A Conflict That Was Avoidable
By Manuel E. Yepe
Exclusive for the daily POR ESTO! of Merida, Mexico.
A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.
Cuba produces, consumes and exports substantial amounts of Havana cigars and rum, products that enjoy a lot of prestige and are in high demand in international markets.
It is somehow perplexing that a nation which –according to United Nations specialized agencies– contributes greatly to the prevention and cure of ailments through the medical assistance offered by its scientists in many countries, is likewise an important supplier in the world market of products that are harmful to health, such as alcohol and tobacco.
The inhabitants of the islands that make up the Cuban archipelago took control of their destiny after a bloody liberation struggle. By then, the humble and exploited Cuban peasants and workers had managed to develop –with sweat and tears resulting from strenuous capitalist exploitation– cultivation techniques, handicraft and manufacturing techniques which, together with climatic and agricultural conditions specific to parts of the Cuban archipelago, had placed the island at the head of the world in these product which make it proud today.
Cuba had always been denied democratic paths. It had to achieve its independence, in the decade of the 1950’s, through an armed struggle waged by a rebel vanguard at the cost of thousands of lives.
But when the popular revolution won and the Cuban people became owners of the country’s destiny, the new government was forced to limit the scope of its social welfare goals.
This was because of the need to defend against the counter-revolutionary actions of the oligarchy, already displaced from the government but supported by the United States superpower.
After the proclamation of Cuba’s independence from Spanish colonial rule, the US played the same hegemonic role that Spain had exercised previously.
Not all the big companies that were nationalized by the revolution reacted in the same way.
Virtually all non-US foreign companies accepted the path of negotiation and resolved the matter sensibly, without further conflict. Several of them, over the years, have returned to have investments in Cuba at much higher levels.
For more than sixty years, US companies nationalized in Cuba were not allowed by the US blockade laws against Cuba (euphemistically called “embargo”) to sit down and normally discuss compensation issues.
Everything had to be done in an organized manner, and the inevitable impact had to be treated carefully to minimize violent effects, always in the hope of future understanding and tolerance.
In the case of Bacardí, the former owners of the firm opted for making a legal war against Cuba.
Shortly after the triumph of the revolution, they registered the Bacardí Company in Bermuda and fought a legal battle in the International Court of The Hague for the ownership of the brand.
They managed to maintain the right to the Bacardi brand and the bat as its symbol, but they were denied the right to identify their rum as Cuban or originally from Havana.
In 1999, thanks to their political links and the blockade, Bacardi managed to get the US Congress to approve a provision that would allow it to seize the Havana Club brand within the US territory.
The World Trade Organization condemned the action, but allowed Bacardi to market, within the United States, the fake Havana Club rum made in Puerto Rico.
Through bizarre legal maneuvers, Bacardí allegedly had acquired from an industrialist named José Arechabala, the property of a small rum factory called Havana Club. This had been his property since 1934 until its nationalization in 1960. In truth, those rights were non-existent, because they belonged to the Cuban state.
Despite the blockade, Cuba has regularly renewed the Havana Club brand with the US Patent Office since 1976.
The brand was given to the rum Cuba produces that in the past had been named Bacardí. Cuba has continued producing the Havana Club rum with total international legal backing. Obviously, because of the US blockade, the Havana Club brand could not be registered in the United States.
Since 1994, the production of Havana Club rum and its worldwide distribution, except in the United States, has been done by a joint venture of the French Pernod Ricard and the Cuban Ron Cuba. This is a measure of defense against the intense harassment of the blockade against the Island.
In a short time, the Cuban Havana Club rum quality has captured the preference of rum drinkers from around the world who have stopped consuming Bacardi (manufactured in Puerto Rico). Drinkers of the best rum in the world, including Americans, do not settle for the fake that Bacardí is today.
February 6, 2018