Cuba offers rum to pay off $390 million debt to Czech Republic

Bottles of Havana Club rum are displayed inside a shop in Havana, Cuba, Nov 25, 2015.
Bottles of Havana Club rum are displayed inside a shop in Havana, Cuba, Nov 25, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

PRAGUE (AFP) - Cash-strapped Cuba has offered to pay its old debt to the Czech Republic with goods it can spare, including its coveted rum, the Czech finance ministry said on Friday (Dec 16).

"The Cuban party as a possible solution presented a list of commodities... (including) several brands of rum," the ministry said in a statement sent to AFP.

Czech media put the Cuban debt at about seven billion koruna (S$390 million), but the ministry said it had yet to tally the total sum as talks on the repayment had only started late last year (2015).

The debt is largely the legacy of business ties between Cuba and Czechoslovakia, which split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993, four years after shedding four decades of totalitarian Communist rule.

The largest Czech broadsheet daily Dnes quoted deputy finance minister Lenka Dupakova as saying debt repayment in Cuban rum was "an interesting option".

"These are relatively unknown brands which might be good, but we would have to advertise them and generally launch them into the market," she added.

The daily said the Czech Republic - a country with the highest per capita beer consumption in the world - had imported 892 tonnes of Cuban rum worth 53 million koruna in 2015.

If the entire debt were repaid in rum, the Czechs would have enough rum for 130 years at this pace.

But the ministry is against such a solution.

"The Czech side believes that at least part of the debt should be dealt in cash," it said.