Britain’s Diageo to market Cuban rum

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(AFP) – A subsidiary of British drinks giant Diageo announced a joint venture with Havana’s state distiller Monday to market and distribute Cuban rum, defying US efforts to block foreign investment in the Communist-run country.

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The Diageo subsidiary and state company Cuba Ron will be equal partners in Santiago SA, a company that will internationally market the Santiago de Cuba brand, one of the island’s premium spirits.

The agreement comes at a time when US President Donald Trump has ramped up efforts to squeeze foreign investment in Cuba, aiming to cut revenue for a country that Washington accuses of helping prop up Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Santiago de Cuba chief Luca Cesarano told reporters that to comply with US law, the Diageo subsidiary would have no interaction with any of the beverage group’s US-based businesses or involve any US employees.

Cuba Ron president Juan Gonzalez, said the venture was an important part of its strategy because “we don’t have the money to invest in promotion and advertising and creating markets. We need to look for people who have the money and the big ideas.”

The move follows in the footsteps of a 1993-era Cuban joint venture with France’s Pernod Ricard to market Havana Club rum.

Cuba already distributes its world famous cigars through a joint venture between Cubatabaco and Europe’s Altadis.

Neither Cuban rum nor tobacco can legally be sold in the United States.

“The day that the United States market is available, because Cuba does not impose a ban, we will be ready to sell our Santiago and other rums there,” said Mr Gonzalez.

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