Inside Media: Revolution and Rum

January 03, 2009

Guest: Tom Gjelten

By Maureen Freeman, programs coordinator

Days after the 50th anniversary of Fidel Castro’s revolutionary takeover of Cuba, veteran National Public Radio correspondent Tom Gjelten shared an inside look at the island country’s turbulent political history and uncertain future.

He explained how the Bacardi family’s rum business was interwoven through events in modern Cuban history. The family originally supported the Castro-led revolution but took the business out of Cuba in 1960 when the government seized control of it.

The Bacardi family went "from being Fidel’s best friend to being his worst enemy, and they became deeply involved in anti-Castro opposition," Gjelten said.

With Barack Obama’s presidency, Cuba will have lived through 10 U.S. administrations under strict Castro rule, where freedom of speech and press are restricted.

"There are independent journalists in Cuba, but they operate under great constraints and difficulty, and they get arrested a lot," Gjelten said. "There really isn’t much free debate, free expression in Cuba today."

Gjelten, who has reported extensively from Cuba in recent years, covers national security and international affairs for NPR News from posts in Washington and around the world.

After the program, Gjelten signed copies of his newest book "Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause."

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