The truth about Reporters Sans Frontières

Winter 2004

Jean-Guy Allard of Granma International traces the links between Bacardi, Reporters Sans Frontieres and a French advertising conglomerate

For many in Britain, the French human rights group Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) is a respectable campaign that fights for press freedom and the rights of journalists around the world.

However, as CubaSi readers well know, the truth is somewhat different and that RSF has been for years at the forefront of anti-Cuban activities including recently scandalous demonstrations at the UN in New York and the Cuban Embassy in Paris which have resulted in the organisation being banned from the UN precinct.

For French people, the huge advertising and media conglomerate Publicis, which owns among other companies the notorious New York and London advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi, is just another media monster that consumes an enormous slice of the publicity budgets of other big companies.

However, when the massive disinformation campaign about Cuba currently being waged in France reaches a mass-market publication or a popular television channel the message is immediately clear – someone with a lot of money and influence is behind it.

The fact is that the dishonest anti-Cuba publicity campaigns by Reporters Sans Frontières, have been conceived and carried out with the aid of Publicis.

And if that comes as a surprise, it shouldn’t, for among Publiscis’s other clients, are the US Army, Bacardí and other Miami Cuban Americans, including some who have financed Luis Posada Carriles, the known ex-CIA operative who is currently facing trial in Panama accused of trying to assassinate Fidel Castro in 2001.

There is more to this sinister connection. The general secretary of RSF, is a man called Robert Ménard who is accused by the Cuban government of being a CIA spy. He devoted his time in the 1960s to infiltrating left-wing groups including Trotskyite organizations. Nowadays he spends his energies at the helm of RSF. His attacks on Cuba include distributing leaflets at Charles De Gaulle airport to French holidaymakers as they board the plane for Cuba and organising star-studded theatre shows in which famous people such as Catherine Deneuve and Pedro Almodovar queue up to denounce the Cuban government for alleged violations of human rights.

Menard has acknowledged on several occasions that Saatchi & Saatchi is helping his campaign against Cuba, and has confirmed that Saatchi & Saatchi provides its services free of charge.

Saatchi & Saatchi does not normally benevolently provide advertising campaigns for NGOs. Its principal accounts are with companies such as Dupont, Johnson & Johnson, Toyota and Visa.

Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide – to use its proper name – is one of the three strategic pillars of the fourth largest communications group in the world, the Publicis Group, based in Paris.

According to its shareholders’ website, Publicis is the number one advertising firm in France, and number three in the United States; it is also the world’s number one for consultancy and media purchases.

As a group, Publicis also does not normally have clients like Robert Ménard’s NGO. Amongst the famous names on its list are corporations such as Coca-Cola, Heinz, Kelloggs, McDonald’s, Phillip Morris, General Motors, Citibank, United Airlines, Walt Disney, and the US Army!

The US Army spends $100 million dollars annually on its advertising campaigns, aimed at encouraging young people to take up a military career.

It also happens that Publicis Conseil, the group’s consultancy branch, has Bacardí as one of its clients. Bacardí is the rum giant with its head office in the Bahamas and a history of sponsoring anti-Cuba terrorism dating back to January 1959.

As documented by authors Hernando Calvo Ospina in his book Bacardí: the Hidden War, relations between the principal leaders and shareholders of Bacardí Rum, the Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF), an ultra-right wing terrorist organization, and the CIA are far-reaching.

Through painstaking research, Ospina shows how this rum manufacturing business has in the past created its own terrorism network; promoted, organized and financed acts of terrorism and served as a springboard for CIA funds to paramilitary mercenaries in Nicaragua and Angola.

Calvo Ospina explains that Bacardí has orchestrated US legislation as far as Cuba is concerned, with the help of its “consultant” Otto Reich, employed by CANF and today one of George W. Bush’s principal advisors on Cuba and Latin America.

Bacardí’s lawyers prepared the Helms-Burton Act, which allows the US government to sanction foreign firms trading with expropriated properties in Cuba.

The concealed links between Bacardí, the CANF and Bush, and the rum firm’s links with Spanish leader José María Aznar and the European extreme right have also contributed to the current confrontation with the European Union.

Publicis also has a finger in the pie in Miami though it subsidiary Sánchez & Levitan, which hits the US Spanish-speaking market with massive accounts such as Coca-Cola and Bell South. With 100 employees, Sánchez & Levitan has an annual turnover of around $80 million dollars.

Sánchez and Levitan is the baby of Aida Levitan and Fausto Sánchez, two Cuban émigrés.

Aida Levitan – who was taken to Florida when she was just four years old – was one of the individuals who publicly expressed her disagreement at the presence of the Cuban band Los Van Van in Miami in 2000.

And her name recently appeared among other impresarios in an anti-Cuba campaign developed in France alongside other individuals better known for their fortunes than their spiritual stature: José Valdés-Fauli, former president of the South Florida Colonial Bank, a group worth $16 billion dollars; Eloy Cepero, another banker and owner of Peninsula Mortgage Bankers; Santiago Morales, an industrial machinery manufacturer; Richard O’Connell, a Miami millionaire now resident in Paris and

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