Bacardi: The Hidden War

This book speaks eloquently of an Iraq which Bush and Blair would have us forget in their focus on the tyrant Saddam Hussein; an Iraq inhabited by living, breathing, suffering individuals and families, much like ourselves but with their own unique stories to tell. These are voices that we urgently need to hear and this important and humane book is an excellent place to begin to listen.

Bacardi is one of the most instantly recognizable brands in the world; think of rum and the ubiquitous ‘bat’ symbol pops up unbidden. Colombian investigative journalist Hernando Calvo Ospina has, however, uncovered the murky dealings that lie behind the fun-loving image the corporation projects. This fabulously successful company grew from humble origins in 19th-century Cuba – via heavy Mafia involvement during the Batista years – into one of the main players in the shadowy network of organizations working to overthrow Fidel Castro and replace his regime with one subservient to US business interests. It is now based in the Bahamas though still run by Cuban-Americans – a globalized company that long anticipated globalization.

The author details Bacardi’s links with the Cuban-American far right through the hysterically anti-Castro Cuban-American National Foundation and he patiently follows the threads that connect the myriad Cuban exile front organizations and the US-funded destabilization programme. This web of ‘international banditry’ meshes seamlessly with the CIA networks set up to fund the Nicaraguan Contras and Savimbi’s UNITA.

The crimes and atrocities committed in the name of ‘freedom’ by Miami-based Cuban exiles are familiar and Calvo Ospina gives a good résumé of them, from the so-called ‘war for the roads of the world’ which targeted civilians, to the contemptible economic blackmail that is the Helms-Burton Act. This book’s focus on the involvement of the Bacardi organization sets it apart from other exposés of US-sponsored terror. Despite a rather elliptical style, exacerbated by a clumsy translation, this fascinating and valuable book throws much-needed light on the base and ignoble motives of those in government and business who claim to be working to free Cuba from tyranny.

New Internationalist issue 352 magazine cover This article is from the December 2002 issue of New Internationalist.
You can access the entire archive of over 500 issues with a digital subscription. Get a free trial »

Subscribe   Ethical Shop