The Bacardi Corporation has launched a new deep saturation advertising campaign, with vibrant videos and colourful images. The adverts brandish the Cuban flag, with slogans such as ‘we survived exile from our own country’ and ‘we thrived during Prohibition’. Bacardi, the richest family-owned business in the world, has an army of lawyers and marketing and public relations professionals to clean up their murky past and obscure their right-wing agenda. Scratch the surface, however, and the truth is there.
Bacardi began leaving Cuba long before the revolution, back in 1910 when they moved their bottling to Barcelona, Spain. Later in the 1930s they opened facilities in Mexico and Puerto Rico. Bacardi boasts about how they benefited from the abuse of Cuba as a colonial playground for wealthy Americans during the Prohibition years. However, they also claim that their assets were ‘illegally confiscated without compensation’ by the Cuban government in 1960. In fact, they were offered compensation by the revolutionary government, a sum based on the value of the assets they had themselves declared for tax payment purposes. Pepin Bosch, head of Bacardi at the time of the Cuban Revolution, a man referred to as ‘the saviour’ on Bacardi’s website, was linked to the CIA and exiles groups actively involved in attacking revolutionary Cuba.
Later, he and other members of the Bacardi family helped set up the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF). Membership was initially granted to Cuban exiles whose businesses were worth more than $50,000 when they were nationalised by the Cuban government. This exclusive club used their wealth to buy power, cultivating the support of influential right-wing US senators. The fruit of this partnership was the Helms-Burton Act in 1996, which penalises any country trading with Cuba. Even the European Union questioned the legality of the Act, but CANF lawyers fought off every objection.