Don Facundo Bacardi’s heirs crashed drinks on April 17, when both John Bolton and Michael Pompeo announced the full activation of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act. It was the longed-for completion of their most perverse project against Cuba, to which they dedicated plenty of resources and lawyers.
“We support the right and ability of those affected to seek justice and prevent further trafficking in stolen property,” the company said in a statement following the Trump administration’s decision to authorize lawsuits in the United States against companies that benefited from properties legally nationalized or confiscated in Cuba after the revolutionary triumph.
In the Bacardi offices, this chapter III and other important parts of the interfering and extraterritorial legislation were essentially written in the early 90′s, which later became known by the names of the two legislators rented to present it to Congress. Hired advisors such as Otto Reich and Roger Noriega worked in the spawn along with lawyers from the bat company and the Cuban American National Foundation.
The essential objective of Bacardi was to strengthen the blockade against a Cuba hard hit by the disappearance of the socialist camp and almost all its commerce, to provoke economic and political collapse, and to punish the revolutionary “audacity” of confiscating for the popular good the properties of the great Cuban bourgeoisie. In addition to codifying the blockade into a single law and taking away from the president (then Bill Clinton) the possibility of truly managing foreign policy towards Cuba.
The Bacardi dreamed of those times when the company was part of the elite that managed Cuba together with the big U.S. companies; those years when Pepin Bosch, head of the company, was one of the most powerful men in the country, became Minister of the Treasury of the government of Carlos Prio Socarras and one of those chosen by Washington to form the provisional government that after Batista’s flight should avoid the arrival to power of the Rebel Army and its leader Fidel Castro.
According to Professor Francisca Lopez Civeira, the CIA and the State Department sent William D. Pawley, a well-known Cuban businessman, to Cuba in December 1958 to negotiate Batista’s departure.
“The offer that was prepared for Pawley to present Batista consisted of his resignation and going out with his family to his property in Daytona Beach, his supporters wouldn’t suffer reprisals, and the United States would immediately hand over arms to the provisional government that would be organized, which would prepare free elections in 18 months.
That government would be in the hands of a board whose members Pawley would also report to Batista. These were: Colonel Ramon Barquin, General Martin Diaz Tamyo, Major Enrique Borbonet, Jose Pepin Bosch of Bacardi, and a fifth name that Pawley didn’t reveal. The mission would have a secret character”.
What the Bacardi Empire wants to recover
On October 13, 1960, President Osvaldo Dorticos signed Law 890, which established the expropriation of several private properties in the country, with the right to compensation, on the basis of public utility and the and national interest, for a just redistribution of national wealth and to be able to confront the actions adverse to the Revolution of that great bourgeoisie.
Among the companies nationalized since that date were properties of the Bacardi family such as the Bacardi Rum Company, its three breweries and Molinera Oriental S.A.
To understand the influence of the Bacardi family in Cuba’s economic life and the wealth it treasured, it is enough to refer to Guillermo Jiménez’s meticulous book “The Owners of Cuba 1958″. It is said that Jose Maria Bosch Lamarque (Pepin) was one of the 15 most powerful owners in the country.
Bosch, married to Enriqueta Schueg Bacardi (one of the main heirs of the Bacardi family) was the President and Shareholder of the Bacardi S.A. Rum Company, the most important in its sector and the third among the main non-sugar industries in terms of the number of workers. He was also President and shareholder of Brewery Model S.A in Cotorro municipality, subsidiary of the Bacardi S.A. Rum Company and one of the 3 breweries and malt Hatuey; he had interests in Central Brewery S.A in Manacas Villa Clara (also of the Bacardi group); owned the Motel Rancho Club in Santiago de Cuba; member of the Cuban group that controlled 20% of the Intercontinental Corporation of Hotels S.A, tenant of National Hotel; President and Owner of Minera Occidental Bosch S.A., which operated in Matahambre, Pinar del Rio; owner of important actions in Petrolera Transcuba S.A; shareholder and member of the Board of Directors of the Cuban Bonding Company; Member of the Board of Directors and Shareholder of The Trust Company of Cuba, the most important bank in the country; one of the main shareholders of Fomento de Obras y Construcciones S.A, owner of the FOCSA building; and President of the private club La Torre, located in one of the penthouses of the FOCSA building itself. He lived in one of the most imposing mansions of the Country Club.
Another of the family, Facundo Bacardi’s great-grandson, Emilio Bacardi Rosell, although less powerful than Pepín, was a Family Owner of Bacardí Rum Company S.A; Principal Owner of Miguel & Bacardi Ltd, a holding that controlled several urban and interurban bus routes in Santiago de Cuba, distributed Good-Year car parts and rubbers and sold imported rubber mattresses, cushions, pillows and irons in Havana; he was also the Owner of Urbanizadora Colinas S.A. Companies.
His brother Daniel was First Vice President and Shareholder of Compañía Ron Bacardi S.A. and First Vice President and Shareholder of Molinera Oriental S.A., the main property of the Bacardi family.
In the foundation of the Law of Nationalization was established:
WHEREAS: It is evident that such development can only be achieved through proper economic planning, progressive increase and rationalization of production, and national control of the country’s basic industries.
WHEREAS: Many of the big private companies in the country far from assuming a conduct consistent with the objectives and of the revolutionary transformation of the national economy, have followed a policy against the interests of the Revolution and economic development, the most evident and notorious signs of which are have been sabotage to the production; the extraction of the cash without adequate reinvestments; the exaggerated use of the means of financing without the use of one’s own operating capital with the ostensible purpose of accumulating cash and investing it in the foreigner after clandestine obtaining of foreign currency, and the abandonment of the direct management of the factories which, in many cases, is the result of a the intervention by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. In preventive avoidance of the labor crisis that the closure or the production decrease can create.
WHEREAS: Such conduct is even more definitely against the interests of the Revolution because it occurs in spite of the fact that the country’s consumption has increased considerably, and because of Consequently, the internal market for these companies has been extended.
WHEREAS: The economic development of the Nation has required, as an unavoidable condition, the radical transformation of the structure of our foreign trade, for which it has been possible to imposed the national control of imports by means of the functioning of the ” Cuba’s Foreign Trade Bank and it is obvious that the subsistence of big business importers that operate under the sole stimulus of profit and loss as intermediaries in the distribution mechanism do not have to be already play a role in the national economy, it constitutes an important obstacle to the implementation of the new foreign trade policy.
WHEREAS: The revolutionary process imposed the need to make laws whose content of popular benefit tended to liquidate the privileges of certain economic groups which, reacting violently, ignored and violated those laws, even going to the extreme of financing with badly acquired moneys to counterrevolutionary groups in frank alliance with the international financial imperialism and constitutes the best response to those activities that the Revolutionary Government, with its serene courage, enact the laws necessary to the defense and consolidation of the Cuban Revolution.
The coconut’s water source
In the long list of plans to overthrow the Cuban Revolution has been not a few times the shadow of the Bacardi clan. As Tom Gjelten points out in his book “Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause,” “…Mr. Bosch and several other members of the extended Bacardi family, including Jorge Mas Canosa, a Miami tycoon and construction businessman, led the Cuban exiles’ efforts to overthrow Castro.
Their footprints range from participation in the failed mercenary invasion defeated in Playa Giron in April 1961, through the financing of missions to bomb Cuban oil refineries and the creation and sustenance of the terrorist organization Cuban Representation in Exile (RECE), to the more than five million dollars spent in the 1990s on anti-Cuban lobbyists and corrupt politicians such as former House representative Tom DeLay or far-right extremist Jesse Helms, the arming of the illegal Section 211 and the financing of different subversive plans against Cuba.
Such an anti-Cuban offensive has an important epicenter in the early 1990s when Cuba opened to foreign capital and the French company Pernord Ricard teamed up with CubaRon to found the Havana Club International joint venture. Bacardi saw the birth of a powerful competitor to its dominance in the world spirits market, particularly rum, which had to be stopped.
By the time their properties were nationalized in 1960 and the Bacardi family left the country, hoping to return soon to recover that huge wealth, and the company had a good part of its capital and assets, including the brand, settled in other countries. They had distilleries in Mexico and Puerto Rico.
Later they would also open operations in the United States, Bahamas and Spain and even a distillery in Brazil. Five years later it was already legally established in Bermuda. Little by little, between divisions and family unions, the company grew to become the world’s largest seller of alcoholic beverages, with a portfolio of rums, vodkas and even tequilas, but the company’s jewel was Bacardi rum; almost absolute owner of the market for years.
But Don Facundo’s heirs knew that Cuba’s molasses and alcohol are unmatched when it comes to producing rum. The modest joint venture created in 1993 began to make its way into the world market with Pernord Ricard. When it was founded in November 1993, Havana Club Internacional had just six employees, and now has more than 600. From selling fewer than 300,000 cases of rum (nine liters), in 2018 it sold more than 4.6 million cases in some 120 countries.
Although it can’ t be marketed in the United States, the world’s biggest spirits market with sales of 44 billion dollars, the Havana Club is increasingly known, praised and awarded in the rest of the world.
In the threatening shadow of the exquisite Havana Club, the owners of Bacardi turned to the arsenal of tricks and dirty tricks that they have learned well in the fierce market where they have managed to impose themselves (1) and in their dark involvement in the aggressive plans against Cuba.
They first managed to approve Helms-Burton in 1996, one of whose objectives was to intimidate foreign investment in Cuba.
Then, in 1997, the Arrechavala family was “bought” the supposed ownership of the Havana Club brand for $1.25 million, an act of no real value since the owners had abandoned the brand more than 30 years ago and had therefore lost their intellectual property.
They then generously financed Iliana Ross, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Bob Menendez, Coney Mack, Tom DeLay and other anti-Cuban legislators to impose on Congress a perch on the Omnibus Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 1999, codified as Section 211, which provided that no U.S. court shall recognize rights to trademarks and trade names used on property nationalized or confiscated by the Revolution; which paved the way for the blatant attempt to steal the most recognized brand of legitimately Cuban rum.
Finally, they went to a Federal Court in New York for a judge, on the basis of 211, to declare null and void the U.S. registration of the Cuban trademark Havana Club, registered by CubaExport in 1976 and seamlessly renewed ever since. In turn, it granted Bacardi use of the mark on U.S. soil, which has since led them to sell a “Havana Club Made in Puerto Rico” in some of their U.S. markets, particularly Florida, in a deceptive commercial act.
From that moment on, there were several judicial disputes over the use of the mark, until, in January 2016, due to the influence of the Obama administration’s change of policy towards Cuba and the overwhelming international rejection of Section 211 due to its aberrant nature, the U.S. Patent Office announced the re-registration of the Cuban mark in favor of CubaExport, with the possibility of requesting a ten-year renewal.
The news made the Bacardi clan obscure. The company immediately went out to declare its surprise that the Obama administration “has taken steps to allow the Cuban government to attempt to resurrect this dead record. Further back came the pronouncements of the political lieutenants: Ileana, Marco Rubio, Mario Diaz-Balart, Bill Nelson, throwing their darts at the White House.
Despite brand recognition (remember that the U.S. has more than 6,000 recognized brands in Cuba), the sale of Cuban rum is still prohibited by the blockade laws and the current section 211.
Bacardi continues to sell its apocryphal version of Havana Club in the U.S. despite being technically violating the registered trademark. However, for the time being, the Havana Club brand has its Cuban origin recognized in the U.S. and thousands of bottles of Cuban rum have traveled to U.S. soil in the last three years in the luggage of U.S. visitors to Cuba.
As the top executive of Havana Club International Jerome Cottin-Bizzone pointed out in an interview with CBS a couple of years ago: “In Cuba we know how to be patient. Look, all the rum around us, all these barrels.
These are years and years of aging. Years and years of dedication. We know that one day we will be able to sell our rum, Havana Club, the real Cuban rum made in Cuba, and that the American consumer will have the opportunity to enjoy it.
“Consumers in the United States drink 40 percent of the world’s rum, which explains why barrels are being piled up in Cuba in preparation.
A subversion cocktail
The Bacardi Corporation doesn’t know how calm it is about Cuba. The era of financing anti-Cuban terrorism may be behind us; now funds are destined for influence and subversion programs.
In that perverse communion of give-me I give you that is American politics, Bacardi is a notorious donor to the federal and state of Florida election campaigns, while receiving conspicuous contributions from the U.S. budget for his Foundation.
A recent report by journalist Tracey Eaton in his Cuban Money Project reveals how the Bacardi Foundation has been one of the institutions benefited with part of the more than 22 million dollars that the Trump administration has allocated to subversive projects against Cuba since 2017.
In the current report, Eaton estimates at $ 288,283 the money Bacardi received from USAID for projects related to the item “companies”. Already in November 2018, Eaton indicated that USAID had given the Bacardi Family Foundation $1,553,494 to work in the “promotion of democracy” in Cuba.
What did Bacardi use that money for? According to Tracey Eaton’s investigation, this money has been used to finance the counterrevolutionary campaign “Cuba Decide”, dedicated to sabotage the 2017-2018 electoral process in our country.
Subversion dollars sprayed with Bacardi also reach a digital medium that presents itself as “independent” (14 and a half), directed by mercenary Yoani Sánchez. Other cultural projects, the artistic production company Matraka (which organized the Festivals in the Rotilla beach) and actions of influence in the religious space through EchoCuba, have also been benefited by the Bacardi Foundation.
The approval this week in the House of Representatives of the United States Congress (pending a vote in the Senate) of another 20 million dollars for subversive programs against Cuba in the fiscal year 2020 budget must have provoked effusive applause and another new toast at Bacardi’s headquarters.
Cuba doesn’t accept changes
Bacardi dominates a large part of the world market for spirits. But the Havana Club breaks new ground for its quality. The molasses and alcohol of Cuban sugar cane, the spirit of our lands, and the knowledge of our master rum makers give an exclusive touch to the great rums that are made here.
In the aforementioned CBS program, the journalist goes out on the street and offers domino players drinks from Bacardi’s Havana Club. The reaction of one of the men was clear: “It’s good,” she said, “but the Cuban is of better quality.
For his part, the manager of the Sloppy Joe´s Bar valued: “The color is different, the seal is different” and looking for its counters exclaimed:
“This is the real Havana Club. The symbol And no political orthodoxy or nonsense, but I don’t trade a good drink of Havana Club or exquisite Santiago rum for Bacardi.
Bacardi’s “Cuban flavor” is being called into question. You can understand the company’s current general manager, Facundo L. Bacardi, when he told EFE a few years ago: “We are waiting for the moment when we can return. We’ll know when the time is right and we’ll be ready.
Over there they with their frustrations. What is certain is that a return will be neither by Helms-Burton nor by Yoani Sanchez. A sip of Havana Club, please!