chemotherapy who, lacking supplies of a nausea-preventing drug, were vomiting on average 28 times a day.

The AAWH concluded that a humanitarian catastrophe had been averted only because the Cuban government has maintained a high priority for a system designed to deliver primary and preventive care to all its citizens. It is worth recording that, despite the effects of the blockade, Cuba last year received a World Health Organisation (WHO) award for meeting all the WHO targets for all countries by the year 2000 – the only country so far to have done so.

This is the humane, socialist system that Bacardi seeks to destroy.

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 bought by the French company Pernod Ricard when it set up a joint venture with Havana Club Holdings in 1994 - in the face of threatening letters from Bacardi.

In 1996, 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 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. As Castro pointed out, ‘I hope no one will now complain if we start marketing a Cuban Coca-Cola.’
 

Boycott Bacardi!

The Boycott Bacardi campaign launched by Rock around the Blockade will use petitions, protests, leaflets, stickers and direct action to expose the truth behind Bacardi’s ‘Cuban’ image and persuade consumers not to buy Bacardi. 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. These campaigns attracted worldwide support and forced the companies involved to reconsider their policies.

Already a number of student bars and pubs have decided to make a stand against Bacardi’s activities by no longer stocking Bacardi and replacing it with Havana Club, a genuine Cuban 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 $25 million since 1990.

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

 
For further information contact Rock around the Blockade
c/o FRFI, BCM Box 5909, London WC1N 3XX

Tel: 020 7837 1688      Fax: 020 7837 1743
e-mail: rcgfrfi@easynet.co.uk