Cuba: The battle over Havana Club
Cuba and Bacardí face off over the Havana Club brand, Ladies in White meet with Cardinal Ortega, and reports finds Cubans unsatisfied with reforms.
Cuba and Bacardí face-off over Havana Club brand
Cuba brought the debate over the rights to the Havana Club label to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) this week
The Cubans believe a 14 May US Supreme Court ruling that denies Cuba’s Cubaexport and French beverage manufacturer Pernod Richard the right to renew the Havana Club trademark in the United States defies international norms and conventions.
Currently Bermuda-based rum manufacturer Bacardí produces rum under the Havana Club label for sale in the United States after buying the recipe and global rights to that brand from the Arechabala family in 1997. The Arechabalas were the owners of the Havana Club brand before the Cuban government nationalised it following the 1959 revolution.
Cuba contests the Arechabala’s claim to the brand, saying they let their trademark registration on the island lapse in 1976. However, a 1998 US law prevents lawsuits to enforce trademark use for companies that were nationalised by the Cuban government.
Under that legislation, the US Supreme Court refused to allow Cubaexport and Pernod Richard to renew their trademark on 14 May. It will expire on 13 June.
Both the Cuban government and Pernod Richard said they were studying legal challenges to Bacardí and the United States. Cuban Vice Minister of Foreign Relations Abelardo Moreno said on Tuesday that the US court decision could affect protection of the over 6,000 US trademarks sold in Cuba.
At the WTO a number of Latin American countries, joined by China, India, and Vietnam sided with Cuba, and said the US law violates Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.
Ladies in White meet with Cardinal Ortega
Dissident human-rights group the Ladies in White met with Archbishop of Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega in a four-hour encounter this week at the archbishop’s residence in Havana.
The Ladies asked Ortega to act as mediator between them and the government so as to cease repression against the group. The group often faces government-orchestrated attacks and jeers in their weekly march on Sundays.
They also gave a letter to Ortega for Pope Benedict XVI, asking him for an audience at the Vatican.
Some in the Cuban opposition have criticised Ortega for being too close to the Castro government, especially after the church did little to stop repression of dissidents during the pope’s visit to the island in March.
The Ladies’ leader, Berta Soler, said she found Thursday’s meeting ‘very open’ and said Ortega was ‘very receptive’ to their requests.
Poll shows lack of support for Raúl Castro’s reforms
A report released this week by the International Republican Institute, a non-partisan Washington-based think tank, showed that many Cubans feel unaffected by the economic reforms undertaken by President Raúl Castro since 2008.
Those reforms have included laws making it easier to pursue self-employment, as well as the legalisation of private home and automobile sales.
The report, based on interviews of 787 Cuban adults in 14 provinces, found that 85 percent of respondents cannot cite any effect the reforms have had on their lives. Further, 75 percent of respondents said their economic situation was the same or worse than last year.
Enthusiasm for the reforms also seems to have dropped from last year. Those saying things are going ‘well’ on the island dropped from 27 percent in 2011 to 19 percent this year. Those who say things are going ‘so-so’ increased from 24 to 37 percent.
People’s trust in the government to solve the island’s problems has also declined over the years. While 29 percent trusted the government to do so in 2009, only 19 percent said the government could this year.