From our Bureau of Impertinent Questions
Hey, what about the embargo? How can you sell stuff produced by Castro, Inc.? Isn’t that illegal?
How much does Castro, Inc. make on every $216 bottle of Habana Club Gran Reserva 15-year-old rum sold through these American online supermarkets?
Some sharp-eyed observers are asking these questions. Let’s see what happens next.
Online supermarkets allowing Cuban Americans to pay for food for their families in Cuba have become a lifeline for many on the island during the pandemic, helping them survive amid widespread food shortages.
Similar to websites offering groceries online, these platforms allow U.S. customers to select and pay for products that usually cannot be found in island stores, such as meat and milk, that will then be delivered to the address of the recipient in Cuba.
But some of these online stores have become a marketplace for flagship Cuban products such as Havana Club rum produced by state companies and enterprises that are private on paper but maintain their links with the government, raising questions about compliance with the U.S. embargo and the legal basis for the business model.
For instance, Miami-based Cubamax, a Cuba travel agency now offering food products for Cubans on the island, offers four different brands of rum made in Cuba, including Havana Club. Supermarket 23, another e-commerce platform registered in Florida, is marketing a $216 bottle of Havana Club Gran Reserva. The same bottle is $239 on Cubamax.com.
Other products manufactured by Cuban companies are for sale, as well.
Cubamax is selling well-known Cuban coffee brands such as Cubita and Serrano and buffalo ground beef from Empresa Pecuaria Genética El Cangre, a state enterprise in the town of Guines, near Havana.
And Supermarket 23 is offering products marketed by the state’s Empresa Integral Agropecuaria in Ciego de Ávila.
How Cuban rum and other state-made goods ended up being marketed to U.S. customers despite embargo regulations is a question some activists are posing to authorities.
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