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 10:42 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Successful launch of lunar orbiter, seen as a precursor for a planned mission to the surface of the moon, marks significant advance for the country's space program.
updated 3:15 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, shot while standing guard at Ottawa's National War Memorial, was known for his easygoing manner and smile.
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Non-stop chatter about actress' appearance is nasty, cruel, hurtful, invasive and sexist.
updated 6:08 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
CEO's 30-min Putonghua chat is the perfect charm offensive for Facebook's last untapped market.
updated 11:45 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Chinese leaders want less odd architecture built in the country.
updated 4:58 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Air New Zealand's new 'Hobbit' safety video stars Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, elves and orcs.
updated 10:14 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
A 15-year-old pregnant girl is rescued from slavery, only to be charged with having sex outside of marriage, shocked rights activists say -- a charge potentially punishable by death.
updated 11:33 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
After sushi and ramen, beef is on the list of must-eats for many visitors to Japan.
updated 12:07 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Airports judged on comfort, conveniences, cleanliness and customer service.
updated 1:48 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Scientists use CT scans to recreate a life-size image of the ancient king.
updated 5:59 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Despite billions spent on eradicating poppy production, Afghan farmers are growing bumper crops, a U.S. government report says.
updated 6:21 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 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