Skip to main content

2 more die from poisoned bootleg rum in Cuba; 2 state workers accused

By Patrick Oppmann, CNN
updated 8:40 PM EDT, Thu August 1, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Poisoned rum brewed in Havana neighborhood claims nine lives, state media say
  • Investigators trace the poison to two state workers, public safety office says
  • The chemical, methyl alcohol, is commonly found in varnishes and anti-freeze

Havana (CNN) -- The death toll from a batch of poisoned, bootleg rum climbed to nine people, Cuban state TV said Thursday.

Another 59 people were still hospitalized from drinking the toxic liquor, and five were released after treatment, a government newscaster said.

Late Monday, Havana hospitals were flooded with people complaining of dizziness and stomach ailments, a statement from the provincial public safety office said.

Authorities said they appeared to have consumed a black-market rum brewed with toxic methyl alcohol, commonly found in varnishes and anti-freeze.

On a Cuban state TV newscast, doctors said most of the patients were slowly recovering, including those who had temporarily lost their vision from drinking the poisoned rum.

"The vomiting has stopped and so has the great sickness they felt," said Dr. Efren Acosta. But Acosta said many patients still suffered from dizziness.

Patients interviewed by Cuban state media said they experienced blurred vision and nausea after one drink of what they described as an acrid tasting liquid. They said they sought treatment upon hearing that neighbors and friends had fallen ill.

"I couldn't see," Sandy Pons told Cuban government television. "It was all foggy. The headaches and dizziness are gone now."

According to the provincial public safety office, investigators traced the illegal alcohol sales to two workers for the government Pharmacy and Foods Institute. Authorities accuse them of stealing the chemicals from a government warehouse.

The workers provided the chemicals to a woman who brewed the alcohol and sold it in her neighborhood, the public safety office said.

Cuban authorities have not said what charges the people involved in producing the liquor could face, but Cuban President Raul Castro last month called for a greater crackdown on corruption and black market activities.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:54 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
updated 7:24 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
updated 1:44 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
updated 8:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
updated 12:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
updated 3:22 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
updated 4:00 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
updated 6:34 AM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
updated 12:46 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
updated 9:51 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it has never looked better.
updated 11:21 AM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
Unicef has warned that more than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation.
updated 12:01 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT