So central was the role of Bacardí’s lawyer, Ignacio E. Sanchez (a Cuban American National Foundation member) in establishing Helms-Burton that U.S. Senator William Dengue said the law should be renamed the Helms-Bacardí Protection Act.
After many years of blockading Cuba, the Helms-Burton Act is designed to tighten it even tighter. The blockade, which is responsible for severe shortages and suffering among the Cuban people, also 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 million in lost production and trade. Every year the U.S. blockade is overwhelmingly condemned by the United Nations, but it is continually ignored by the U.S. administration.
The prestigious American Association for World Health (AAWH) reported in 1997 that the 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 U.S. government refused a license for an implantable defibrillator, of Cuban children with leukemia 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. Despite all the problems that Cuba has, it should be noted that the AAWH concluded that a humanitarian catastrophe had been averted only because the Cuban government has maintained a high priority on delivering primary and preventative care to all its citizens.
It is worth recording that, despite the effects of the blockade, Cuba received a World Health Organization (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 Bacardí seeks to destroy. Bacardí has now resorted to stealing the Havana Club label. Although the blockade means that Cuban rum cannot be sold in the U.S.A, 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 - despite threatening letters from Bacardí.
In 1996, Bacardí started illegally marketing its own Havana Club. Pernod Ricard sued. But, thanks to Section 211, hastily tacked on to a U.S. budget following frantic lobbying by Bacardí’s lawyers, Bacardí won. Section 211 arbitrarily stipulates that no court in the U.S.A. may recognise, or in any way validate, any claim regarding trademarks and commercial names related to properties "confiscated" by the Cuban government. Bacardí claims that Havana Club uses former Bacardí assets nationalized by Cuba in 1960. However, 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."
The challenge from Havana Club worldwide is hitting Bacardí. So, trade unionists everywhere, don’t drink Bacardí - it’ll leave a bad taste in your mouth!
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