Trade wars: when booze gets banned

Cuba libre!

The overthrow of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista may have inspired one of the most pop-art friendly revolutions of the 20th century but it also pitted the newly socialist Caribbean island on a political and ideological collision course with its larger neighbour – the US.

Throughout the 1940s and ‘50s, before Fidel Castro’s overthrow of Batista’s regime, Cuba had been the playground of the Caribbean, a place of gambling, cheap booze, sun, sea and easy sex.

“Havana was then what Las Vegas has become,” as one Cuban-American historian has noted.

American businesses and organised crime had also invested heavily in the country so they were not best pleased when Castro promptly confiscated all private property and nationalised businesses upon seizing power.

The real stinger though was in 1962 when Castro allowed the Soviets to begin building missile stations on the island – silos capable of launching nuclear armed missiles anywhere in the United States.

What followed was the famously tense Cuban Missile Crisis that took the world to the brink of a nuclear holocaust.

Fortunately, while the fallout wasn’t radioactive, it did lead to one of the most famous and long-standing trade embargos history – against Cuban rum and cigars.

For 49 years from 1962 until the ban began to be eased in 2015, real Cuban rum or cigars could not be imported into the US, even if bought in a third country and for personal consumption.

In 2016 – as part of a long-running easing of the various bans and embargoes on Cuban products – the Obama administration announced that there were no longer to be any restrictions on the amount of Cuban-made goods “including alcohol and cigars” that Americans could bring home with them – but still only for personal use.

One Response to “Trade wars: when booze gets banned”

  1. Bourbon saw a growth spurt in the Revolutionary War at the cost of rum.
    Cause: The British blockaded the routes to and fro the Caribbean, so molasses
    and rum could not get to Boston etc.
    Before the war, rum was the favorite tipple of the Americans when it came to liquor.

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